I was debating whether to post this Q&A session with Chunsoft because it wasn’t done by us. Sega did this internally, but it’s a fantastic look at the history of Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer from Chunsoft’s perspective. The DS team makes detailed comments about balance changes and other small details core Shiren fans will probably appreciate. So, thanks Sega for doing all the hard work?
[How the DS version started]
– First, could you tell us how Shiren for DS came to be? Was there anything you had in mind specifically because the game is for the DS?
Nagahata – There were talks of having a Mystery Dungeon series for the DS, and the Superfamicon verions (SFC, the SNES version) came up when we were thinking of a theme.
Tomie – The Game Boy version was a candidate also, but that would have required us to redraw the pictures completely. That left us with the SFC and N64 versions, and eventually we decided on the SFC version.
Nagahata – Well that (the parts that did not have to be redrawn) was only good for the beginning. Because the original game was made so many years ago, there were so many parts that needed to be refined, so the whole process was virtually the same as creating a new game from scratch. We thought about the Stylus and the dual screens but kept coming back to the differences between the two (SFC and DS) consoles. For example, having an auto-save feature like in SFC would be very difficult so we had to rethink the entire game.
Yamamoto – Back then (when developing the SFC version), there were very few colors that we could use in a game. The graphics had to be kept within 32 dots x 32 dots, and all the action had to be within those restrictions. However, the DS does not have such restrictions, so players will be able to see many changes. Of course, the technology has advanced a lot in the last 10 years.
Umetani – All the graphics for character movement were redone, and the effects were changed.
Yamamoto – When characters sleep, we added graphics so that they look like they are “sleeping.”
Umetani – The part that we intentionally carried over to the DS version is that the townspeople could be attacked by Shiren (laugh). At first, we thought of removing this, but after much discussion decided that keeping it was necessary.
– Has the game balance changed? Ex. Odds for meeting specific characters
Yamamoto – We re-did the program so people may feel that the odds are different, even if they are both programmed for a 1 out of 10 chance. Players of the SFC version may have different impressions. However, there are parts that are completely the same… Like having the “Deep Jar” placed in earliest parts of the game…which is not that helpful (laugh).
Ishigami – And the poisoned arrows (laugh).
Nagahata – Ahh, the radish and arrow, that’s really tough, too (laugh). Well, the game is basically the same, although the difficulty has been adjusted slightly. Some people may feel that the game is a bit easier.
[Difficulty of Shiren Series]
– People say that the Shiren series is difficult even when compared to other Mystery Dungeon series.
Nagahata – The core of Mystery Dungeon is "tension" and "reasoning." I think these concepts can vary depending upon how they are combined in a particular title or even on a particular console.
Yamamoto – In Shiren, you could only “clear the dungeon” or “get defeated”. There is no “exit dungeon spell” that returns you to town, like in Torneko. Also, Shiren could be perceived as “evilly” designed instead of just plain difficult (laugh). Like in SFC version, there are parts where you need to break through walls to move forward.
Tomie – The very basic premise for SFC Shiren was to make the players play repeatedly. Players will be able to move on with the scenario and will get a bit stronger (stronger equipment, items) every time they play, and progress as they play multiple times. So players of the SFC version may feel that the DS version is easier, due to their familiarity.
Yamamoto – For example, players of the SFC version may already know the special abilities of the monsters, so they may feel the DS game is easier.
– In other Mystery Dungeon games, we heard that there are certain restrictions within the title…
Nagahata – In Shiren, our team members [at Chunsoft] decide the characters and their specs, but other titles have their own set world that we cannot change. So we could say that Shiren is a title where we can fully express what Mystery Dungeon is capable of. In other titles, however, we can pick and choose the good parts of their world, and create a whole new Mystery Dungeon, and that’s definitely fun, too.
[About Characters and Gameplay]
It seems that the way Shiren’s party members follow Shiren is a little different…
Nagahata – In the SFC version, party members wander off unless until everyone reaches the exit room, but this time [in the DS version] they’ll follow as long as they are on the same floor.
Ishigami – This time, the company will keep following even if you fall into a hole. That doesn’t apply for Surala and Naoki [two non-combatant NPCs that you encounter during bonus scenarios], though… Well, Surala can recover her HP herself.
Tomie – I thought keeping Surala in your party would be tough, so I proposed it. By the way, Shiren’s company will appear in the ending if Shiren clears the dungeon with them. However that’s really hard, because they don’t level up and in most cases, they get defeated somewhere.
Yamamoto – In addition, monsters only went after Shiren in the SFC version, but in the DS version, characters like Oryu are also targeted. Pekeji at full-strength mode in the DS version is stronger than in the SFC version, though.
Nagahata – So then, Kechi might be the most difficult guy to keep alive?
Umetani – Maybe not, because this time, Kechi is stronger than Oryu… In the SFC version, Oryu was stronger than Kechi but I thought, “How could a guy with a sword be weaker than Oryu and her bare hands?”
– There are new Side Quests, different from the SFC version… like the Selfish Parent and Child.
Tanaka – We really wanted to change that one. They ask for players to give a valuable item, and they give back a Scroll of Need (laugh). In the DS version, they will give back something more useful.
Tomie – In the SFC version, Pekeji eventually stops appearing if you keep ignoring him… but that would not let players do the Bungee Jump event (laugh). So we changed that part.
Yamamoto – Also, we removed events where you have to “confuse” or make townspeople “angry.” Back when the SFC version made its debut, we implemented many things that may feel odd for today’s audiences, so we removed those. Shiren’s actions don’t really change based on whether he is in a town or dungeon, and in the SFC version, players could throw a dragon herb at civilians and all sorts of things. Some players really like those kinds of things, so we didn’t remove all of them…But we wanted to make sure there was no way to skip a specific dungeon or event by doing things in town.
– Are there any other things regarding events that players should know?
Tanaka – We struggled with the Bungee Jump event. The map generally allows moving sideways, which is different from other maps…
Yamamoto – We didn’t want to have vertical scrolling during that part…and we really had a tough time coming up with that. (laugh)
Tanaka – Besides the vertical scroll, the Bungee Jump is a flashy event so we took our time adjusting it. In one of the early versions, a different screen was linked when Pekeji fell… it was hilarious to see Pekeji fall into such a place (laugh).
Ishigami – In some of the dungeons, we couldn’t add monsters because there was no space to place them.
Yamamoto – Yeah…that part, the Bungee Jump and battling Kigny King were the parts we had a tough time on, because the programming style is different. In recent Mystery Dungeons there are 2 different programs: there is the one for the main story line with several events in between, and another separate one for the special dungeons. However the SFC version had to handle all of that using just the dungeon program. For example, in the part where the King of the Kigny is defeated and a bunch of townspeople come out, only two npc’s could be generated (laugh).
[About the Dungeons]
There are many dungeons after the ending stage (the Golden Condor)…
Nagahata – In the dungeon of traps, I included a bunch of odds and ends that I always thought might make the game more interesting if they were in there.
Tomie – We’ve always thought that carrying traps would be fun, but it ended up not being as fun as we thought (laugh).
Nagahata – Absolutely. We thought “that should make the game that much more fun,” but when we tried it, it just wasn’t as good as we imagined (laugh).
Tomie – Nagahata-san was obsessed with it after the N64 version (laugh).
– The DS version has additional dungeons, and each of them has a boss.
Nagahata – Yes. We added a scenario by Tomie-san which we were unable to include in the SFC version.
Tomie – The Tainted Path was originally designed as a “nest,” but we couldn’t have so many of the large Tainted Insects appearing at once, so we went with a “path” (laugh).
Umetani – So that’s why they appear every 10 floors. We did have an idea to have smaller Tainted Insects, though.
[About the Rescue System]
– Was Wi-Fi implementation difficult?
Ishigami – We first asked Nintendo if we could use our original servers. So the tough part was before the system actually went live. After it went live, it went smoother than we expected. This is probably because of our experience with Shiren for mobile phones.
– Are there limits to how many times a player can rescue/be rescued…
Umetani – Players can be rescued 3 times, but the number of times you can attempt a rescue differs depending on the dungeon. It’s determined by the difficulty of the dungeons; fewer attempts are allowed in dungeons where the rescuer is allowed to bring items with them, and more for dungeons where the rescuer cannot, like the Final Puzzle.
– The rescuers will lose all their belongings if they die during a rescue attempt.
Nagahata – Yes, they will be gone (laugh). We had that as a concern from the test players and the people who helped us in development. However we had to have the players lose items, because otherwise, players could abuse the Rescue feature to generate items.
Yamamoto – The rescuers will follow the exact footsteps of the player being rescued, so if the rescuer falls during a rescue, wouldn’t that mean the rescuer is less capable than the person being rescued?(laugh)
Nagahata – We have a reward system for the rescuers. Players can be rescued by many people via Wi-Fi, but the first one to successfully complete the rescue can also receive items from the person he/she rescued. We would really like to see a lot of communication through this system.
– Lastly, any message to the fans?
Yamamoto – There are many changes, so please explore the game.
Tanaka – Please jump the Bungee Jump. That’s all that I’d like to say. (laugh)
Tomie – Don’t give up… Something good will eventually happen if you keep at it.
Umetani – We would like you to check out the very different DS version, so please enjoy.
Ishigami – Everybody says that we made this game easier, but I don’t think so. Please check for yourself.
Nagahata – It may not look different at first, but once you get your hands on it, I think you will be able to see the difference. Players of the SFC version will surely like the DS version so please enjoy.
Director for Shiren DS. He played a huge role in Wi-Fi implementation.
Planner and supervisor for Shiren DS. He has been involved in all of the Mystery Dungeon games.
Main Planner and game balance.He was a gamer when the SFC version came out but now he’s the main planner.
Scenario and Events He has experience as a supervisor, with scenarios, and storyboards in other Shiren games.
Presentation and scenario assistance. Edited the scenarios in the SFC version.
Programmer of dungeons. Adjusted even the smallest parts to make the game better than the SFC version.