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by Jason Ferguson




One of my most eagerly anticipated games on the handhelds is Deep Labyrinth, the innovative Nintendo DS RPG from Atlus. Just RPG has been fortunate enough to get ahold of someone from Atlus in order to learn more about the game.


Jason: Hello there, and thanks for joining us. Would you please start us off by introducing yourself and your company?


Zach: Sho’nuff. My name is Zach Meston, and I’m the PR Manager of Atlus USA, a 15-years-young video game developer and publisher.


Jason: Deep Labyrinth is headed for the DS soon. Can you tell us just a little bit about the game?


Zach: Absolutely. Deep Labyrinth was originally released in 2004, as the first 3D action role-playing game for Japanese cell phones. It was downloaded more than 100,000 times in Japan, which means it was a big ol’ hit. Earlier this year, it was converted to, and enhanced for, the Nintendo DS. We evaluated the DS version in-house, and immediately knew we hadda bring it to America.

Deep Labyrinth is the first game from a developer/publisher called Interactive Brains, founded by a group of industry veterans with some very impressive games on their resumes. In particular, the two biggest names involved with Deep Labyrinth are scenario designer Masato Kato (Chrono Trigger, Xenogears) and musician Yasunori Mitsuda (Chrono Cross, Xenosaga).


Jason: What impresses me most about Deep Labyrinth is that it makes such great use of the touch screen and stylus. In what ways can gamers expect to use these?


Zach: Deep Labyrinth’s interface is almost entirely driven by the Touch Screen. You use the + Control Pad (or the A/B/X/Y buttons, if you’re a lefty) for character movement, and the Touch Screen for melee combat, spellcasting, inventory management, and item manipulation. Maybe that doesn’t sound so impressive, ‘til you discover it’s all in real-time. Move the stylus across the screen to swing your sword in that direction, or draw a magic symbol to cast the associated spell. Pretty keen stuff.


Jason: Deep Labyrinth was released in the form of a cell phone game in Japan. How does the DS version differ?


Zach: The revamped interface is the most obvious difference, but there’s also an entirely new second scenario (which doubles the size and length of the game) and a souped-up graphic engine. Honestly, if you picked up Deep Labyrinth without knowing its history, you’d never guess it was a conversion.


Jason: While I like the DS, I find that a lot of games don’t really take advantage of its full potential. Why do you think so many developers neglect the DS’s abilities?


Zach: Hey, even the developers of Deep Labyrinth wanted to do more DS-specific stuff with it. For example, one of the designers has mentioned wanting to use the DS microphone to teach tricks to Ace (the player’s canine companion in the new DS scenario), but running out of time before the feature could be squeezed in.

That being said, developers seem to be getting better at taking full advantage of the DS. It’s just taken some time for them to adjust to the possibilities of the hardware. It’ll almost certainly be the same with the Wii.


Jason: For handheld games, it’s important that a game be easy to pick up and play. Does Deep Labyrinth accomplish this? How long will this adventure last?


Zach: Deep Labyrinth certainly accomplishes this, and I know because I was able to pick up and play the Japanese version for hours despite having long since forgotten all four of the kanji I used to know. As for game length, we’re estimating 25 to 30 hours to play through both of Deep Labyrinth’s scenarios.


Jason: How does Deep Labyrinth compare to other first-person RPGs? Do you feel fans of those games will be attracted to Deep Labyrinth?


Zach: It compares well to other first-person RPGs—although the comparisons I’ve seen between Deep Labyrinth and The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, while both incredibly flattering and 24-karat marketing gold, are a little much. I’ll put it somewhat more humbly: If you like combat-heavy action RPGs, or if you liked King’s Field and/or Dungeon Master and/or Double Dungeons, you’ll love Deep Labyrinth.

(On a barely related note, one thing I particularly like about Deep Labyrinth’s 3D engine is that your character moves quite fast, which is a pleasant departure from most first-person RPGs. Just in case anyone saw “King’s Field” in the previous paragraph and might be afraid that Deep Labyrinth is comparably sluggish, don’t worry.)


Jason: Deep Labyrinth promises to be a beautiful game, with talents such as Masato Katou doing the scenario designs and Yasunori Mitsuda doing the musical score. Will fans of these artists be impressed?


Zach: “Mos def,” if you’ll allow me to invoke some embarrassingly dated slang. Kato’s new DS scenario is aimed at children and RPG newbies, which nicely complements the user-friendly design, while his original cell-phone scenario is surprisingly intense (hence the “suggestive themes” of the E10+ rating). Mitsuda’s music is probably the best tunage in a DS game yet, and the official English-language website (which launches next week via www.atlus.com) has three sample tracks to sway anyone who disagrees with my hyperbolic statement.


Jason: Thanks again for joining us. That should pretty much wrap us up. Do you have any closing statements you’d like to make to the readers here at Just RPG about Deep Labyrinth?


Zach: Thanks to you for conducting this interview, and thanks to your readers for scanning it. Deep Labyrinth ships to retail on August 8th, so check it out!


Personally I'm really excited for deep Labyrinth and can't wait for the chance to play such an innovative RPG. Thanks again to Zach for the interview!


Official Atlus Site


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