Bandai Teleconference Report
Living 17 hours ahead of the rest of the fandom kind of sucks sometimes, but hey, it could have been worse. As it was, I made it to university on Wednesday September 5, 2007, to pick up the phone just after 9am - a touch late for the teleconference with two Namco Bandai reps, Chris Heintz and Kit Ellis, and three other Digimon and gaming webmasters. (Believe me, it's not easy trying to juggle a handset, a mobile phone to record the conversation, several pages of notes and a pen, all around a tiny payphone area. And calling the US from Australia isn't cheap either - thank the Digital Gods for phone cards!)
Anyway, quite a bit of what we learnt from the conference was already known from the Japanese releases, but there were a few revelations. Here's what I can piece together from my three pages of notes...
Digimon World: Data Squad, for the PS2, features a "deep" storyline that's a side-story to the Digimon Data Squad (Savers) TV show. It's tied into the main TV story and the dub voice actors for the show reprise their roles in the game, with the exception of Gaomon (played by Dan Lorge in the game) due to recording conflicts. Biyomon and Renamon are both female in the DWDS game, with Biyomon to be voiced by Melodee Spivack (Birdramon, Garudamon, LadyDevimon, Blossomon in seasons 1 and 2) and Renamon by Mari Devon (reprising her role from Tamers).
Graphics for this game are cel-shaded to give it a "cartoony approach" rather than an "ultrarealistic" effect, in an attempt to appeal to players (cel-shading being rather popular these days, with games like The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker using similar techniques). The music's been kept from the Japanese version of the game, and the voiced parts are still the same as in the Japanese version, so only the characters that spoke in the original will speak in the English dub (pretty much the primary characters). Unfortunately, Japanese won't be available as a language option (as usual).
The reps seemed pretty excited about the "emotion feedback" battle system in DWDS, citing it as something "new" and "unique". They described it as letting the Digimon do what it wants in order to develop an affinity with the tamer, which is pretty cool. The battle system differs from previous Digimon World games, as has become the norm in this series. The story apparently hasn't been cut, either, which is pretty nice.
As for Digimon World: Dawn and Dusk, the reps were quick to assure us that these DS games are a great starting point for newcomers, with a brand-new storyline. They'll be easy to get started with but should offer "challenges even for hardcore fans", with connectivity a point that was pushed at us. Dawn's central team is the "Light Fang" team and Dusk features the "Night Claw" team - two opposing teams that are working together towards a common cause. These two games have parallel, interweaving stories, with the two different views of the same thing being a selling point. Characters from the TV show have cameo appearances in these DS games in a "bonus quest".
Dawn and Dusk will connect using the DS's local wireless capabilities, as well as over the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection (WFC). Locally, the games will connect to trade Digimon, battle other players and for "matching" Digimon, where two Digimon can breed to create Digi-Eggs. "Tamer points" can be earned through battling. The WFC won't let you trade Digimon with other players, but you will still be able to battle and "match". There's a challenge posed here to collect all the Digimon, with some "rare" eggs only available by "matching" with other players' Digimon; you'll also need to connect to other players to collect all the available armour and equipment, apparently.
Game mechanics will be much the same as last year's Digimon World DS, with the touchscreen and top screen both being used for battling and interacting with your Digimon. You'll be able to see things like statuses, strengths and weaknesses and results of training in real time.
In general, these games feature a mix of old and new Digimon. We're told that there's no focus on one group or the other. To keep the consistency with prior games in the Digimon World series, much use is again made of the "Digi" prefix - we'll have "Digifarms" and "Digifood" among other things. But then that's just part of the franchise. Naming inconsistencies - for example, Daemon being "Creepymon" - were explained by the TV show being aimed at kids, and having to dumb down somewhat for that. The in-game names have to correspond to the TV show names, so I guess it's just bad luck for those of us older fans who find "Creepymon" a bit tacky.
Unfortunately, the conference was very much focused on the North American release, and the Namco Bandai reps couldn't give me an Australian release date or even any news on if there are plans for one. They did say they'd try to find out and get back to me, though, so here's hoping! And as for future games, apparently the reps can't talk about it... yet. ;)
Digimon World: Data Squad (PS2) and Digimon World: Dawn and Dusk (NDS) are out September 18th in North American regions. Fingers crossed for an Australian release!