4Gamer and Famitsu both conducted a local interview at the aforementioned venue with the producers and directors Eiji Ishida and Mitsuru Hirata, asking about the game’s development and their thoughts on previous entries in Devil Summoner and Soul Hackers.
4Gamer: What are your thoughts on the announcement? Before today’s announcement, there was a countdown on the teaser site; how were the reactions?
Ishida: Before the announcement, I was worried that the game might be forgotten. We had received many requests for a sequel, but the first game’s original release was 25 years ago, followed by the 3DS version, which was also 10 years ago.
[Since the start of the countdown] I was relieved to see many people talking about their memories of the game and expressing their expectations for the new one. There are a lot of changes from the first game, so I’m nervous about whether people will accept them or not.
Hirata: I’m generally the same as Ishida (laughs). Of course, there were fans of the previous game, but there were also people who only knew of the game and were interested in it, but had never played it. I was very happy to receive such a great response from people.
4Gamer: Although the site was called a mysterious teaser site… from the domain name and design of it, along with the name of the official Twitter account, we could guess that it was “something about Soul Hackers.” It was easy for fans to get excited for it, wasn’t it?
Hirata: I believe that was the case. Once again, I’m glad that we had the opportunity to make an official announcement.
4Gamer: I heard that the two of you are in charge of development as producers and directors. Why did you come up with such a system?
Ishida: One of the reasons is that with the evolution of game consoles, the scale of development for each game has become so large that it is difficult for one person to take the initiative in creating a game.
Hirata and I worked together on Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE, and from then on, we told ourselves “if we will be developing a big title, let’s do it together.” With that in mind, the two of us planned out this title.
Hirata: It’s essentially a collaborative effort between directors. Ishida is in charge of the world view, and I’m mainly in charge of the mechanics, and we’re also both involved in this project as producers to oversee the whole.
4Gamer: Why did you decide to take up “Soul Hackers” again this time?
Ishida: The biggest reason was that there was a desire for a sequel. The reason I actually thought about planning it was because the first game, with its science fiction elements, was quite sharp even among the Shin Megami Tensei related games at that time. I thought it would be possible to make use of the technology, people, and occult elements of the first game, as well as the relationship between those elements, to create a new game with a modern feel.
4Gamer: How did the two of you first experience the first game?
Hirata: Because I hadn’t joined Atlus yet when the first game released, I simply enjoyed it as a gamer. At the time, I was a huge Sega fanatic, so I was excited to see an RPG on the Sega Saturn. And it was the MegaTen series, too! I was supporting the game passionately.
Ishida: I remember that the game was being developed right around the time I joined the company. I was mainly involved in the design of the 3DS version, so I guess that’s when I really got to know the game as a developer.
4Gamer: From the graphics and the design of the characters, I got the impression that the atmosphere of the game has changed quite a bit from the previous titles. What is the world view and story like?
Ishida: The first game was about networks, but this time the theme is the existence of Aion, which came from an accumulation of information on those networks. The subject matter has changed with the changing times, but I think the structure of this game is similar to the first game, in that “technology” is at its core.
In the first game, we were fighting against people who were using technology to do bad things, but this time, it’s a unique store of observing people from the perspective of technology. The target of this observation are the Devil Summoners, and why they choose to live as agents, taking such a dangerous path. By unraveling these questions from the perspective of technology, the story depicts what it means to be human.
4Gamer: Then, how about the game systems?
Hirata: We’ve made a lot of improvements. Specifically, we’ve powered up to the “Sabbath” battle system. It’s based on Press Turn, and when you hit an opponent’s weak point, a demon will be summoned, with a large army of demons to pull off an All-Out Attack.
In terms of the systems, we were conscious of the fact that the core players would enjoy the game, but we also wanted to make it easy for new players to enter. If you’ve played SHin Megami Tensei or Persona, you’ll be able to easily get into the game.
4Gamer: Currently, there are two main series related to Shin Megami Tensei: Shin Megami Tensei and Persona. How do you distinguish the two from each other?
It’s about digging into the characters that appear in the game. In terms of a focus on the characters, that leans closer to Persona than Shin Megami Tensei, but the dirty, adult atmosphere of the latter is much different than Persona, which is about high school students.
4Gamer: I’d like to know more about the “digging into the characters” comment.
Ishida: When we started planning the game, we felt that the characters in the first game, who were like “agents of darkness,” were very compelling, but their backgrounds were not really explored. Each of them had some kind of background, but they appeared as enemies and were defeated without really knowing who they were.
I also like the way they look, and their ego, like “I don’t feel like hiding in the shadows at all even though I’m an agent” (laughs). So I thought that if I could delve deeper into each character, I would be able to introduce a large number of people, delving deeply into the different circumstances and conflicts of each organization, and create a setting and story that could be continued for a long time. I think this aspect of “portraying each individual” is a different approach from the previous games in the series, including the one currently in development.
4Gamer: Is there a reason why the title is only called “Soul Hackers”?
Hirata: There are a lot of reasons for this, but one of them is that we want to put the name Soul Hackers front and center, since we’re using technology as a major theme.
Another reason is simply that it would be too long (laughs). The first game was the second Devil Summoner game, and since this one is the second title, it would be difficult to understand why it would be called that way… There’s a topic related to this in the anniversary book included in the limited edition, so if you’re interested, please look at it.
4Gamer: Finally, do you have a message for fans?
Hirata: I’m repeating what I said at the beginning, but I’m glad that we had the opportunity to make the official announcement and deliver the information to you. We are in the final stages of development, and we hope to deliver something that will satisfy you, so please keep your eyes peeled for it.
Ishida: I think the appeal of Devil Summoner is in the way it depicts familiar events such as towns and the people who live in them, as well as the personal stories. This title is also largely about the destruction of the world, but it is structured in a way that is made up of the characters’ personal stories.
I’d be happy if every player could find a character or a story amongst the Devil Summoners that each player could relate to.
4Gamer: Thank you for your time today.
Some extra details from the Famitsu interview:
Famitsu: It’s been 10 years since the 3DS version. How are you feeling now?
Hirata: […] We’ve been working on it for quite a long time, and looking back on it, I’m deeply moved.
Ishida: There were always many requests for a sequel, so this title was always in the back of my mind, even when I was working on other projects. I’m relieved to be able to release a new title, but at the same time I’m scared to see if it will meet everyone’s expectations (laughs).
Famitsu: What points do you want us to pay attention to in “Soul Hackers 2”?
Hirata: Soul Hackers has its roots in the Devil Summoner series, which features a number of elements related to demons. The various elements all revolve around the keyword “demon.” How will the Devil Summoners make us of these demons for their livelihood?
We’ve also included a system similar to the previous game’s Vision Quest. The game’s appearance has changed a lot, but I hope that you will feel the underlying, unchanging nature of the game.
Ishida: I would like you to pay attention to the image of the new character. This time, the main character, Ringo, is a female character who speaks for herself, which is unprecedented [for the series].
The overall composition of the story has also changed. In the previous games, people used technology to fight, but this time, it’s the opposite, with technology intervening in the human world. Even though similar elements appear in this game, I think that the change in composition will give the audience a completely new impression.