Interview With Aksys Games’ Associate Producer Michael Manzanares About theresia

You can always count on Aksys games to help fill the void that was left when Working Designs died. They’ve done a great job of localizing and publishing various fighting, adventure, and RPG titles to the US that would have otherwise never seen the light of day. Aksys is now shifting gears and publishing their first horror adventure game called theresia. Known as theresia: Dear Emile, in Japan, this series has been a popular cell phone game series over there for some time. This title marks not only the first time theresia has come stateside, but also the first time the franchise has jumped from cellular devices onto a fully-fledged gaming system. I sat down with Associate Producer Michael Manzanares and talked to him about the newest entry in the theresia family.

DHGF: 1. Tell us a little bit about the plot of theresia.

MM: Sure. Thematically, theresia is a twisted story of love and the consequences of the actions taken by it. You play a teenage girl who, for unknown reasons, wakes up in an underground facility laden with traps. You’ll find the area littered with corpses who’ve died from an excruciating disease. It’s a journey to escape in one piece while gathering the fragments of her lost memory.

DHGF: There aren’t a lot of M rated games released stateside for the DS. Those that have made it over here, like Dementarium: the Ward and Touch the Dead, have been critical and financial flops. What made you decide to localize this title and bring it to North American audiences? How well do you think it will fare?

MM: We felt that there was potential for a twisted, horror game in the North American market. It’s one of those games that absorb you with wanting to know more. And since the game contains a lot of text, we felt confident that our localization staff would be able to do the game justice and give people something that they normally wouldn’t see released in the U.S.

DHGF: theresia started out a cell phone game series, didn’t it? Could you talk about the origins of the series and why it might appeal to both survival horror and adventure game fans?

MM: Back when cell phone games started becoming popular in Japan, one of the major genres was the text adventure. WorkJam noticed no one touched the horror/adventure genre, so they developed this mystery-solving adventure game, where you must escape death by avoiding traps and making your way out of the facility.

The concept behind the game was to put you in a constant dilemma: Exploring unknown areas puts you at risk, but exploration is the only path to freedom. Most other games in a similar genre emphasize running from ghosts or fighting with creatures, so WorkJam wanted to try something new and emphasize the fear of the unknown with something on a more human level.

DHGF: From the screenshots, US official website and gameplay footage, the game appears to be a mix of the old Shadowgate series and Tecmo’s Deception franchise. Would you say that is a fair description?

MM: Yeah, that’s pretty close, but I’d say it has more in common with games like Shadowgate, Uninvited , or 7th Guest than Deception …you’re not setting traps in this game; you’re trying to avoid them.

DHGF: It has been a great year for horror adventure games. Titles like Dracula: Origin, Still Life 2, The Lost Crown and more have all hit in 2008, albeit for the PC, which has remained the system of choice for point and click fans. Even with titles like Phoenix Wright and Hotel Dusk for the DS, long time adventure fans have still been hesitant to move away from the keyboard and mouse set up. What about theresia do you think might push them towards your game?

MM: The PC has always been the primary home for point-and-click adventure games, and I don’t think that’ll change anytime soon. The genre isn’t as popular as back in the 90s, and I think theresia is a great fix for people hungering for a creepier vibe, as opposed to Phoenix Wright’s light-heartedness. Oh, and I totally recommend playing this game with headphones.

DHGF: All the graphics for theresia were hand drawn. What was the reasoning behind this decision?

MM: Art’s a necessary asset to make a game like this come to life, and WorkJam decided the most effective way to deliver it was through hand-drawn images.

DHGF: The main topic being bandied about this game’s story is the hint that the mother/daughter relationship in this game is a bit well, incestuous. This isn’t a theme touched on by many games, unless we’re talking inbred hillbilly antagonists. Do you think the fact the main characters in the game are rumoured to love each other a bit more carnally than relatives should will help sell games in this current controversy = cash casual gamer mindset, or do you think you’ll get a bit of, “OMG BAN THIS GAME” from the usual naysayers. Good thing Mr. Thompson had been disbarred, eh?

MM: Hmm… I wouldn’t use incestuous per se, but I see how it can be taken that way. Once you play the game, you’ll see what I mean. Without giving too much away, I’d call it…unhealthy instead. And I’m not worried at all about the “OMG BAN THIS GAME” mentality, but if rumors help get theresia into more people’s hands, I’m all for it, haha.

DHGF: Are there any plans to bring the other theresia games stateside or to the DS?

MM: As of right now, not really, but if this title does well, it’ll always be considered.

DHGF: As Aksys is a smaller publisher, how hard is it to get your games out to the general public or in stores? I know when I tried to preorder theresia, EB/Gamestop’s system wouldn’t allow its workers to place the order. I had to go online and pre-order it. It seems like for companies like Aksys, word of mouth and niche gaming sites are your best friends.

MM: Oh man, tell me about it. We have to go through the same motions as any other publisher regarding marketing, sales, and pitching products to buyers, so it’s never an easy task. But since we’ve had several, solid titles over the past few years, I think our growing list of distributors and retailers allows us more exposure.

DHGF: Last question: what titles is Aksys looking to publish in 2009 and do you have anything you’d like to say about any of them?

MM: I really wished you asked me this a few months down the line, hehe. We have quite a few titles in the works, but I’m can’t really talk about them now. All I can say is, please look forward to 2009. It won’t disappoint!

theresia is scheduled to ship November 4th, and we’ll be reviewing the game shortly after its release. You can visit the official theresia website by clicking here. Please note that this IS a rated M game, which means you will need to be over 18 to visit the site.

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    • Alex Lucard

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