Lots of miscellaneous RPG news of late!
Earthbound has finally been released digitally and can now be purchased for $10 if you have a Wii U. Earthbound was one of the 3 legendary high-profile, high quality RPGs that sold for absolutely ridiculous prices on the secondhand market (the other two being Panzer Dragoon Saga & Suikoden 2) so it’s great that there’s now a legal way to play the game without forking over a couple hundred dollars. Earthbound’s gameplay is pretty standard old-school Dragon Quest fare, but it had a lot of style, both visually and with its setting, back in the days when RPG almost always meant traditional fantasy. Oh and to make things even better, Nintendo put the official strategy guide that was given away with the SNES game up on the game’s official website.
Shin Megami Tensei IV came out a couple of days ago and I’ve had a chance to play it a bit. I like it, but I’m not sure if I’m going to end up liking it more or less than Shin Megami Tensei III (aka SMT: Nocturne). The story feels a lot slower & less interesting at the start than SMT:N or Strange Journey did, however it’s starting to pick up. Visuals are nice for the 3DS but the 3D effect is weak and feels forced at times (honestly, it feels like Nintendo is the only developer who really knows how to use the 3D effect well) and overall the visuals feel like a small step down from Nocturne. The demon art is a lot more cartoony than previous games (different artist) which takes some getting used to. Gameplay is fun and has the core SMT elements (demon summoning & fusing, conversation, and the press-turn from Nocturne) but feels more reliant on luck than previous games due to the lack of a real defense stat other than your Max HP. Music is very good so far. The App System is fun (you get App points with each LV-Up that let you buy fun bonuses for combat, fusing, conversation, etc.). The game is a lot more user-friendly than previous games in the series – you can save at any time, fuse at any time, the main character dying isn’t an instant Game Over, and if you do have a total party wipe, you can pay money to revive yourself to a point just before your untimely demise (which is handled in a way that is both creepy & hilarious). And from the look of things, the game is going to be really long, complete with multiple paths near the end for the various endings & choices.
I’ve been trying to parse my thoughts on the game and I think I’ve come up with something that makes sense to me – Shin Megami Tensei IV feels like it was made by a small indie developer who got a hold of a LOT more money than they’re used to (but not a lot of money where big-budget development is concerned). It’s huge, has some cool ideas, and is a lot of fun, but you can see where they cut some corners, and it lacks the polish & careful balance that you would expect from a big publisher. I definitely recommend picking it up if you’re a fan of the series and as a very nice bonus, if you already own Fire Emblem 3DS, you get a $30 voucher for the Wii U or 3DS eshop if you register SMT4 within a certain timeframe – since I was already planning on pick up Earthbound & the expansion pack for New Super Mario U, it’s like I got SMT4 for $20.
In other news, there’s a great interview with Spiderweb Software founder, Jeff Vogel over on Rock, Paper, Shotgun. As probably the indie RPG developer who has been doing this professionally for the longest time, Jeff Vogel’s a great inspiration to all of us here.