Independent publishers are something of a rarity these days, what with them generally either going under or being absorbed into one of the big guys, and some are better than others. This is a love letter to one in particular, which has constantly impressed me over the last few years and doesn’t seem to get nearly enough credit.
I’ve steadily built up a library of RPGs from Atlus over the past couple of generations, mainly in the Shin Megami Tensei series, and they’re universally excellent, challenging and fun, and the publisher is one of the best in the world when it comes to quality of its translations. Taking the very Japanese Persona series as an example, they were lovingly translated while keeping the original spirit without being obtrusive (1UP has a good interview on the methodology behind the localisation of Persona 4 here) and given great dubs, which could only really have been improved by the inclusion of the original voiceovers.
Also, special editions, limited editions, whatever you call them, most publishers’ are usually neither. Atlus’s, on the other hand, are frequently both. A soundtrack CD is the least that can be expected, up to lavish art books, guides, slipcases, and the rest. It’s a good reason to be cynical about £10 extra for a tin and download code, and it takes something special from anyone else for me to care any more. Only the late Working Designs was better for its treatment of obscure games.
And given that these editions are actually limited, they’re invariably good investments. The Demon’s Souls Deluxe Edition only came out in October and is already comfortably topping £150 on eBay. And while I might suspect certain studios of holding back copies of their out-of-print games and leaking them onto auction websites when they’re selling for hundreds – I have no evidence to support that accusation, I hasten to add – Atlus isn’t averse to running normal-price reprints of its rarest games. It might disappoint the hawks on eBay, but it’s a nice feeling to get a brand new sealed copy of a rare game like Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne or Digital Devil Saga – both superb, by the way – without paying over the odds for them.
The brilliant Demon’s Souls currently has me in thrall – seriously, either import it or hope for a European release – and I’ll be rekindling my relationship with the Persona series now that Persona 3 Portable is confirmed for an English-language bow. I make no secret of the fact that prefer RPGs on a portable system and so that represents my best chance to actually put in the 100-odd hours required to finish it. Port the superior Persona 4 and I’ll be yours forever.
Atlus is part of a rare breed these days, not only as a Japanese company that’s successfully doing its thing on the current generation but as a studio that treats its games and its fans right. How many of those are there? Valve maybe? This is one endangered species that I’d love to keep around.