The Souls Retrospective – Part I – Through the Fog

The Souls Retrospective – Part I – Through the Fog
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Death, and perseverance,
are the foundation of the Souls franchise: a dark and brutal action RPG series
with a heavy emphasis on player imagination
and exhilarating gameplay. Rejecting popular trends,
From Software forged a new path and changed the modern era of gaming. Each Souls game challenges the mettle
of players with its infamous difficulty and rewards them for their dedication. Yet for all the accolades, the Souls series would have never existed
without one man’s vision. THE SOULS RETROSPECTIVE PART I
THROUGH THE FOG In 1986, From Software
was established in Tokyo to produce software
for business applications. By the 1990s, the tech industry had grown, and Sony announced their first
video game console, the PlayStation. From Software took an interest
and began development on their own game. On December 16th, 1994,
From Software released King’s Field, the PS1’s first RPG. King’s Field would never see
a release outside of Japan, but its sequel, King’s Field II,
made its way to the west. Similar to several Final Fantasies,
King’s Field II was re-numbered, and released as “King’s Field” in the US. Its sequels followed suit. King’s Field is a bleak and strenuous RPG. Unlike most console RPGs of the era, the action is viewed from a first-person
perspective in real time. The game is highly open-ended with little-to-no direction
for the player to follow as they explore ancient corridors
collecting loot, unearthing secrets,
and methodically battling creatures. In 2004, From Software
hired on an eager 29-year-old who had no prior experience
in the gaming industry: Hidetaka Miyazaki. His influence would make
such an impact on the company that he would quickly
go on to become its president and make From Software one
of the most respected names in the industry. Miyazaki originally studied social science
at Keio University. Near graduation, he considered
applying to various game studios, but he gave up on the idea
and drifted into an account managing job at the US-based Oracle Corporation. Years later, some of Miyazaki’s old friends
recommended he try out some new games. One of them was Ico for the PlayStation 2. Ico had such a profound effect on Miyazaki
that he decided to change careers. He started at From Software as a Planner
on Armored Core: Last Raven. He later directed the development
of Armored Core 4 and its sequel Armored Core: For Answer. Then he caught wind of an action RPG that From Software was developing
for the PlayStation 3. The team working on the project found it difficult
to create a compelling prototype. Upon learning of its troubles,
Miyazaki got excited. “I figured If I could find a way
to take control of the game, I could turn it into anything I wanted. Best of all, if my ideas failed,
nobody would care, it was already a failure.” Miyazaki would serve as the director, changing almost everything about the game we know today as Demon’s Souls. One of Miyazaki’s strongest beliefs is to reward players through accomplishment. This meant drastically raising
the difficulty of Demon’s Souls. In an 2011 interview with IGN, Miyazaki spoke in depth
about the unforgiving difficulty. He opted to not mention
this aspect of the game to Sony because he feared
they would make him tone it down. Miyazaki stated “Of course I communicated
with our producer at Sony, Kaji-san, but he actually agreed with me. He felt that if we were too forthright
about all the death, about this game concept,
with the marketing people, they would have run a mile. So that’s why we had to be
a bit sneaky about it.” In an interview with Famitsu magazine, Sony Computer Entertainment
of Japan’s Takeshi Kajii called Demon’s Souls
a “spiritual successor” and stated “If this was a new King’s Field game, there would be areas
we wouldn’t be able to touch since they’re part of the series; working together like this,
we could make something really new.” While Demon’s Souls
shared some similarities with King’s Field, like a dark fantasy setting
with Knights and Kings, Miyazaki also took inspiration
from outside sources. Several of the game’s elements,
enemies, locations and tone, were inspired by Ico
and the early Dragon Quest games. It also drew inspiration from manga such as Saint Seiya,
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, and Berserk, an influence that would continue
in future titles. Before the game’s launch, it was playable for the public and press
at Tokyo Game Show 2008. At the time of the demo,
the game was labeled a disaster, numerous attendees called it ugly,
dull, and frustrating. Several people playing didn’t even make it
past the character creation screen. On February 5, 2009,
Demon’s Souls released in Japan and was met with mixed reviews. Some praised it
for its unconventional game design, while others were not impressed
with its challenging and obtuse nature. It went on to sell just under 40,000 copies
in its first week in Japan and boosted PlayStation 3 sales
in the region. Despite its moderate success, Sony passed
on publishing it outside of Japan. This opened the door for Atlus, a company known for localizing
niche Japanese games like Steambot Chronicles, to take a chance on the title
and send it to the West. Eight months after its Japanese launch, Demon’s Souls was released in North America
on October 6, 2009 and received high scores from critics
who praised its difficulty. IGN’s Sam Bishop stated in his review, “It’s utterly unique among the offerings
on any console right now, and absolutely, positively
should not be missed.” Demon’s Souls debuted at number 11
in the October 2009 NPD charts with more than 150,000 copies sold. Demon’s Souls found much more success
in the West than Japan thanks to positive word-of-mouth
among the public. As a result, it became Atlus USA’s
most successful title in its 20-year history. After the success
of the North American release, Namco Bandai released Demon’s Souls
in Europe on June 25, 2010 resulting in over 1.7 million copies
sold worldwide. The story of Demon’s Souls
is set in the kingdom of Boletaria where its king, Allant, seeks power. His lust lures him into the act
of channeling souls. By invoking the dark arts, Allant
inadvertently awakens the Old One, a great demon. This event spawns a deadly fog
that engulfs the once proud kingdom and summons horrifying demons
that slaughter all in their path. Playing as the hero charged
with saving the kingdom, you can pick from a variety
of starting classes with unique abilities and skills
to utilize in your quest, including the holy Temple Knight
and magic-casting Royal. As you progress through the game, you can level up your character
as you see fit. Any starting class
can eventually use any weapon, equip any armor, or wield any spell. Unlike King’s Field,
Demon’s Souls is played in third-person. Players can clearly see their character’s
movement and equipment. The combat is fast and responsive. Each weapon has multiple attacks
including a fast attack, heavy attack, and a two-handed stance. Many weapons also have their own
unique move sets and weights. You can opt for a fast and light katana, or something slow
and powerful like a great sword. Shortly after arriving at the Nexus,
the hub of Demon’s Souls, the player is greeted
by the mysterious Maiden in Black, an ancient demon with eyes covered in wax. She’s said to be
one of the most powerful demons with the ability to suck the soul
from any being, and she serves to level up your character and guide you between steps of your journey. Shortly after,
players discover the Archstones: gateways to the five locations
you visit in the game. The demons leave behind
only death and suffering. Their influence is apparent
in each of these five areas. The Valley of Defilement is a putrid swamp
of disease and poison, a resting place for those
who have been discarded by society. The Tower of Latria
is a dark and haunting prison where the mad are tortured and locked away. Hideous, Cthulhu-like creatures
roam the halls, extinguishing anyone out of their cell. High above, gargoyles stalk eerie towers while abominations
roam the foul marshes below. Though each of these zones
has its own story and creatures, they all share the same sense
of dread and terror. Throughout the game, the player
can exist in either Body or Soul form. While in body form,
their health meter is full. When killed, they re-awaken in Soul from,
with half their health, and the potential to deal more damage through a mechanic
called “white character Tendency.” In order to return back to their Body form,
the player needs to defeat a boss, or use a Stone of Ephemeral Eyes. Souls you collect from defeating enemies are treated as currency
for everything in the game and can be used to buy items,
upgrade weapons, and enhance your character’s stats. The system is unlike many RPGs where experience and currency
are two separate things. Upon death, the player loses
all of the souls they have on hand. They can regain lost souls
if they manage to return to the point of death in one piece, but if they perish along the way
the souls are lost forever. Demon’s Souls
is constantly saving progress. You can’t reload an old save and start over. The most obscure
and confusing systems in Demon’s Souls are World Tendency and Character Tendency, features that would never return
to the series. World Tendency
influences the difficulty of a level. When the World Tendency is Pure White, enemies are easier to kill
but drop fewer, less valuable items, and hold the least number of souls. However, healing items
are dropped more frequently. During Pure Black World Tendency, enemies are tougher,
but drop more valuable items. Meanwhile, Character Tendency is determined
by the actions of your hero. Attacking NPC’s
or invading another player’s game will shift your tendency to black. When black, your health
in soul form is reduced and you deal more damage
while invading as a phantom. Helping players regain bodily form
through cooperation or killing invaders
changes the tendency to white which increases damage while in soul form, and as a blue phantom
in another player’s world. While exploring the land of Boletaria,
new characters emerge, though in sharp contrast
to most other games, these NPCs are far from trustworthy. There are some cases
where they’re good-natured like the jolly Biorr of the Twin Fangs. Others have more dubious plans in mind. When wandering the Shrine of Storms,
players encounter Patches the Hyena who informs them
of a nearby treasure hidden in a hole. When gazing downward, Patches kicks them
off the ledge and mocks them as he waits for them to slowly die. If they escape the trap
and confront Patches, he backs off and feigns apology. In the Tower of Latria, high above, waits Yurt the Silent Chief,
locked in a cage. He asks the player to free him
so he can help them slay demons. If the player lets Yurt go, he thanks them
and returns to the Nexus. After some time passes,
Yurt’s true motivation emerges. He slowly starts killing other NPCs
in the Nexus, one at a time, and once dead, they cannot be brought back. After Yurt runs out of targets,
he’ll come after the player. This mortality of NPCs,
and the consequences it has for players, was shocking at first,
and peculiar to the Souls series. Few games evoke
such a deep sense of betrayal. Miyazaki felt many games
have “too much communication” and believed it to be a burden for some. When developing the online features
of Demon’s Souls, Miyazaki created a system where players
use a list of pre-written messages to leave notes for other players. This makes communication quick and easy, and prevents player discourse
from becoming “a large chat, which detracts from the feel of the world.” Bloodstains can also be found in the world, and each puddle marks
where a player has died, not just in the player’s world,
but in others as well. When another player interacts
with the bloodstain, a ghost appears, playing out the deceased’s final moments, leaving the viewer to guess
exactly how the image perished. Demon’s Souls also features
a unique form of co-operative play, allowing up to three players to team up
in the host’s game world. Players can also maliciously invade
another player’s game as a Black Phantom and engage in combat. Invasions can happen any time
while in body form, maintaining a frightful sense of unease
that looms over the player’s head. Encounters can get the adrenaline pumping when death means the loss
of substantial progress. Once invaded,
there is no opting out of the encounter. At the end of each level, players face off against one
of several terrifying bosses. These encounters
were intended to be varied and exciting to make sure players never get bored
through multiple attempts. Sony’s Takeshi Kajii
feels that these battles aren’t the hardest element of the game. He believes making it through the levels
in one piece is the true challenge. One of the most unforgettable boss fights
in Demon’s Souls is against The Old Monk. In a clever twist that takes advantage
of the invasion system, a player from another world
assumes the form of the boss, controlling its attacks and movements
in an intense PVP duel. In a Game Informer interview
from February 10th, 2010, president of Sony Computer Entertainment
Worldwide Studios Shuhei Yoshida was asked why Sony didn’t publish
Demon’s Souls outside of Japan. Yoshida explained, “We were not able
to play the game through to the end. There were frame rate issues
and the network was not up and running. We underestimated the quality
of the game and to be honest, the Japanese media did the same.” Yoshida also told Game Informer
that after spending two hours playing, he was still stuck at the starting area
and remarked, “This is crap, this is an unbelievably
bad game. So I put it aside.” Yoshida ultimately regretted not publishing
Demon’s Souls outside of Japan. “We definitely dropped the ball
from a publishing standpoint… We were not able to see the value
of the product we were making.” Despite these elements
working against the game, Demon’s Souls was a financial
and critical success. It ignored convention
with unorthodox design choices, capturing the hearts of players and influencing countless games
since its launch. Capitalizing on all of its success, From Software decided to expand
upon the idea of Demon’s Souls and begin development
on another game: Project Dark. The Souls Retrospective is made possible by the support of our generous patrons. To learn more about Easy Allies
and how you can get involved, head to patreon.com/easyallies. Any amount will help us produce
more retrospectives and further our goals. You can also follow @easyallies
on Twitter for the latest updates on when to expect Part 2.

It seems in this video that Demons Souls become popular in West than Japan,
but it is not correct.
Japanese hard core gamers loved and praise Demons Souls,
and Demons Souls become a long seller in Japan.
It made western gamer hyped.

Oh fuck, this is the type of game journalism that gets me off. I need to finish BB and DS3 before I watch all of this though.
I'll be back

So extremely well done. I truly love the attention to detail and the editing of these retrospectives. I bow down to you all.

fantastic job! As a fan of the series this gives me deeper respect for what they were able to pull off. Its interesting how not being afraid of failure allowed such innovation. Like big studios cant take risks like this, with the results being stagnant series like Assasins Creed. Where its too dangerous to step out of tried and true mediocrity. I just hope with the successes like Bloodborne and Darksouls, Fromsoftware doesn't find themselves in a similar situation.

I doubted it at first, but this is a very good retrospective of Demon's Souls, despite some off bits about character tendency, but close enough.

The part where Yoshida talks about underestimating the title and failing from a productive standpoint, if true, makes me disquieted about a remaster on PS4. =(

This is TITS!!!! I remember watching my favorite game franchises retrospectives on Game Trailers back in days years and years ago… finally Souls retrospective is here with this sexy voice. Cheers and thank you!

Demon's Souls will always hold a special place for me. Nothing like playing through that game for the first time. The level of focus necessary, as well as having to go through the same level multiple times due to deaths really made me remember every inch of that game.

Also, world 3 is still my favorite area in the entire SoulsBorne series.

Thinking about it now it is kinda a blessing Sony didnt publish Demons Souls. Sure we may have had a sequel to it but I don't think we may have gotten Dark Souls or Bloodborne. Dark Souls was a result of Namco/From wanting a multiplatform series. Bloodborne righting the wrongs Shuhei thought about Demons.

So kinda glad Sony passed on Demons cause instead of 1 great game we have 3 masterpieces.

i am super interested in these, but so far i've only played DS1 and Bloodborne. Is it same to assume these videos have spoilers and I should wait until after I've beat DS2 & 3 before watching?

https://youtu.be/YGc5nn4wUEY?t=812

Did you mean to say "particular to the Souls series" instead of "peculiar"? Peculiar doesn't make sense in this context.

When I first played Demon Souls for the first time and their logo popped up I immediatley remember saying "Oh! It's the Tenchu people!" …how the games are totally different haha

Wish you mentioned Devilman, another of Miyazaki's biggest influences, which has also influenced Berserk, Devil May Cry, Shadow Hearts, Shin Megami Tensei, and more.

FROM needs to hurry up and remake Demon's Souls, so I can hurry up and give them my money. Also, Land of Giants DLC plz!!!

demons souls was a niche hit in japan BEFORE it hit the west. part of the success in the west it got is because it was already a very talked about game in japan

Demon's Souls = the best souls game in the series. Miyazaki was in full creative mode and able to make a multitude of extremely bold design decisions without oversight. The later games are all good (though quality decreases with each title), but they fail to meet the brutality, darkness and beauty of Demon's Souls.

Ever played a game where exp, currency and life are one and the same? Try out The Lore of Canis.
Nice vid, dude, thanks n.n

Japan turned into a bunch of pussy gamers. All they are interested in these days are their handhelds. Makes sense though, since most Japanese people are always on the move, always working and studying. They got no time to die over and over unless they can do it while on the train to school/cram school/club activity/work. I love me some Japan, but their work culture suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucks.

Alrighty you're about a hundred years late to the Dark Souls video essay party, let's see if you say anything that hasn't already been said a billion and a half times before. Whooo

Edit: this was a brief history more than a retrospective but completely obsolete regardless.

My favorite game since it's release. Publishers make dumb choices cause they act like teenagers and expect results faster and faster. Not even like teenagers, like spoiled children. Video games are not toys that a child play for 2 hours and if it's not hot enough they drop it. These games require a lot of money and work to make.

Damn I've never played Demon Souls, one day I'm gonna go back and play it, Bloodborne changed the way I see and play games and it'd be fun to see how it all started.

Nice to see Retrospectives are back. Loved them on Gametrailers. Very good and pleasant voiceacting you got btw. Thats one of the reasons I loved GT and love Easy Allies

All souls games are good including Bloodborne, but there is something truly special about Demon's Souls and Dark Souls 1.

Best game in series imo with the most interesting characters and bosses. You never knew what to expect but from Dark Souls onwards it just felt like a retread of old ground. Still good but to beholden to expectation and set in its ways to truly reach as high as Demons did even if they have more polish.

Thank you for this. I have been looking for a successor to the old "All Your History" series that was on Machinama for a while now. This series is the first I've found other than "All Your History" to talk about the history and progression of famous franchises in gaming without going overboard on the jokes or trying to hard to make the series fit in line with mainstream geek culture.

nothing compares to how I felt firt time I experienced demos souls. man that was 7 years… I got married, moved to a different country and am having q daughter in two days, time flys I tell ya

Just discovered EasyAllies while reminiscing about the GT retrospectives. Haven't got into the Souls series but my brother has played them all so it's cool to watch this. Will give the others a try and the podcast as well! Nice one!

What's the deal with the music in this video? It sounds like synthesized symphonic score which would be found in a 1990's CD-ROM or PSX game.

Man I can't imagine being told your product is pure crap by your boss and client. Being embarassed by your peers and jeered by the media for making an awful game. Also as a first project you headed just crashing and burning.

Only to be vindicated later by an international release to a different audience. Getting promoted to president of your company and your old boss saying that he made a terrible mistake in misjudjing your talent. :D.

Oh Brandon Jones, how I missed your voice; no homo.

God, I wish you guys could bring back the retrospectives from GT.

Incorrect info. Demon's Souls was released outside of Japan BEFORE it made it to the west. It was released in several parts of the Asian region (HK, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Singapore to name a few). It was already localized before Atlus took the reigns for the west.

Damn, that makes me feel bad for Yoshida. There are a LOT of people who eventually learn to love the games that absolutely despise them when they first try them.

Shows a lot of maturity to flat out admit that he dropped the ball though.

I missed these Retrospectives so much from the GameTrailers team! Mad at myself for not knowing about them sooner, but so happy to see these videos back

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