Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers Interview On The Missing MegaTen Game

By Ishaan . April 10, 2013 . 6:15pm

Next week, Atlus USA will release Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers in North America. Soul Hackers is the one of the few major Shin Megami Tensei games that have never been released outside of Japan up until now. The game was originally developed for the Sega Saturn and then ported to the PSOne. Then, last year, Atlus ported it again, this time to the Nintendo 3DS, with voice-acting and other enhancements, and this is the version we’re getting.


Siliconera got in touch with Atlus USA to toss them a few questions about the game’s story and localization, as well as their recent reprints of the Raidou Kuzunoha games on PlayStation 2. You can read our interview with Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers’ localization team below.


Soul Hackers takes place in Amami City. What kind of a place is it?


Mike Meeker (Editor): Amami City was something of a small harbor town, but when it was made the headquarters of AlgonSoft it experienced a rapid technological upgrading. Every house and business was connected to the city’s new network as part of AlgonSoft’s demonstration for how a “city of tomorrow” would work. This impressed the government enough to grant AlgonSoft the license to carry out their network expansion ideas over the rest of Japan in the coming years.


Clayton S. Chan (Editor): If you’re ever in Amami City, definitely hit up Sawamura Thai. The chef’s pretty famous, and he’s got excellent knifemanship. Their lunch specials are excellent.


Rob Stone (QA Lead): Apparently Clay thinks he is a Yelper for video game restaurants now.


In the game, you’re part of a group of hackers called the “Spookies”. Tell us a little bit more about this group and what they’re up to.


Mike: Since Amami City’s a hotbed of computer network goodness, Spooky formed his little hacker crew there to capitalize on it. The individual members of Spookies (Six, Lunch, Yu-Ichi, and the player) aren’t bad guys; they’re more out to hack the network just for fun or harmless tricks. Spooky himself seems to have a grudge against AlgonSoft.


Clayton: I should also point out that all the “hackers” in this ragtag band of “cyberterrorists” don’t all hack. Lunch is more proficient with hardware, and Six is the guy to go to for military “hardware”. Yu-Ichi’s still young, and trying to earn his handle and find his way in life.


Like Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, Soul Hackers is a first-person dungeon RPG. How would you say it’s different from Strange Journey, for people that have played that game?


Rob: Since Soul Hackers is a spin-off of the main [Shin Megami Tensei] games, the developers had a bit more freedom to play around with the mechanics of the game, and it shows in the final product. Dungeon design philosophy in this game has a much more “open” feeling than previous SMT dungeon crawlers. Magnetite, a sort of “demon currency” that is found in the Devil Summoner games, has to be managed tightly in order for you to succeed. Instead of having demons level up with you, they’ll gain loyalty, which powers up the demons attacks the higher it gets.


Loyalty is not gained in a linear fashion either, and there are many tricks that a clever player can use to raise it quickly that don’t require grinding. Due to the fickle personalities of your demons, composing a well-tuned team in Soul Hackers becomes tricky but rewarding in the end since the abilities of your demons are so powerful and cost-effective. Of course, there are still staple SMT mechanics like demon fusion, but Soul Hackers is definitely going to provide a fresh experience for veterans of the series.


How does the localization process typically work at Atlus USA? How far along into the development cycle are you informed that a game exists and sent a document or early code, so you can start to get a feel for it? I remember you once telling us that localization for Radiant Historia began about three months before its Japanese release.


Clayton: The basic answer to that question is that there’s no such thing as a “typical” localization process here. Every game is its own beast, even when that game is a remake.


Aside from the source material, did you look to any other sources for inspiration on how to handle the tone of Soul Hackers in English?


Mike: Being a fan of the Big Cyberpunk Authors (Stephenson, Gibson, Dick, Sterling), it was easy to pick up on the more noir-ish influences in Soul Hackers’ story. I wouldn’t say we shoveled more in, but where the game tries to be technical, we were able to work in some *cough* actual knowledge of computers to make the techno-speak less amateurish.


Clayton:  To be fair, the majority of what I’d call “tone” is set by the original story. The editors or the translators would really have to go off the rails to change the game’s tone.


The name “Shin Megami Tensei” probably doesn’t do you guys any favours when it comes to securing distribution for these games in North America, or for building awareness. Have you ever considered changing it to a more English-friendly title in the U.S.?


Clayton: We like to think it adds degree of difficulty modifiers to our games, sort of like an Olympic diving competition. When we come up with a title like, “Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers”, a title which can’t even be neatly acronymized, (Acronymed? Acronmymated?) we like to imagine that each of our sales are worth triple points, and then we get up on a stand and award ourselves gold medals.


In all seriousness, we put a lot of thought into the titles for the games, and the points that you bring up have also been brought up before. In the end, much like the question you had about a “typical localization,” each title is ultimately tailored to what serves that particular game the best.


Will Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers come with a trailer for Shin Megami Tensei IV like the Japanese version of the game did?


The short answer is no, but the SMT trailer is released on Youtube so everyone can view it now.


Atlus is reprinting the Devil Summoner games for PS2. Is this because Soul Hackers is coming out? And why weren’t these titles released as PS2 Classics instead?


Well, with the release of Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers, a lot of people became interested in/aware of the franchise who never had the chance to play the original Devil Summoner games on PS2.  As is often the case with Atlus titles, these games were scarce in the market. It’s pretty rare to find them in used game bins, and private seller prices were astonishingly high. Thus, reprinting them was the only option available to fulfill the demand.


We first reprinted Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha vs The Soulless Army using the original print materials from 2006.  They were in storage for more than 6 years!  Distributors that resell online or to small video games stores were happy, so much so that we ran a second (and maybe last) rebuild. We also reprinted a small quantity of Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner 2: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. King Abaddon, which released in 2009 as a special set with Raiho plush.  (The reprint was game-only.)


In terms of getting a PS2 Classics release, we hear that it’s a matter of getting the PS3’s emulator updated.  This only happens a few times a year and it’s not yet compatible with the version of the PS2 software the Devil Summoner series was created with.


Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers is slated for an April 16th release.


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  • Detrimont

    still waiting for a europe/PAL announcement, hopefully with the NIS partnership it wont be too far off

  • l777l

    What about a PAL release of these two reprint titles?

    • Kirbysuperstar2

      That’d be up to both Atlus USA and Tecmo-Koei, I’d imagine.

  • StarWarudo

    Well I do hope the Raidou games show up on the PSN in the future since my PS2 bit the dust a few weeks ago.

    • I think there have been problems with emulating the Nocturne engine on PS3 in general. Ghostlight were trying to get the Digital Devil Saga games onto PSN but they said there were emulation issues, too. I guess Atlus’ PS2 tech and PS3’s emulator don’t play nice together.

      • DesmaX

        Yeah, I was just going to say that

        But, does Persona 3 and Makai Shao uses a different engine?

        I know they don’t run perfectly (Some itens starts to flash, and stuff), but they managed to port those games

        • I’m honestly not sure, but I suspect most of Atlus’ PS2 games shared the same engine. That’s probably why none of them have shown up on PSN to date.

          • DesmaX

            Yeah… I ended up missing Nocturne on the PS2, wished I could play it…

          • If you still have an old PS2 lying around (or a PS2-compatible PS3), Nocturne and the DDS games go for pretty cheap on Amazon these days. Like ~$20.

          • Laurence Punshon

            INCCORECT! Persona 3 is on PSN

          • Oh? My mistake, then. I guess the Persona games use a different engine. Or maybe a version of it that’s less troublesome to the PS3’s emulator.

        • Ouch My Head Said Dionysus

          Maken Shao does indeed us a different engine.

  • Eliézer Dos Santos

    Good guy Atlus. I just love these guys.

  • Spirit Macardi

    “I wouldn’t say we shoveled more in, but where the game tries to be
    technical, we were able to work in some *cough* actual knowledge of
    computers to make the techno-speak less amateurish.”

    THIS is how you do localization! If you can improve anything in the dialogue or story from the original, then do it. It’s not about always giving a straight translation, it’s about delivering the best product possible for the audience.

    Thank you Atlus. You get it!

    • biskmater

      The problem with that is that sometimes the best product is a bit subjective. Is it something that feels close to the original intention? something that may sound cooler, or better english (as the japanese are fond of using english as they see fit, “Dream Drop Distance” comes to mind)

      • Shane Guidaboni

        Well, I can’t think of a time when Atlus has done a bad localization, so I trust them completely in this regard. They know what they’re doing.

        • $1484028

          well the original NA PS1 release of Persona 1 comes to mind :P

          • Shane Guidaboni

            True! Let’s just say recent Atlus then :)

      • Spirit Macardi

        Original intention is part of it, but I think that the best way to preserve intent at times is to change something to an equivalent that the audience will understand. I mean, in Persona 4 in Japanese Teddy’s schtick was to add -kuma to the end of everything, while in English it was changed to un-bear-able puns. So it gives the same feel, but in a way that fits for each language.

  • Ethan_Twain

    Thank you very much for question 3, that’s exactly what I needed to know.

    I imagine this wouldn’t have been answered or maybe wouldn’t have been appropriate for the interview but the other question this leaves me with is “What makes Shin Megami Tensei IV more of a premium product than this?”. My biggest hesitation about that $50 price is that just 2-3 months before it comes out I can get (supposedly) one of the great SMT installments for less. The biggest competition against SMT IV is… SMT Soul Hackers. They aren’t beating the competition from themselves :)

    • seyEliveD

      $10 is that big of a deal? There are many avenues one can take to save $10 (don’t eat out, trade in old games, etc). If it costs us $10 extra to get a new SMT (and so close to the Japanese release!) I will pay it anytime … and I would recommend to anyone that has an issue affording $10 extra dollars that they might want to contemplate not buying a game in the first place (it’s a luxury after all).

      • Ethan_Twain

        The question is not “Can I afford to have spend that additional $10”, the question is “What is the additional value I’m getting as a consumer for my additional investment?”

        Right now it looks like SMT Soul Hackers, an SMT classic hitting the US for the first time. 3DS game that isn’t really pushing any tech. $40.

        Compared to SMT IV. A new SMT game hitting the US for the first time. 3DS game that isn’t really pushing any technical limitations either. $50.

        If Soul Hackers was a remake of a game I’d had the opportunity to play before the price differential would make sense but… that’s not the case. Indeed, Soul Hackers seems a little bit more enticing even because I know that one is going to be good. It’s supposed to be one of the best. But SMT IV is totally unproven. So Soul Hackers is the same genre, same franchise, it’s a known product of quality, and it’s $10 cheaper. …I don’t get it.

        • I don’t know if you could say Soul Hackers and SMTIV are the same genre at this point. Soul Hackers is a decade-old first-person dungeon crawler while SMTIV looks much more like a much more modern game with a whole lot more effort and thought put into it. If anything, I’d say it’s the other way around… SMTIV is probably going to be worth the $50, but Soul Hackers is probably not worth the $40 for people that aren’t into what is literally a dungeon crawler from 1997.

          • “with a whole lot more effort and thought put into it”

            The game isn’t even out yet.

          • So? MegaTen IV is a new game built from the ground up, so it OBVIOUSLY required more work than simply porting over a Saturn game from 1998. You don’t need to play the game to realize that.

          • I’m not talking about the enhanced port of Soul Hackers, I’m talking about the work they put into it when it was brand new on the Saturn.

          • Ethan_Twain

            I find your point to be entirely agreeable. Unless one were to argue that Atlus has become a significantly more or less compelling content creator over time, then I see no reason to consider a modern product necessarily a product of any more or less time and effort than this Sega Saturn product.

            I am a little bit worried about mechanics being clunky and player unfriendly because of the era it was designed in, but that’s hardly a reflection of developer skill or intent.

  • ShawnOtakuSomething

    Atlus is simply amazing

  • Niyari

    ah i guess that last bit is the reason why the DDS games still aren’t on PSN. sadface

  • I wish they would reprint the PS2 games in Europe too, those are the only SMT games I can’t find anywhere :(

  • thaKingRocka

    “In terms of getting a PS2 Classics release, we hear that it’s a matter of getting the PS3’s emulator updated.”

    A developer/publisher should be informed with absolute certainty regarding this issue.

    • Ethan_Twain

      I reckon Atlus Japan has been absolutely informed regarding the issue. Adding proper nouns that sentence would become “We’ve heard from Index Inc. in Japan that they can’t put it on the PSN yet because of the emulator.”

  • XypherCode

    You should ask Atlus about the Persona game announced for 3DS back in 2010. Was it just a placeholder, maybe for MegaTen IV or something? :))

    • That question isn’t for Atlus USA to address. And even if we were to ask Japan if/when the opportunity arose, they wouldn’t just give us an honest, on-the-record answer.

      • XypherCode

        Right, thanks for that :)

    • benhofb

      I’m really curious as to what Persona game would be appropriate for the 3DS if that announcement is still true. I mean, they just re-released both Persona 2 games and Persona 4, so that’s probably out. That leaves Persona 1, 3, or a completely new title. To be honest though, I doubt that they would put something like Persona 5 on the 3DS. It has always been a Sony title. It would just be weird for me to play it on a 3DS when I have all the other games in the series on my Vita, PS2, and PSP. But like Ishaan said, thats something Atlus JP would have to announce at their own leisure.

      • XypherCode

        Yeah. It’s just that with all the MegaTen games that’ll be out for 3DS I suddenly got curious to what happened to that announcement. With P5 in the works I’m guessing it just became a placeholder for MegaTen IV.

      • Raze


        I think that’s fit the name….

  • benhofb

    Maaan, and I thought the Raidou re-releases were to gauge interest so they could release a new Devil Summoner game (besides Soul Hackers).

    Can’t wait for next week! I just pre-ordered my copy of Soul Hackers today! Woot!

  • amagidyne

    Aw, so that’s why we’re not seeing more of their games on the PSN. That sucks. I’ve wanted to play the Raidou games for the longest time, but the first one is impossible to find or even import in Norway and the second never made it over.

    Fix your emulator, Sony!

  • Neppygear

    Update the thingy, Sony. The reprint means nothing to us poor, shafted Europeans. ;_;

  • brian

    You make it seem like only a few of these games are “missing” but actually a lot of them are:
    MegaTen 1 and 2
    SMT 1, 2, and if
    SMT Ronde
    Majin Tensei 1 and 2
    SMT Nine
    Last Bible 2 and 3
    Devil Summoner 1
    Probably a bunch of gaidens I’m forgetting and Jack Bros but that was probably too much of a spin off.
    So that’d be at least 12 games we missed.
    And significantly worse than that counting europe.
    Also did they do a reprint of Radiant Historia?
    I noticed it went down from $60ish to just under $40 on Amazon a few weeks ago.

    • SeventhEvening

      Yeah, the “missing megaten game” marketing really rubs me the wrong way. Jack Bros was actually released state side, but there was one version of SMT III that wasn’t released and three or four DemiKids games that weren’t released either. If you count ports in the mix, there’s also Devil Summoner PSP and Persona 2: Eternal Punishment PSP (which I’m really desperately missing so I can have the entire enhanced series on my Vita)

      • Justin Graham

        Actually, two versions of Nocturne weren’t released in the U.S., and neither is really worth it at this point, in my mind. The first was just the original version without the extra content like Dante, the Labyrinth of Amala, or the True Demon ending. The third/last version was just the version we got, but with Raidou swapped in for Dante.

      • Rune

        5 DemiKids games actually. Red/Black/White for GBC and Fire/Ice for GBA

  • ragingmerifes

    “One of” the missing.

  • Vitor Duarte

    Why can’t Europe get some Devil Summoner for the PS2…?

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