Shiren the Wanderer is available for Android now, but Patrick Casey from Peculiar Games didn’t know Chunsoft was creating a smartphone roguelike when he began porting Voyage to Farland. See, Voyage to Farland originally started as a Nintendo DS homebrew game and in addition to adapting the DS code he ended up porting utility libmodplug to use for the music too.
"The controls are always tricky — I tried to replicate the DS buttons on the Android device’s touch screen and I think I’ve done a pretty good job of it," Casey affirmed. "Some people hate virtual D-PADs, but I’m not one of those people. I loved the quick pace that the DS D-Pad allowed in Shiren and so I tried to nail that for the homebrew version of Voyage and now for the Android version with touchscreens."
As a fan of the Mystery Dungeon series, I asked Casey how he expanded on the roguelike formula with Voyage to Farland. Casey came back with a detailed answer:
To be honest, Voyage started out just as a method to see if I could still do coding. At the time, I was teaching English in Japan, but before that I was a programmer. I’d been obsessed with Shiren DS for several months, so in experimenting with Voyage I sort of followed an ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ mentality, at least as far as the core mechanics that I really enjoyed in Shiren.
But that being said, I didn’t just want to clone Shiren, so I took a different path with monster design and attacks, etc. I also added some slightly different mechanics with for example the Vial mechanic, so unlike Shiren’s Bufu staff, the Vial is single-use, and can actually be turned into a weapon AGAINST the player’s character by certain monsters (i.e. the Catapult). I wrote a little about that here on Google+ recently.
The Warp Pouch item is another place I went off and did my own thing. The player can "insert" the Hero into it (!?) and warp to another room on the dungeon floor, or throw it at a monster to make it warp away to a random location — that’s another item the Catapult can toss at the Hero to cause mayhem. And there’s a lot of odd humor in the game, like eating a "Garlic Herb" and breathing garlicky breath on a monster to put it in a sickened state (moving half normal speed), etc.
I tried to borrow from Shiren, but not stomp all over Chunsoft’s game since I respect their work so much. I figured since Mystery Dungeon games are so under-appreciated in the west (at least non-Pokemon MD games), Voyage would be seen as an homage rather than a rip-off. And my thinking has been that if Voyage did well and/or got some interest, I’d be able to work on a sequel to explore some other roguelike mechanics and make less of a ‘clone’. We’ll see!
OK, Voyage to Farland doesn’t pack the same punch when it comes to presentation as the DS Shiren Games Casey admires. However, as a pet project from a lone programmer, it’s a nice tribute to a niche series.