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.