No More Need to Imagine About Imagine Online
Around a year ago I heard about Cave (the folks behind shmup gems like DonPachi, DoDonPachi, and Mushihime-sama) dabbling in the MMO scene and with Atlus’ Shin Megami Tensei property no less. Despite the prospect of being able to interact with others in an online adaptation of the SMT universe, with Kazuma Kaneko’s artwork to boot, I couldn’t bring myself to get really hyped about Shin Megami Tensei: Imagine, because of two things:
- I’m loathe to get into MMOs because of their reputation as being black holes of time, money, and energy. I already have a few friends that got sucked into games like EverQuest, Lineage, and the ever-popular World of Warcraft, and yeah… I have enough of a problem with offline RPGs as it is…
- SMT: Imagine is populated with a largely non-English speaking player population having only really been adapted for the Japanese market. Though I can probably go around and make myself understood in most servers, MMOs for me are also about building a playing relationship with your peers. And well, if you can’t communicate at 100% with them, you can’t build that relationship and consequently the experience.
The first reason wasn’t really all that much of a dealbreaker given my rampant fascination with the lore of the Shin Megami Tensei universe and its associated spin-offs (Devil Summoner, Persona, Digital Devil Saga). However, the second one was huge and really killed off whatever initial mouth frothing I may have had after reading about the game.
Well now, at first glance it’d look like I can resume foaming because Aeria Games & Entertainment has gone ahead and licensed Imagine for the American market. For those not familiar with Aeria and their track record, they’re known for their free-to-play MMO titles which all seem to have a slant toward either the anime or Eastern fantasy nut. Not exactly my cup of gaming tea, but at least they look somewhat established and have a spiffy website for people to browse.
Anyway, after some further research, I found that maybe all is not well with Imagine and that the reason why I didn’t even fanboy it again till this recent licensing announcement was that it was… well… not exactly a game of the highest pedigree. As user reviews on Amazon Japan would suggest, the game’s plagued by a few nagging issues that really undermine an otherwise cool idea. Looks as if the servers can be sparsely populated (even by post-apocalyptic cityscape standards), there are fairly limited conversational choices as well as harsh experience penalties upon death (lol, is this a roguelike?), and there is what some players consider to be the lowest success ratio for contracting demons in the entire franchise.
Heck and as if those weren’t enough, the game also features microtransactions for virtually all your character’s gear instead of a more traditional monthly service fee. Haha, prices can also run as high as 1,000 JPY (~10 USD) for weaponry that can be damaged and rendered ineffective through regular usage in combat!
Oh man… talk about a killjoy. Not a lot of details have been released by Aeria as to what their pricing strategy or release date will be, but let’s all hope they can pull something more attractive off. And maybe, just maybe, Atlus’ll decide to throw us all a bone by releasing an update fix just in time for the American release.