Smartphone Devil Summoning in Shin Megami Tensei: Liberation

Atlus has lightly dipped the Shin Megami Tensei series’ feet into the mobile realm in the last few years, but not too far. They ported the Game Boy Advance versions of the first two games to mobile platforms for the 20th Anniversary five years ago, despite better PlayStation versions of those existing. They also subsequently ported Shin Megami Tensei: if… to iOS (but not Android, peculiarly), whose version was based on the PlayStation version since it was never ported to GBA. The ports were a fine idea, but Atlus was hesitant to provide anything original for the platform despite fans either anticipating or fearing they would.

Given how large and profitable the mobile market is in Japan and Asian territories, a serious effort was bound to happen eventually, and that time is now. This year marks the Shin Megami Tensei brand’s 25th Anniversary, and the newest project that’s been announced to commemorate this occasion is mobile title Dx2 Shin Megami Tensei: Liberation. As implied, this will be a free-to-play installment in the Megaten series that will take gameplay cues from previous console and handheld titles.

What’s immediately remarkable about this project is how Atlus is sticking to their guns in having their internal development teams mainly focus on titles for dedicated consoles and handhelds. It’s why they’ve shifted developmental duties to the company that owns them, Sega, who releases at least half a dozen mobile games throughout every year. Though promotional footage has yet to be provided, the screenshots and details released thus far imply the team handling it has understanding of how Megaten games work. However, some necessary story and gameplay changes are being made to benefit mobile platforms and the intended audience.

The main characters involved will use the Devil Downloaders, or “Dx2” (pronounced “D-two”), a smartphone app that will give owners the power to summon and use demons. The Liberators are one side that will use them, a secret organization that protects the world. They’ll also be used by the Acolytes, a group which acts according to their own interests and seeks to eliminate those with high empathy who oppose them. Society in this world is largely peaceful, but a centrifugal force of malignance is clandestinely spreading its way throughout the land, which could lead to a chaotic battle between the Liberators and Acolytes.

At a glance, Liberation doesn’t look or sound like a Shin Megami Tensei game, a franchise whose installments typically occur in depressing post-apocalyptic environments. But keep in mind there are exceptions, like the aforementioned if… and Strange Journey, both of which are non-numbered mainline installments. This title will likely have more in common with them, as its themes will turn dark when the battle between the key sides begins, though it may not be apocalyptic.

Players will choose between a male or female protagonist, though only the former (pictured above, to the left) has been revealed thus far. The main character will get caught between the chaos after downloading the Dx2 app after it’s recommended to him by a famous live streamer. (Famous live streamers sure love getting themselves into trouble these days.) Another character that will be involved is Tarou Fuse, the leader of the Liberators in Tokyo. He’s also a popular video maker on YouTube Megatube, though he was originally a rapper. There’s also Rika Ryuuzouji (pictured above, to the right), a high schooler and gun maniac who recently joined the Liberators. She moves at her own pace, and will help the protagonist on certain missions.

Like any title branding the “Shin Megami Tensei” name, the franchise’s demons will be involved in the form of 3D models. Liberation will also import features from many Megaten games, like fusion, Macca for currency, and MAG for energy. It will also use the Press Turn battle system from several previous installments, where players or enemies gain an extra half-turn when they hit a weakness, and lose a turn when they miss. Unlike other Megaten games and assorted spinoffs, though, the main character will leave fighting to the demons and won’t participate in battle themselves.

It’s also no surprise that demon negotiation will be included, because since this is a free-to-play game with microtransactions, how else will demons ask you for real money so they can join you? Also, MAG needed to be replenished in some previous Megaten games, which opens the door to the kind of nefarious “energy” monetization schemes that plague so many mobile games. Keep an eye on your credit while you play.

While some gameplay features are ripped right out of mainline Megaten titles, the hired talent known thus far is new to the series. The characters are being designed by Tatsuro Iwamoto, who previously provided designs for the first three Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney games and the Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth games. The scenario is being written by Makoto Fukami, who previously worked as a scriptwriter for the first Psycho-Pass anime series and the movie, and the recent Resident Evil: Vendetta CG film. More staff will be revealed soon, including the director and music composer.

Liberation doesn’t have a release date, but it could arrive in mere months considering mobile games tend to have a short period between announcement and release. It will be playable at Tokyo Game Show this week, where the first trailer could be released. Perhaps we’ll also see if this game is more “apocalyptic” than it appears soon.

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