Out of nowhere, Square Enix has simultaneously announced and released Song Summoner: The Unsung Heroes, a new SRPG exclusive for the iPod challenging players to rescue their brother from the Mechanical Militia.
The game has you controlling Ziggy, a Conductor that can create Tune Trooper warriors out of your iPod's music tracks, similar to Monster Rancher's CD-generated creatures. Further integrating your All-4-One MP3s, Song Summoner will boost the "groove level" of your Tune Troopers every time you listen to the songs that birthed the units. Now you actually have an excuse for listening to "I Swear" several dozen times a day!
So, why are we talking about this iPod game on DS Fanboy? We thought it would be interesting to compare this new title against the other portable strategy RPG Square Enix recently released (in the U.S.), Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift.
As we're sure you'll let us know, there are some features that Song Summoner can't compete with, such as FFTA2's 400+ quests and other multitudinous offerings, but, for the purpose of outlining what publishers can learn from a game release such as this, let's look at the five points in which the iPod title outshines the DS epic.
Cost: $4.99 (£3.99/€4.99)
With a price as low as this, this guarantees that almost any gamer with a compatible iPod and even a slight interest in RPGs will pick this up. Could the same be said for Final Fantasy Tactics A2, which usually retails for $39.99? One could argue that Square Enix was only able to make Song Summoner so cheap due to cutting manufacturing costs, scaling back marketing, and making other concessions (e.g. contracting a small developer), but does that really matter to gamers who just want a decent, inexpensive game?
Digital distribution is the future! No more dealing with insufferable game store clerks! No more waiting for FedEx to finally deliver your game from Amazon several days after your order it, or even several weeks after you preorder it. As soon as you decide that you want the game, you'll only need to click the "Buy" button in iTunes, just as you would with audio or video files.
Right now, DS owners have no comparable solution for quickly getting complete games onto their system. iTunes distribution even beats out pirating the game, as you don't have to wait for someone to dump the cart, find a site hosting the ROM, or worry about incompatibility problems with your flashcart. Plus, you know, you're not breaking the law.
Unintentional Comedy: Ridiculous dialogue
This isn't really a selling point; we just wanted to use this image!
In all seriousness (or in however much seriousness you can muster following an Uncle Jesse photoshop), we doubt that Song Summoner's goofy premise of using music to fight tyrannous robots is any worse than FFTA2's intentionally light and simplified plot.
Localization: Simultaneous worldwide release
With its announcement, Song Summoner has been made available to anyone who wants it in the U.S., Europe, and Japan. FFTA2, on the other hand, debuted in Japan on October 25th, 2007. The Sealed Grimoire later arrived in the States and Europe nearly eight months later in June 2008, more than enough time for fans to create an unofficial translation patch for pirating and playing the game early.
Genre Innovation: Music integration
Though creating in-game content with your own music isn't anything new (see Monster Rancher, Audiosurf), we've never seen anything similar to this in a strategy role-playing game! What innovative features has FFTA2 added to the genre? Area maps? Larger enemies? Equipment embedded with job abilities? None of that sounds nearly as exciting as charging up a "groove level" just by listening to Ace of Base's "All That She Wants," which you probably were going to do anyway!
With those points argued, let us know why you think Final Fantasy Tactics A2 outclasses Song Summoner. Or, if you're crazy enough to agree with us, let us know why you think publishers and Nintendo have a lot to learn from the iPod/iTunes games model.
The game wasn't revealed and released until just a few hours ago, so we're sure that there are still a lot more details worth mentioning when comparing and contrasting the two games. Why not try out the game and comment with some of those details? It's only $4.99 to buy it!
See also: DS Fanboy Review: Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift