Shin Megami Tensei Online: Imagine Hands-On

Atlus' occult-themed role-playing series is coming to the PC in the form of a massively multiplayer action RPG. We were fortunate to try it at TGS.

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TOKYO--At the Tokyo Game Show, Atlus showed off its massively multiplayer action RPG for the PC, Shin Megami Tensei Online: Imagine. Based on the cult classic Shin Megami Tensei series, the game will put players in a postapocalyptic Japan beset with demonic forces.

In playing Shin Megami Tensei Online: Imagine, we started out the character creation process by choosing our character's appearance from a number of realistic-looking faces, hairstyles, and costumes. The TGS demo allowed us to pick our fighting style, so we could have played as the swordfighter type that excels in close-quarter combat, or we could have played as the gunfighter type that can take down enemies from afar. We then picked a partner monster that would assist us when fighting against enemies. Once that was settled, we had to select which server to play on. Interestingly, they were named after real locations in Japan, such as Tokyo and Fuji.

The game features an isometric 3D perspective, and from this vantage point, we were able to check around the lobby area to find a warp portal. We also noticed a machine that seemed to be a monster mixer. While the lobby would normally be used to form a party before going on a mission, the version at the show allowed us to freely warp to a dungeon.

The dungeon we fought our way through looked like a desolated office floor, and it featured some of the memorable enemies from the Shin Megami Tensei series, such as the Casper the Friendly Ghost-style Jack Frost. We found that walking around the map and attacking enemies was easily done by simply clicking on where we wanted to go or what we wanted to attack. It was kind of like Diablo or Ragnarok Online except that the right mouse button was all we needed to use here. The left mouse button, meanwhile, was used to select the character you wanted to control, which could be done by pressing and holding the mouse button and then dragging it to highlight a selection on your player character or your assistant monster, or both.

While it's possible to go around slaughtering enemies, you may also negotiate with them and befriend them like in other Shin Megami titles, which allows you to gain a bigger, more powerful retinue. While you can only have one monster helping you out at any given time, you may still switch your assistant monsters around based on what you have in stock, or you can replace a defeated monster with a pinch hitter.

This all seemed pretty promising, though we should note that, based on what we played, Shin Megami Tensei Online: Imagine seems to still be in its early stages of development. The game had a few issues that don't seem like they'd be too difficult to address. For example, playing around as the swordfighter wasn't too hard, since we'd automatically walk up to the enemy and slash at them when we right-clicked. However, when playing as the gunfighter, there was no way to change our facing other than to take small steps until we were facing the direction that we wanted to attack in. Also, from a visual standpoint, sometimes it was hard to differentiate between our assistant monster and the actual enemies, since they both used the same graphics. It became even more confusing when there were multiple players on the screen with their own, similar assistant monsters.

Nevertheless, Shin Megami Tensei Online: Imagine seems like it can be an interesting game for series fans or anyone looking for a different sort of massively multiplayer online experience for the PC. The game is slated to launch in Japan within the next year, but no North American release is currently planned. However, Atlus has other Shin Megami Tensei titles in the works for a US release, so Shin Megami Tensei Online might possibly move beyond Japanese shores. For more updates, be sure to check GameSpot's coverage of the Tokyo Game Show 2004.

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