The DS is rapidly becoming a haven for RPGs. Final Fantasy III, Contact, Magical Starsign and Deep Labyrinth are all coming out in the USA later this year. What’s Deep Labyrinth you say? It’s a first person RPG made by Interactive Brains and published by Atlus for North America. When Interactive Brains created the game they recruited some of the legendary talent from Chrono Trigger. Masato Katou worked on the scenario design and Yasunori Mitsuda composed the score for the game. To get a better idea about Deep Labyrinth we pulled Zach Meston from Atlus aside to ask him a couple of questions.
Siliconera: Ok so the game was originally a cell phone game right? How did it come to the DS?
Nasaki Takeda (CEO/CTO of Interactive Brains): Cell-phone technology has evolved rapidly, which allows for high-quality 3D graphics to be displayed. Interactive Brains has been providing this state-of-the-art content for cell phones.
Deep Labyrinth is a game we developed to the best of our technical ability, for the most advanced system in Japan. And the title became a hit, with a record of close to 100,000 downloads.
Meanwhile, Nintendo brought the Nintendo DS to the market, with great success. The scale of the market for the DS is quickly approaching the size of cell phones.
We realized that we could apply our 3D know-how, which we earned through our experience with cell phones, to the Nintendo DS. We also knew we could take full advantage of the touch-screen feature.
The PSP has a much higher spec than the DS when it comes to 3D capabilities, but the PSP market is limited. (It’s very hard for a small company like us to become a publisher—at least, this is the way it is in Japan.) Also, we thought the touch screen would give us more possibilities as to what we could achieve with the game.
Can you tell us about the two scenarios in Deep Labyrinth? A boy and his dog again…
Zach (Atlus USA): The first scenario, “Shawn & Ace,” was developed specifically for the DS. Most of the characters are cute and cartoony, though the monsters surely ain’t. The second scenario, “Wandering Soul,” was carried over from the cell-phone version, and tells a much darker tale.
Most of the storyline is fed to the player via optional conversations, so it’s possible to just focus on the action instead of the plot, but that would be kind of silly to do, wouldn’t it?
Do the two stories intertwine?
Nope. The gameplay is the same in both scenarios, and most of the monsters appear in both scenarios, but the storylines are completely diff’rent.
What about the gameplay? I’m guessing it has changed from the cell phone version.
Yeppers. In particular, the interface has become almost entirely touch-screen-driven, and the 3D engine was revamped for the DS. It’s a good-looking, fast-moving game.
The touch screen is used to cast spells and swing a sword, Can you elaborate on this a bit?
In combat mode, you slide the stylus across the touch screen, and the direction in which you slide determines the direction of your sword-swing: left-to-right, up-to-down, et cetera. In spell-casting mode, you draw “runes” on a 3×3 grid, with different runes conjuring different spells. All of this is in real-time, incidentally.
It’s also worth noting that the touch screen controls everything in the game except for character movement, which is assigned to the + Control Pad (as NOA prefers we call it).
Yasunori Mitsuda (Xenosaga / Chrono Cross) is known for deep and atmospheric music. What is his composition in Deep Labyrinth like?
Deep music…Deep Labyrinth…don’t think I missed your little joke, smarty-pants! Seriously, though, Mitsuda’s music is fantastic. It was the first thing that grabbed me when I started playing our Japanese evaluation copy, and I came to love it so much that I wielded my power and influence to scam a copy of the Japanese soundtrack.
Didn’t Masato Kato work on Chrono Cross too? It’s like a little reunion in Deep Labyrinth! How did his work influence the scenario design on the DS?
Kato’s scenario designs for Deep Labyrinth are unusual in that they’re so dang different. The new DS scenario aims squarely for the young’uns with its cartoony characters, while the original cell-phone scenario is much darker, to the point that I was surprised we ended up with an E10+ rating. Then again, it’s kind of cool that both children and growned-ups can play and enjoy the game.
From the screenshots it looks Deep Labyrinth is like pocket Oblivion (or maybe Ultima Underworld). Are there any comparisons to the Elder Scrolls series?
While I would love to call Deep Labyrinth a portable version of Oblivion or Underworld, I cannot lie. I mean, I CAN lie, but I won’t lie to you. Deep Labyrinth is more combat-intensive, for one, and more exploration-oriented, for another. It’s a dungeon-crawlery experience, if I had to give it a label, although I’d argue that it has a more compelling story—rather, TWO more compelling stores—than you’d find in a typical hack-and-slash.
What made Atlus think “hey Deep Labyrinth is going to click with a North American audience and we should publish it”?
It definitely wasn’t the Japanese cover art (ahem). One, it’s perfectly suited for our hardcore RPG fans. Two, we knew American gamers needed to experience the latest game from such insanely talented developers. Three, it’s a good, solid title for a great handheld. Those were all the reasons we needed to proceed with the localization.
Thanks for the info Zach. You’re right about the the Japanese cover art, it isn’t the game’s shinning point. We’ll see if Atlus changes it in August when Deep Labyrinth heads to stores in North America. Update: here is the North American cover art and it does look a thousand times better. Check below for a few more shots of Deep Labyrinth and keep it posted to Siliconera for a playtest of Deep Labyrinth in the near future.