The Caligula Effect: Overdose Interview -- Director on Psychology, Comparison with Persona, and More

The Caligula Effect: Overdose will bring Furyu's JRPG to PS4, Switch, and PC next year. Director Takuya Yamanaka discusses its deeper meanings.

The Caligula Effect: Overdose is the PS4 port of the original The Caligula Effect for PS Vita, and it’s expanding to the Switch and PC for its western release, courtesy of NIS America.

While many tend to find similarities with the Persona series, which isn’t surprising considering the scenario by Persona and Persona 2 writer Tadashi Satomi, the game has many unique aspects worthy of being discussed. To learn more about it, DualShockers talked with Director Takuya Yamanaka.

The original game was published in the west by Atlus USA, while this new version was published by NISA. And we heard that the original developer Furyu is open to partnering with different publishers that fit each of the games it producers.

While the main scenario from the PS Vita version carries over in this new edition, there is a substantial story addition (which Yamanaka-san did describe more in detail, but we’re omitting it to avoid spoilers), alongside new characters and theme songs.

Incidentally, the Switch and PC versions are being created primarily for the west, but there are also plans to distribute them in Japan as well.

A few months ago the game sparked the airing of an anime series on Japanese TV, and according to Yamanaka-san that boosted the popularity of the franchise. Many mentioned on social media that they were interested in playing The Caligula Effect after watching the anime.

Similarities with the Persona series certainly exist, considering Satomi-san’s work on both franchises; Yamanaka-san himself grew up playing Persona games. Yet, before becoming a game developer he studied psychology and wanted to include more realistic situations within society. He aimed to write the stories of real people who the player could simply meet on the streets. Due to that, Caligula is a bit different from Persona. 

One of the most peculiar elements of the game is the combat system. The developers wanted to create mechanics in the middle between a command RPG and a simulation RPG.  Yamanaka-san really likes fighting games, but he’s not very good at executing the combos. Due to that, he aimed to design a system which allows players to think through their combos beforehand and then execute them.

This proved hard on the PS Vita’s hardware, but the switch to Unreal Engine and PS4 provided an environment that was a lot easier to work with.

Incidentally, Yamanaka-san would like to continue the franchise with another game, and he has been thinking about it. Yet, there is no firm plan in place for the moment. That being said, the developers are going to listen to the fans’ feedback about it.

Despite that, The Caligula Effect: Overdose is a complete experience, and the Director feels that he included all the elements that he originally wanted to. If plans for a sequel were to materialize, he would have to think about more and completely new ideas for it.

The original Caligula was on the PS Vita due to a decision made directly by Furyu. They consider themselves still a new company, with the goal of creating games that feel very unique. They also try to keep development costs low, while still delivering the best possible quality within limited budgets. This kind of approach used to fit handheld consoles better, which is why the choice was between the Vita and the 3DS.

Yamanaka-san has a lot of memories and feelings tied to the PS Vita because Caligula was his debut game. That’s why he feels quite sad about the recent news that spells the console’s demise.

He also explained why he decided to include the concept of vocaloid in the game. Many Japanese RPGs involve the idea of killing gods, and Yamanaka-san wanted to convey a strong feeling of immorality. While in Japan many young people are moving away from religion and gods, they tend to believe more in celebrities and idols. Going against those seemed appropriate to depict a more realistic immoral struggle. Nowadays vocaloids like Hatsune Miku are extremely popular: if she was the last boss, it would feel extremely immoral to many Japanese geeks, as she is much closer to them than any divine being.

He also wanted to focus on a human being’s inner conflict, which often leads up to fighting against society. That being said, another relevant element was also including the smaller problems that people hide within their minds, and how they influence the interaction with others.

Yamanaka-san struggled a bit with the fact that there certainly are players that won’t perceive the deeper meanings behind the story. The reason why he studied psychology to begin with was exactly to understand those concepts and issues himself. Yet, there are also people out there who share those problems, and he hopes that they will be able to relate with them.

The young Director is also hoping that western gamers will also be able to relate with the issues affecting the characters, who suffer from problems that can appear small from outside, but to them, they’re equivalent to defeating a final boss. Many of those issues are strongly tied to Japanese culture and society, so he wonders whether they will be understandable to a western audience. While he doesn’t speak fluent English, he would like to hear feedback from gamers overseas about that as well.

The Caligula Effect: Overdose is scheduled to release in early 2019 for PC, PlayStation 4 and Switch. You can already pre-order the game on Amazon.

If you want to learn more, you can enjoy the latest features trailer and our review of the original game on PS Vita.

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Giuseppe Nelva

Hailing from sunny (not as much as people think) Italy and long standing gamer since the age of Mattel Intellivision and Sinclair ZX Spectrum. Definitely a multi-platform gamer, he still holds the old dear PC nearest to his heart, while not disregarding any console on the market. RPGs (of any nationality) and MMORPGs are his daily bread, but he enjoys almost every other genre, prominently racing simulators, action and sandbox games. He is also one of the few surviving fans of the flight simulator genre on Earth.

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