You may have heard the news, revealed yesterday, that THE "DENPA" MEN 2: Beyond the Waves will hit the North American (and European) 3DS eShops on May 30.
If not, well, you've heard it now.
Anticipating that announcement, I recently reached out to the company behind this series of portable RPGs, Genius Sonority, and asked if someone there would be willing to answer a few questions about it. Surprisingly, someone agreed--with that someone being CEO Manabu Yamana.
Before I get to the meat of our little tête-à-tête, I have to point out what Yamana said when I asked if he and his colleagues at Genius Sonority were happy with the first game's North American sales. "We’ve had a lot of positive feedback from users and the media," he shared, "but unfortunately, we had some trouble with PR and getting the word out, so we were not able to tie the positive feedback into sufficient sales."
Thankfully, the company decided to localize THE "DENPA" MEN 2: Beyond the Waves despite the original's seemingly disappointing sales.
Speaking of Beyond the Waves, read on to hear what Yamana has to say about this soon-to-be-released (with an $11.99 price tag attached to it) digital title--including whether or not this iteration will feature a few more female characters than the first and whether or not it will allow gamers to scan QR codes created in other regions.
The Gay Gamer: I've read that you made quite a few changes while creating THE "DENPA" MEN 2. For instance, there's an overworld this time around and also at least one town for players to explore. Why did you decide to make these changes? Also, are there any others that you hope people will find interesting?
Yamana: We were already thinking of including an overworld in the sequel when we were making the first game. We created the first game with the aim of getting people acquainted with the series, so we didn’t include too many complex elements and we used a simple and fun system that consisted of battling monsters.
This time, a lot of the players will be familiar with the first game, so we included an overworld map to walk around on, in order to create the sense of a bigger world.
We’ve also visualized equipment this time, so you can have fun dressing up your Denpa Men any way you like, and you can even take pictures of them. You can also enjoy fishing in the sea and in rivers, and cultivate plants this time.
We’ve also added dungeons that use the StreetPass function, and you can fight other players on line as well, so there are a lot of new things for everyone to enjoy.
The Gay Gamer: Will THE "DENPA" MEN 2 feature a more substantial story? And if not, are there any particular reasons you've decided to keep these games light in this regard?
Yamana: There’s a little bit more to the story this time. But the point of this series is to have fun deciding for yourself where you want to go and what you want to do, which is the basic premise of RPGs. So instead of providing a very rigid story, we decided to leave things up to the imagination of the players, and we kept story and background elements and such to a minimum.
The Gay Gamer: Do you expect THE "DENPA" MEN 2 to be as challenging as the first game?
Yamana: The content of the game is pretty different from the original, so it’s hard to compare both games as a whole, but, like in the first game, we’ve made sure that there is a solid challenge.
The first game mainly focused on how to deal with monsters, so the difficulty lay in the battles. This time, we’ve included puzzles and world exploration too, so there’s the added difficulty of solving riddles as well.
The Gay Gamer: Personally, I found the juxtaposition of the first game's "cute" graphics with its challenging gameplay to be interesting and even refreshing. Was that a goal of yours with the first and even second "DENPA" MEN games--to make RPGs that are both cute and tough?
Yamana: Yes. We wanted as many people as possible to play this game, so we used a cute design that was likely to be well-received by many people. On the other hand, we figured that if the game was too easy, it would be forgettable, so we chose a difficulty that people would remember.
The Gay Gamer: Will the sequel include more "Denpa Women" than the first game?
Yamana: Yes. There are 200 percent more this time!
Actually, it would be wrong to say that there are any Denpa Men (or Women) in this game in the first place. They are all tied to their own territories, so they only exist outside of the game world. We’d never force them to appear in a game.
The Gay Gamer: I thought it was interesting that the North American version of the first "DENPA" MEN title featured a number of characters with fairly feminine faces and/or names. Was that the case in the Japanese version, too? If so, what was the point of it? Were we supposed to think they may be women, or did you have another intention with that design choice?
Yamana: This doesn’t just occur in the North American version, it’s in the Japanese and European versions as well, but it’s not intentional. In this game, if the characters have a feminine name or face, they will have a feminine way of speaking.
The Gay Gamer: For the first "DENPA" MEN game, players from different regions weren't allowed to make use of QR codes from another region (so, North American gamers couldn't scan and use Japanese QR codes, for instance). Why was that?
Yamana: We tied QR codes to specific regions in order to avoid language-related problems.
The Gay Gamer: Will that be possible with THE "DENPA" MEN 2--i.e., will North American gamers be able to scan Japanese QR codes and so on and so forth this time around?
Yamana: Unfortunately, no, the region lock is still in place.
The Gay Gamer: Did any particular games--old or new--inspire you while making THE "DENPA" MEN 2, or even the first game?
Yamana: I don’t know if it counts as inspiration, but I worked on the Dragon Quest series for many years, and those experiences there are clearly reflected.
The Gay Gamer: Finally, have you found that these games are difficult to promote? I have to imagine it's hard to convince people to want to take their 3DS systems out into public and move them around to capture Denpa Men--even if, in reality, it's a lot of fun to do so.
Yamana: The first game was the first time that we published a game by ourselves, and we didn’t know much about the US market, so promotion was pretty difficult, even regardless of the game’s features.
We’re sure there are people who feel embarrassed playing this series, but there are also a lot of people who feel the gameplay is very fresh, so it’s not all negative.
Also, when catching Denpa Men, the Denpa Men are actually kind enough to approach the player, so it’s not necessary to move your 3DS around that much.
See also: previous 'Ten questions with...' posts