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Shiren the Wanderer offers a lot of new elements for franchise fans

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Shiren the Wanderer offers a lot of new elements for franchise fans
By Michael Lafferty

“Shiren is an easy to pick up but difficult to master”

For 1,000 years a princess has slept inside the Karakuri Mansion. Shiren’s former master bestows the Karakuri key upon him and he finds himself in a millennium-old mystery, wandering through past and present to unravel the story of the girl and vanquish and ancient, lurking evil …

For those who have followed the Shiren series, it has been a franchise that was defined by the rogue-like quality associated with some Japanese RPGs – in other words, relentlessly tough. But the pending release of Shiren the Wanderer for the Nintendo Wii will change that … to a degree.

In the Shiren that released on the DS, when the player-controlled character died, all experience and items were lost. Touting a more friendly and accessible approach, the Wii version will allow players to set the difficulty level before starting and should the easy level be selected, if Shiren dies, experience and items are kept and the game resets to the last save point. In the rogue-like games, death means beginning from the start – there is no sympathy, no resets. With the Wii Shiren, even if the game is played on normal, death will allow players to keep the level, though items will be lost.

Atlus USA’s Aram Jabbari hosted a tour of the upcoming title – slated for a February 9, 2010 release – along with project lead Scott Strichart.

As for the easier experience, Jabbari stated that “North American gamers are going to find this the perfect entry way into the rogue-like games.”

But that is just the beginning of what players can expect from this title.

“This is one of the first times that Shiren’s backstory has ever been revealed,” Jabbari said. “The story is presented in a very elaborate fashion for a JRPG. The characters emote and the cut scenes are told in engine with a lot of depth to them.

 “One of the things we play a lot is how the game is steeped, is drenched in Japanese mythology,” he said. “It’s a great deal about the atmosphere and the premise as well. It is all heavily influenced by Japanese mythology, even down to the music.”

There are elements that will be familiar to the JRPG fan, such as the map (hand drawn) that allows players to traverse the world. The dungeons (and this is very much a dungeon crawl of a game) are randomly generated, each containing different numbers of levels before reaching the final boss of the dungeon. One area explored allowed Shiren, along with Sensei, to free Kobba, the ferret and companion to Shiren. The Centipede Den was eight levels in size, but some range upwards to 24 levels. Strichart said that there are dungeons that are unlocked after completing the core story arc that are in excess of 24 levels and are also incredibly hard.

“Shiren is an easy to pick up but difficult to master,” Jabbari said.

The game combines a chess-like gaming approach with tactical combat. Each time Shiren or party members move (by the end of the game, players can have control three allies – and either allow the AI to control the characters or go into full control mode to manage every aspect of the allied character), the enemies move – like a chess game. The game has tactical elements set up so players can direct the AI of allies. When it comes to controlling characters in the game, players can go with the classic controller settings or use the Wii-mote and nunchuk in concert.

 “A lot of the fun is the ‘looting,’ “ said Jabbari. But even in that players will have to be careful. Some items found may need to be identified to properly understand what they can or cannot do. And some items are cursed. There is a chance that a cursed item could be found and equipped without being identified, only for the players to find out that the combat stats are not very good but the curse will not allow players to unequip the item until after exiting the dungeon.

“It is a game that is about the core mechanics but it does have a nice presentation,” Jabbari said.

The game’s graphics, even through a Web meeting live gameplay demonstration, came across as bright and colorful with some nice texturing. And for those wondering, composer Koichi Sugiyama is still very much involved in the Shiren series.

It is estimated that on easy mode, there is close to 40 hours of gameplay available – more as the difficulty setting is increased. And this is also a Wii game that will have achievements attached to it.  

“We are really excited for this one to come out,” Jabbari said, “and we realize that a strong RPG on the Wii is a challenge but we are confident in this title.”

 

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