Shin Megami Tensei IV Interview: Making Law And Chaos Heroes

By Spencer . June 21, 2013 . 6:00pm

This July, for the first time in ten years, Atlus will release a full-fledged, numbered Shin Megami Tensei game in Shin Megami Tensei IV for the Nintendo 3DS in North America. The game draws inspiration both from older MegaTen titles like the ones on the Super Famicom, as well as the last main game in the series, Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne.


Siliconera recently had a chance to speak with the game’s character designer, Masayuki Doi, who has in the past worked on games like Trauma Team and Trauma Center.


Walter and Jonathan represent two opposite ideologies in Shin Megami Tensei IV. Can you tell us how you went about designing them?


Masayuki Doi, Character Designer: Jonathan walks down the law path. Because of that I wanted him to look gentleman-like and make him a friendly person who appears to be courteous to others. I tried to capture those aspects visually when I was designing his character and discussed this with [Shin Megami Tensei IV director Kazuyuki] Mr. Yamai.


Walter is on the other end of the spectrum—he represents chaos. I wanted to capture a carefree spirit who looks like he doesn’t follow the rules. Walter is the type of character who can be aggressive at times and he doesn’t mince words. I wanted to capture that kind of personality when I was designing Walter. Mr. Yamai also requested I make Walter look more vicious.


How did you design Burroughs, the game’s A.I. companion? She doesn’t show her full face, which is different from all of the other characters in Shin Megami Tensei IV.


Burroughs isn’t the first A.I. to be in a Shin Megami Tensei game. Strange Journey also had an A.I. character, but in that game Arthur was more of a computer A.I.


The graphic designed for Arthur had a mechanical or robotic body. The concept for Shin Megami Tensei IV was to give the A.I. a female voice when the game started development. However, this is an A.I. so I didn’t want to make it look too human. What I decided was to make her portrait show only half of her face that way she won’t display too much emotion, but she still has a female figure.


This might be a slight spoiler, but her design might reveal something at the very end of the game. I hope players will look forward to this to see what exactly that spoiler is.


There aren’t too many female characters in Shin Megami Tensei IV compared to Atlus games like, say, Persona. I mean, there’s Isabeau and I guess Burroughs counts as a female lead, but why are there so many guys in this game?


This isn’t specific to Shin Megami Tensei IV, but to the core Shin Megami Tensei in general. Because the game is more about survival, on average male figures have a better chance to survive than females that’s why the games lean towards more male characters. Of course, there are very strong females, strong willed and females with strong physique, that survive, so we hand pick a few of those strong female archetypes to represent the female side.


Hmm… interesting. Well, you do have a lot of female fans outside the Atlus booth waiting to meet you and I think some of them will disagree if you tell them they can’t survive an apocalypse! Would you like to make a Shin Megami Tensei game with a female lead?


I like female protagonists. It would be cool to have a female protagonist in the next SMT game.


However, there are traditionalists on the development team that see the series from the past to present and all of the protagonists have been male. To keep that tradition, there is feedback I’ve been hearing saying that if there is a new SMT title we should keep the tradition of having a male lead.


Do you think you would ever design a Shin Megami Tensei game set in the West or outside Japan? I realize Strange Journey was supposed to be Shin Megami Tensei IV, but to keep the tradition of having the series set in Japan it was renamed Strange Journey.


Personally, I think setting a SMT game in a location outside Tokyo is a cool idea. It’s true that traditionally all of the SMT games have been based in Tokyo, but if the need arises from the audience… Let’s say we want to have the next game take place in Los Angeles, if there is both requests from the fanbase and within the development side to support that idea it’s possible that the next Shin Megami Tensei game could take place outside Tokyo.


Do you think the fanbase for Shin Megami Tensei is greater in Japan or in the West now after the breakout success of Persona?


Hmm… right now I still think there are more fans in Japan, but after talking to media and seeing people in the booth I feel there is much more Western enthusiasm for the series than I imagined.


Going back to the earlier question, it would be nice to have a new Shin Megami Tensei that takes place in Los Angeles or New York so they can relate to the game better and be really excited about.


You know there is one series you worked on that I’m always excited to hear about, Trauma Center, but we haven’t heard anything about it since Trauma Team. Will we see a new Trauma ever again?


Wonderful! Thank you! I’m passionate about the Trauma Center series too and I want to develop the next game, but right now my focus is on the Shin Megami Tensei series.


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  • Haseyo

    I don’t care if the lead character is an android. As long as it’s a good game, then I’m sold.

    • Bec66

      I don’t see why they couldn’t just do a selection of genders like in P3P, that game did gender selected characters best.

      • Shane Guidaboni

        Please don’t start this.

      • M’iau M’iaut

        There was plenty of talk on this subject in the last thread. Appreciate the posts but things were quite done to death.

        • Brandon001

          is it that serious of a statement that the mods have to step in?

          • M’iau M’iaut

            Considering how things went before, sadly yes. Just too much misplaced and misguided arguing which got quite personal.

          • Brandon001

            Thats ridiculous that something like that would warrant a mod to step in.

      • bonafide

        I’m not sure why everyone is so hung up on this. The question about gender came up in the last few interviews if I remember correctly and the exact same answer was given. Move on people.

        • ChiffonCake

          If you mean the last article where a lot of people were arguing about it in the comments, then that was just an excerpt from this interview here. Unless there were others that I’m not aware of, in which case meh.

        • Ahris

          Being able to relate to your character is especially important in /role playing/ games. You might not see the importance in this because, assuming you’re male, you are already represented in games. I’d love to be able to play as a girl, and the gender wouldn’t detract from the gameplay or story one bit.

          • Mnstrzero00

            I’m a black male and I don’t feel that im often represented in games.

          • Ahris

            Yes, diversity in general is an issue in games.

          • vileBrenman

            Seriously needs to be more variation in both race and gender in video games. I know people look at demographics and “tradition” but some one needs to start a revolution.

      • Sardorim

        P3P was a remake and it didn’t have 3D models outside the Tower.

    • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

      Android makes sense for blank slates

  • ChiffonCake

    Man, Doi sounds like such a cool guy.

  • Aquarius

    I thought Isabeau was going to be more of an important character.

    It would have been interesting to also see a neutral side and not just chaos and law, and Isabeau representing neutrality. Either way, I can’t wait to start fusing me some demons.

    Edit: About the Burroughs slight spoiler that was provided, she gives me a strong vibe of Louisa Ferre. Even the dress that she’s wearing looks very similar.

    • RoxasTheUnknown1

      But…..she doe-*strangled*

      • AnimeRemix

        Was literally going to say the same thing, but looks like you beat me to it, XD.

    • LightZero

      Well let just say there is a neutral route like the others and leave it at that.

  • Interesting to read about some of the design process for the game. I would be very interested in a game set within North America (whether it be New York, LA, Vegas or anywhere else) as well as seeing what they could do to keep the same things remaining prevalent throughout.

  • Herok♞

    Game looks like it will be amazing can’t wait.

  • Rytan

    I’m so happy I finished paying off my preorder. Amazon Jedi Samurai A Go Go baby.

  • Guilherme Matheus Silva

    Just can’t wait for this game! But I still haven’t decided where I’ll preorder it…

    • Aquarius

      If you’re talking pre-order bonuses, I would go with Amazon for the silly smiley suit. I think it’s the best one out of the possible three (two in USA). The Gamestop suit looks bland and out of place in my opinion.

      • Guilherme Matheus Silva

        Nah, I want no bonus, but thanks for the tips! I live in Brazil and a shop in the next city will be selling the game, but until now, there’s nothing on their site… There’s another site that is already selling it, but it’s more expensive and will take more time to be delivered… So I’m still thinking if I wait the game to appears in the shop near here or if I buy it in the other site.

  • RoxasTheUnknown1

    Other major cities would be very cool indeed and a female lead just because!

  • Takuya

    im so glad i preordered this the moment it was announced for PO . totally looking forward to this ^^

  • Nightmare637

    Glad I got preorder in at Gstop now for the hard part, waiting…

  • Sardorim

    Everyone always forgets about Neutral! >_<

  • Alexander Aubert

    “I’m passionate about the Trauma Center series too and I want to develop the next game”
    so the series is still alive, what a relieve

    • Guest

      Trauma Team 2 for Wii U / 3DS ! ! !

      • Tom

        Only after Europe gets Trauma Team can they do a new game, not before!

  • M’iau M’iaut

    Folks just a reminder about not continuing samey posts across multiple threads. We are not looking for more political debate at the moment. Keep things on topic.

    • Sthef360

      Cop out. The article contains gender related tid bits that easily lend themselves to further conversation. Pretending they’re not there and calling that kind of discussion “off topic” is ridiculous.

      • M’iau M’iaut

        Unfortunately any discussion of the gender issues within SMTIV quickly went elsewhere. There are plenty of places one can join the ‘games as a political football’ debate. Here, there are just some threads where we are a bit more direct.

  • Tom

    What. The fuck? Jonathan?! I always thought that character is a female by her (his…) look. What’s wrong with these guys, what were they thinking? He looks to have a retro 80’s female haircut, WTF!?

    • JustThisOne

      I could not stop laughing when I read this.

      I never mistook him for a woman, but now that you mention the 80’s haircut, I can totally see it now.

      The trick is to pay attention to face shape. Generally, ladies aren’t given such a pronounced chin.

  • Zharkiel

    Doi’s concept of gentleman and mine are way, way too different. I just can’t take Johnathan’s afro seriously.

    • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

      Nanba Mutta keeps popping up in your mind?

      • Zharkiel

        Oh shi- now it does!
        Damn you to hell! haha

        • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

          I look like Hibito/Mutta lol.

  • sakusakusakura_nyo

    I’ll buy it but I wish there were more female characters in it.

  • JoeSislack

    “Well, you do have a lot of female fans outside the
    Atlus booth waiting to meet you and I think some of them will disagree
    if you tell them they can’t survive an apocalypse!”

    To be honest, I doubt anyone who goes to a gaming convention could survive an apocalypse, regardless of their gender.

  • Lazulis

    More Trauma Center in the future maybe?! YES. SMT in other locations? YES. I’m excited for Julyyy. Rune Factory 4 and SMT4!

  • rebecasunao

    “Because the game is more about survival, on average male figures have a better chance to survive than females that’s why the games lean towards more male characters.”
    Well now that’s pretty f*cking sexist. I’m not surprised though.

    “Of course, there are very strong females, strong willed and females with strong physique, that survive, so we hand pick a few of those strong female archetypes to represent the female side.”
    Then why did he say men have a better chance to survive? Did he mean women are generally weaker and psychically strong women are an exception? I don’t get it. Also, I wonder if in his opinion there are no “weak” men? Are they always naturally strong willed/built for him? Is that a given for men?

    Obviously there’s also the fact that this kind of statement completely ignores that gender has nothing to do with biological sex, meaning you can have a male body but identify as a woman. I don’t know why I still expect people to know that though.

    EDIT: Forgot to mention how the SMT series is everything but realistic so there’s NO point in trying to have “realistic” women characters.

    • M’iau M’iaut

      It is a series of statements made without completely understanding the audience in the West, at least. Let’s not make our own interpretations determine the respondent’s intent however.

      • rebecasunao

        I didn’t determine his intentions though, that’s why I typed questions and not sentences. I really do want to know what the heck he meant by what he said.

        • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

          Watch shadow of the requiem. Should help you understand

  • malek86

    Man, that’s a really poor excuse for why they don’t have female protagonists. If he had just said “because our fanbase prefers male protagonists”, that would have been a lot more believable :P

  • Ethan_Twain

    It’s definitely just thinking inside the box to think “maybe we’ll move SMT to a DIFFERENT city stricken by the apocalypse!” I am disappoint – they can do better. They HAVE done better, I quite liked Strange Journey’s sci-fi military/exploration of a new universe spin on things. I vote for more of those settings we haven’t seen previously, fewer modern metropolises.

  • “[…] so we hand pick a few of those strong female archetypes to represent the female side.”

    Why the need to go for archetypes? Why not write a character with a detailed personality and make them female?

    Also, going by his statement, if females have a lower chance of survival, they can still weave that into the narrative. In fact, I’d even say that a person with low survival chance overcoming unfavorable odds would be more exciting and accomplishing (for that character).

    • thaKingRocka

      I agree with you entirely. The most interesting characterization comes from flaws and the obstacles created by them. There’s a reason Superman is a generally uninteresting character.

      However, this comes back to a point I made earlier about an artist working with the material they know. I think the sad possibility here is that the writers simply don’t know women well enough to write anything deeper than “one of those strong female archetypes.”

      • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

        Man of Steel still managed to make him interesting. The people who write women bestgrew up around them, females work suffers the same issue

        • I haven’t seen Man of Steel, but I do think that it’s still possible to portray vulnerability in Superman: On an emotional level. At least that’s the impression I get from watching Lois and Clark.

    • Pajaro Pitoshura

      because it’s a smt game and literally everyone is an archetype. while you can certainly argue that is a flaw in the series, it’s certainly not one that applies only to the female characters.

      • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

        The major flaw is too much of the characters isnt explored. SMT has a lot of archetypes, but they arent boring because they are executed well. The demons and humans are interesting but we never get a deeper understanding of their psyches from the interactions we observe.

    • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

      We already have that, its called Tomb Raider, the reboot

    • supervamp

      You think they don’t use archetypes for males as well?

      • Oh, I know they do – “they” referring solely to Atlus for this case. But the statement I quoted wasn’t talking about male archetypes, and neither was I.

        • supervamp

          Yes it wasn’t but if your going to ignore the fact that all character not just females have archetypes and single that out as a problem then it doesn’t make your argument look very decent. Why can’t you argue for making natural personality for character no matter the gender?

          • You missed the point and the context. I said “Why not write a character with a detailed personality and make them female?”; I already proposed about making neutral personalities – and so have other users on this thread and previous ones. The focus was on female protagonists specifically because this is a thread about the place of female protagonists in the series.

  • Aesma

    Ignoring the part about female in the interview (Since it will lead into a troublesome debate), I have a question for those who have played the game, does Burrough plays a large role like Arthur? …well to avoid spoiler, I’ll just say this. Can she(it) compare to Arthur in Strange Journey’s Neutral route?

    • Ben Ruiz

      Yes. An extremely large role late game. Especially in the Neutral Path.

      • Aesma

        Glad to hear it, after playing Strange Journey’s Neutral, AI such as Arthur definitely have my respect…

  • thaKingRocka

    An artist needs to work with what they know or what nobody could possibly know. If you don’t have a team of people all familiar with Los Angeles or New York, don’t set a game there. Instead of people relating to it, they’ll end up pointing out how the artists got it wrong somehow. Authenticity is key. Always keep it real … or fantastical.

  • Ben Ruiz

    There are more female characters in this game than just Isabeau and Burroughs, but if I went into detail about them then I’d be treading on dangerous spoiler territory, so at least be comforted that there aren’t just the two. Also, if Jonathan is Law and Walter is Chaos, imagine that Isabeau is the representative for Neutral and I’ll leave it at that.

    The story itself was written with a male protagonist in mind, especially since it is trying really hard to evoke feelings of SMT I, which had a hero protagonist and a heroine that fought by his side (and she was way more fun to use than the protagonist…I mean she had magic while his schtick was that he could summon demons.) I wouldn’t mind a future game featuring a heroine protagonist, but the story would have to be written with that in mind. I find that stories with “inter-changeable” protagonists just aren’t as strong as stories with at least a set gender for a protagonist, whether they are male or female.

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