We made "contact" with Atlus (har har) to bring you this Q&A about the RPG's postmodern style...
Modojo: Contact frequently speaks to the gamer, themselves. The gamer is in fact not supposed to "be" the main character. They're just helping. Does the professor, or other characters, KNOW they're just part of a videogame? Or are they still presumably existing in their own real world?
Tomm Hulett, Project Lead: Let's be clear here, nobody is part of a video game. The Professor has merely contacted you via your Nintendo DS to help him in his quest to locate the missing power cells from his ship. And sure, along the way you may have some degree of control over a boy named Terry's actions, but you're really just helping out. It's really about the Professor making "contact" with you.
MO: What do you believe the intended message of the game's varying artstyle is? The lab is pixilated, and is stylized to look like a videogame, while the rest of the game is made to look realistic, like a real world.
TH: The Professor is contacting you from a far off world, in space. His origins are unknown, but it can be assumed that he comes from a universe even further away... (one which may or may not be rooted in classic video games). Therefore, he, and his technology, look much different than we're used to. What's rounded in our world is angled in his. What looks clear and 3D in our world is flat and pixelated in his. This is no reason to judge him. As it stands, your DS is able to display two different worlds at once: the Professor's crazy ("old school," if you will) laboratory on the top screen, and the real world on the bottom (note: this real world is taking place on a faraway planet somewhere deep in space).
MO: Decal abilities seem like further breaking of this fourth wall. They're essentially carried out by sticking a sticker on your touch screen. Is this fourth wall observation correct, on your opinion? What are some examples of what decal attacks can accomplish?
TH: Decals are really the most direct, powerful ways you can interact with Terry and his world. You peel them out of your album and then paste them down on the screen displaying Terry's world. Their magical and highly-scientific powers then transfer into reality in that far off land. Some decals summon allies, others transport Terry immediately to the lab, and some might even change enemies into livestock. The Professor is always inventing more, so who knows what he might come up with next.
MO: The Wi-Fi functionality is still hazy to me. How does it work and what can you do? How does it effect the main quest?
With all the contacting going on during Contact, you may be tempted to contact your friends as well. The Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection encourages this, of course. Basically, you get a friend code and tell it to all your friends (or at least, 8 of them who also own Contact). You then exchange codes. Then, you sign on the Nintendo WFC and "contact" them. This will unlock an NPC in your game on fabulous tropical WiFisland--an NPC that may remind you quite a bit of the friend in question. So naturally, the more friends you contact, the higher the population of WiFisland will become. People there may start giving Terry special items or techniques. He might level things up faster than he normally would. I'm not sure how this works, but I've seen it happen.
MO: We've seen some of the humor in the game with regards to the E3 '06 press conference. What other kinds of inside jokes will we see? Is Contact a comedy?
TH: Well here's the weird thing. I've spent some time talking to the Professor, and he comes up with THE weirdest stuff... I'm pretty much convinced his planet had access to every video game we did...at least pre-SNES. We had a two hour conversation about Vanguard. I mean, have you ever even heard of Vanguard? It's for the Atari 2600--never mind. What's important is, the Professor is a smart guy. And, being out there in space with just a space dog to talk to, he has a lot of time to think really deep thoughts about really deep stuff. Like, what his favorite classic arcade game is. Some of the things he says might make you laugh...some might make you think...some might make you cry, like he spoiled Final Fantasy 7 for me the other day. He's got a wry sense of humor, that one... and sometimes he says things you really have to think about before you realize they're meaningless, but also totally hilarious.
He knows the Wii's release date, too, but he won't tell me. He says he'll only talk to IGN.
MO: The music seems especially strong, which surprised me, to be honest. Who is behind it? What else can you tell me about the soundtrack? The title theme I believe is destined to become a classic.
TH: In the credits, the SOUND is credited to Masafumi Takada and Jun Fukuda, who I understand were also responsible for the music of Killer 7. It is quite the excellent soundtrack--portables these days are really capable of some good stuff. I understand that Contact's director wants everyone to play the beginning and ending themes with headphones on... so you heard it here first!
MO: The game seems to have much more North American hype than it received in Japan - why do you feel this is? Are Japanese gamers not ready or willing to accept postmodern videogames, or is it something else?
TH: Ha ha! I'm quite sure the gamers of Japan are more eager to receive postmodern video games than we seem to be here in America (prove me wrong, US gamers! Buy Contact in droves), however another postmodern RPG was released right around Contact's released date: Mother 3. But, where Contact had immediate competition in Japan, here in America we have a distinct lack of Mother 3. So, there are a lot more Mother-starved gamers paying attention to Contact, and that creates more hype, and as a localization editor I subsist off of hype...and so there you go. But, I don't think that hype is a bad thing. The more people purchase Contact, the more help the Professor has in retrieving those power cells. We've grown close, the Professor and I, and I want what's best for him.
MO: The game's combat system is largely automatic, and decidedly lower impact than most other RPGs. What elements are in place to make automatically trading blows with an enemy in realtime more fun? What makes this combat system "work" ?
TH: Well, let's try not to forget about those Decals you can use to help Terry. But, in addition to those, he has a whole arsenal of special moves which can change depending on the clothes he's wearing. This adds a degree of strategy because you must dress him properly if you want the right results. He also has a lot of different weapons and items at his disposal, so there's really not much monotony in the battles. However, it's important to note that it's not so much a battle "system" as our young friend Terry (himself an autonomous being, mind you) fighting against his enemies. You make sure he's outfitted and not in over his head--but he has to do the fighting himself. He IS the main character, after all--you're just a not-so-casual observer.
MO: What excites you most about Contact?
TH: There is a lot to get excited about in Contact, despite its lack of Blast Processing(TM). But, if I had to choose just one exciting feature (and I don't, but I will)... I would say the overall package. Contact works really well as a whole, from the cover art to the back of the box to the manual to the game itself, it's a lot of fun and it holds up fairly well. It's really something of an "experience." Everyone loves experiences. I'm really looking forward to my favorite part of any game, hearing what gamers and the gaming press think about it. So, I hope you guys all enjoy it. Now go throw down your valuable preorder cash and do your part to help the Professor. I'll be glad you did.
MO: Thank you for your time, Tomm.