We’ve been following Shren’s release in North America since we unearthed a retail listing for a DS game bearing his name way back in August 2007. On March 4th, Shiren’s localization journey ends and Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer will be in retail stores. I’m pretty sure the localization quest didn’t involve any rust causing purple slimes, but I spoke to Keith Dwyer, the producer of Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wander at Sega, just to be sure. In the interview we talk about what’s changed in the US build, tips for Shiren neophytes and a hopeful future for fans of the series.
Shiren already has a warm place in some gamers hearts thanks to a fan translation many years ago, but I don't think this fanbase contributed to Sega's decision to localize Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer. What did?
KD: Chunsoft and Sega have always had a great relationship. However few of Chunsoft’s titles have made it over to the US. Shiren is a solid game and well-adapted to the DS, so it’s a perfect way to test the waters.
While Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer is based on the Super Famicom game Chunsoft revised the title. What's new in the Nintendo DS version?
For starters, there’s a huge improvement in the graphics. The DS doesn’t have the severe graphic limitations of the Super Famicom and they’ve taken advantage of it. There is now a fourth type of each monster (as the monsters themselves can level up) with different appearances and abilities. New dungeons have been added, each with their own themes and goals; for example, a dungeon where utilizing traps is the key. In addition we also have a new Nintendo Wi-Fi Rescue system that allows friends to resurrect your character if you fall in battle.
What kinds of monsters and treasures are hiding in the new territories?
There are a few really cool items unique to the new dungeons. The Trap Armband will let you pick up and set traps, makes traps work on monsters instead of you, and gives you a snazzy red cloak. Bufu’s Cleaver can instantly carve any monster into Meat. If those make it sound like everything was made easy though, there are also new, gigantic Tainted Insects waiting to gobble you up.
My favorite new feature is how you can be saved via Nintendo Wi-Fi if you die in a dungeon. Can you elaborate on this? And why did Sega or Chunsoft feel it was a necessary feature?
The Rescue system is actually really versatile and can also be done using Wireless and with passwords. A defeated player sends a request to another player’s DS. The player who received the request actually fights his way through the dungeons up to the spot where the fallen player is. Then he sends a Revival Spell to the first player’s DS and he can also send one item from his warehouse to help the player out. The revived player can send a thank you note and also send an item. Even if you rescue someone and they don’t say thank you, Hoi the Missionary will give you a reward for your efforts.
The Rescue system is great because it adds a sense of a community to what otherwise is a single-player game. And of course it offsets the harshness of losing all the items you’re carrying when you die.
Can North American gamers be rescued from Shiren players in another country? I tend to play games late at night and it would be relieving to know a Shiren player in Japan could potentially save me on their lunch break.
Only the North American and European versions will be compatible (as both are in English). The reason for this is more technical than language-related. Slight differences in the game program made it just too difficult to bridge the gap.
Is Sega making any tweaks or adding any new features for the US version?
Fundamentally, the games are designed to be identical though of course there are a few slight changes here and there to accommodate the change from Japanese to English. For a game like Shiren, you don’t really want to try to make the game different from the original. You might lose the flavor.
Speaking of tweaks the box art gives Shiren a different feel. Maybe it's just me, but I recall Shiren being a carefree character with his happy demeanor on the Super Famicom box and his optimistic smile on the DS box. He looks like a fierce warrior on the US box. Why the change?
Sometimes packaging needs to be revisited to communicate new features the game has, or to be appropriate for different market segments. With Shiren, we had a few things to consider; we had to create art that resonated with gamers in the US, but it also had to convey the new edge of this revamped version. In addition, when you look at the story, it is primarily about Shiren undergoing this incredible journey, overcoming obstacles, defeating new monsters, and finally arriving at the lair of the Golden Condor. It’s a tough journey, and we wanted to portray that.
Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer is rife with Japanese culture. Did this make the title difficult to localize?
There are always at least a few words or situations that are hard to transition to the English version, but the “Japanese-ness” didn’t prove too difficult however.
Will Sega ever consider localizing the original Super Famicom game and selling it on the Virtual Console? I recall the Japanese equivalent is already up there.
Currently we don’t have any plans to bring the Super Famicom version to Virtual Console, however we are bringing other classic franchises from that era to Virtual Console.
I believe the readers over at Siliconera are well acquainted with Mystery Dungeon style games, but average Joe gamer probably isn't. How do you plan on convincing them to give Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer a try?
The Mystery Dungeon franchise has been very successful and popular with gamers over the years. We truly feel that this title is perfect for the handheld market as it’s a great pick up and play game. The Random Dungeons really lend themselves to a new experience every time, and due to the way the game is designed, players can play for a short period of time and still have a very enjoyable experience. Releasing Shiren on the right platform was definitely a key objective. Finally, we’re getting the word out through sites like yours, where we know your readers include the gamers who love this style of dungeon-crawler/Rogue gameplay.
What tips would you give to players who never played the original Shiren the Wanderer before?
Keep in mind that dying and losing items are all part of the game. New items are pretty easy to come by so getting upset about dying is kind of like getting upset about dying in Pac-Man; just roll with it and keep going.
There are a couple tricks that will help you out in the beginning: you can build up an inventory pretty easily by going through all of Fay’s Puzzles in Canyon Hamlet or even by picking an easy puzzle and going through it several times. For food, the tavern keeper in Canyon Hamlet will give you a Big Riceball every time you enter the town and talk to him. You could build up a supply by entering and leaving town several times and talking to him each time. Also, don’t forget to talk to people, especially if you feel stuck. They’ll either give you advice or help you out when you need it.
The last question is something I'm burning to know. Is Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer the start of a new Sega brand? Will Sega localize Shiren 3 for the Wii?
It would be great to bring over more of the Shiren games to the US. Of course, we can’t say we have any definite plans at this time but it will be interesting to see how well this first game is received and how loud the call is for more.