On Tuesday, February 16th, XEED released Ragnarok DS for the well…Nintendo DS. This action RPG sports the visuals, locations and overall feel of the MMORPG it is based on, Ragnarok Online. This Korean MMORPG has entertained millions, but I am not one of them. I’ve never been into MMORPG’s, with the only two I’ve ever enjoyed being the original Phantasy Star Online and Dungeons and Dragons Online, but I do love portable RPGs, and I really liked the way this game looked and felt. I’ve actually been playing it nonstop since my review copy arrived and am currently a Hunter (High level Archer class). Shortly before Ragnarok DS showed up in my mailbox, I managed to sit down with Ken Berry, the Director of Sales and Marketing over at XSEED to see what this game was all about and how it compared to the PC MMORPG.
Diehard GameFAN: Ragnarok is a popular MMORPG that was started in Korea in 2001. It has spawned several sequels and spin-offs including the DS sequel you are bringing to the US. What made you decide to bring Ragnarok DS to the US?
Ken Berry: We knew how popular Ragnarok Online was as an MMO in the PC community, but we are always looking for solid games that provide a fun gameplay experience rather than licensed titles. Once we started playing Ragnarok DS, we were impressed with how deep the customization options were with a huge selection of unique job classes to master and we became hooked immediately. Any game that we can’t put down is one that definitely qualifies as a title worth pursuing, and having the Ragnarok name-value was just an added bonus to a great standalone DS game.
DHGF: How does this game differ from the MMORPG version?
KB: The biggest difference would of course be that the DS players are not part of the online persistent world, but fans of Ragnarok Online will instantly recognize the artwork, job classes, and many other elements since it takes place within the same Ragnarok Online universe. People that have grown accustomed to playing Ragnarok with others can even join up with two other friends locally or online to take on a special area called the Mirage Tower together.
DHGF: You can play with up to two of your friends via the wi-fi connection. That makes the DS game more Phantasy Star Portable than Phantasy Star Online. What was the decision behind that?
KB: I’ve never played the Phantasy Star series, but my thinking is that it was a natural choice to include online multiplayer for a game that’s renowned for cooperative play and teamwork. Not too many DS titles use the wi-fi connection feature to go online so it’s obvious to see it was very important to the development team if they went through that much trouble to implement it.
DHGF: Which classes have made it from the MMORPG to the DS version?
KB: Fans of the PC version will see a lot of familiar job classes such as the Swordsman and Knight, Magician and Wizard, Archer and Hunter, Acolyte and Priest, Thief and Assassin, Merchant and Blacksmith, and Taekwon Kid which grows into a Taekwon Master. Ragnarok DS will also have two job classes that are new to the Ragnarok world: Dark Knight and Shaman.
DHGF: One of the complaints about the MMORPG version of Ragnarok is that there is little no plot. However that hasn’t stopped millions of people from having fun with it. What’s the story/plot for the DS version?
KB: The plot centers around Ales, a young boy who lost both of his parents but aspires to become a great adventurer and start his own guild someday. Things take a turn for the uncertain when he comes across Sierra, a mysterious girl that doesn’t remember much of anything from her past, and they start going on quests together. Needless to say, Sierra’s past ends up catching up with her so it’s up to Ales and his growing party to try to set things right.
DHGF: There tends to be a bit of a difference between MMORPG fans, who are generally PC gamers, and console gamers. What about Ragnarok Online DS will draw them to the DS version and likewise, what is the hook for people that have no connection to the MMORPG, or perhaps have never even heard of it? Why would they enjoy the DS spin-off?
KB: PC players will find instant familiarity in the job classes and the rest of the world that’s consistent with the Ragnarok universe, but they would also have a lot of fun utilizing the touch screen as special abilities are unleashed by various methods such as slashing, circling, double-tapping, or even holding down to charge and then swiping in the direction you want to unleash the skill. For people unfamiliar with the PC version but enjoy Ragnarok DS, they may enjoy having a party consisting of more than three people which are all individually controlled by other players, and of course they would be familiar with most of the job classes already thanks to their Ragnarok DS playing experience.
DHGF: What can people expect from Ragnarok, gameplay-wise?
KB: Ragnarok DS is a dungeon-crawler’s dream with tons of loot to find, with over 100 quests to complete, and numerous unique jobs to master. The new jobs created for this version, Dark Knight and Shaman, are very rewarding as they require a lot of work to unlock.
DHGF: People that preordered Ragnarok, recieved a whopping SEVEN bonus items. What do these items do for your game?
KB: These are all meant to enhance the experience of playing Ragnarok Online on PC. Their benefits range from increasing experience points gained by defeating monsters, to increasing recovery rate of HP and SP. Hopefully people will put them to good use in their Ragnarok Online accounts, or be perhaps even enticed to start up a new account and give it a try for the first time.
DHGFL Ragnarok 2: Gate of the World is in the beta testing stages back in Asia. Since XSEED is working with GungHo to release the DS game, is there any chance XSEED will be involved with the MMORPG’s eventual release? As well, if this does well, will you be considering any of the other spin-offs like Ragnarok Offline Brawler?
KB: We have no plans to be involved in Rangarok Online 2 as GungHo’s subsidiary, Gravity Interactive, is based in the US and is already running the entire Ragnarok Online community. If they did decide to create any additional games for the Nintendo DS or other consoles, we would have to evaluate that on a case-by-case basis.
DHGF: Finally, will there ever be a chance to play with a member of the XSEED staff in those multi-player missions?
KB: Possibly, but since we’ve had a huge start on the rest of the population playing the game, maybe we’ll wait a week or two to give everyone a chance to level-up and catch up to us first. But knowing gamers, I have a feeling not only will they catch up to us within a week’s time, they will probably completely surpass us and leave us in the dust.
As you can see, XSEED is confident that Ragnarok DS is a game that will be enjoyed by gamers, whether or not they’ve experienced the PC MMORPG. It’s currently out now with a MSRP of $34.99 and I’ll have my review of the game up here at Diehard GameFAN early next week for my usual lengthy commentary. Until then, you can check out the official website for the game to learn more.