Atlus breaks 360 ground with Spectral Force 3

If you’re a fan of Atlus (like me), you’ve probably already got your calendar marked for next week and the release of Persona 3 FES, but here’s another date to take down: May 27th. And just what happens on that day, you ask? Atlus finally finds its way onto current-gen consoles with its first release on the Xbox 360 — Spectral Force 3: Innocent Rage.

Toting itself as the first strategy role-playing game on the platform, Spectral Force 3 is the first installment of the SF series to make its way stateside. First announced at the end of last year, we have since been treated to the odd trailer and some screenshots, most of which emphasize the animated cut-scene popular in a lot of Atlus’ RPG titles. The handful of screens that do show in-game graphics reveal classic turn & grid based combat in a 3D environment. Promising over 40 unique units to recruit, multiple endings, and deep strategic gameplay, I’m hoping that Spectral Force 3 will deliver a balanced (but still intense) gaming experience, enough to entice the new audience that the Xbox 360 provides to explore Atlus and SRPG in general.

What strikes me as interesting is the choice to bring this title to a current-gen console. Of course, I don’t expect Atlus to publish to last-gen forever, but with the PS2 becoming the console for niche japanese gaming, I’m curious how publishers like Atlus and Nippon Ichi (Disgaea) will change, or decidedly fail to change with the PS3 and Xbox 360. Almost as a foil to the another popular JRPG franchise Final Fantasy, Atlus games aren’t known for their HD renders, lush environments, and beautiful graphics. However, with movement onto current-gen consoles, will the visual depth of these games improve with the times? Will they alienate gamers unwilling to shell out the extra cash for a current-gen title for last-gen graphics?

If we’re to take a cue from what we see of Spectral Force 3, as well as screens for Nippon Ichi’s first next-gen title Disgaea 3 on the PS3, they may just be sticking to their chibi-loving, pixelated guns.