Empire spills the beans about the DS remake of tactical RPG Jagged Alliance

Preparing for a June return to Metavira

Empire spills the beans about the DS remake of tactical RPG Jagged Alliance
| Jagged Alliance

When we heard PC classic Jagged Alliance was getting a DS remake, we were surprised. After all the game - a tactical squad-based RPG released in 1994 - is about as hardcore as you can get, as you control a group of mercenaries, each of which has their own quirks and attributes, in a fight to liberate the island of Metavira.

Cue a coded set of questions taken by our trusty carrier pigeon over to the offices of publisher Empire Interactive.

Producer Ben Wilkins and product manager Sean Walsh provided the hot intel.

Pocket Gamer: While Jagged Alliance has a good reputation, why do you think it's worthy of a DS remake?

Sean Walsh: Jagged Alliance is one of the best loved PC games of the 90s. The heritage and proven appeal of the franchise make it a fantastic proposition for a new generation of gamers.

Ben Wilkins: We’ve retained all the elements that made the game a classic, including the sophisticated artificial intelligence and deep personality development. The game really is as enjoyable as it has ever been.

Why did you choose the original and not any of the other versions?

SW: Launching the original version made the most sense. The original game is where it all started so it’s the obvious place to introduce a whole new audience of gamers. The original game still has a passionate fanbase and we’ve found that the demand is for the original game.

How do you think such a hardcore title will fit into a wider DS product line-up that seems mainly to be about Imagine: My Pretty This and Bratty Babyz That?

SW: There’s definitely a place for more hardcore games on the DS, I have no doubt about that. The platform lends itself more towards games where out-thinking the opponent rather than button mashing is the key to success. We expect Jagged Alliance, like many other strategy games, to find its home on the DS.

How difficult has it been to get Jagged Alliance working on the DS especially in terms of emulating the original AI?

BW: It’s been pretty difficult in part because the original PC code is not terribly well documented. More challenging however has been the fact that the DS hardware is not well suited to handle many of the various Jagged Alliance routines.

We’ve had to redesign some of the original formulas and functions to get them running efficiently on the DS while giving the same (or similar) gameplay results. Jagged Alliance is also a big game in term of its memory requirements so getting it to fit on the DS has been an interesting exercise.

Will all the inter-mercenary relationships in terms of friendships and rivalries be modelled?

BW: Most of these will be present in the DS version, although we have had to remove a couple of the original native characters. All the mercenaries are present and correct however together with their idiosyncratic behaviour patterns!

What enhancements will you be making to the game and will it be supporting multiplayer?

BW: The DS game is single player only - as was the original PC game and Jagged Alliance 2. Jagged Alliance isn’t terribly well suited to being a multiplayer game due to its structure. The multiplayer version of Jagged Alliance: Dangerous Games was a separate standalone PC game with a different game structure.

As for enhancements, we’ve concentrated on bringing the original PC version to the DS rather than changing it. The main changes are some simpler routines in places to speed things up, a revised interface, and making the game easy to play using the stylus. The game is probably a little faster to play on the DS than it was on the PC.

The game has been rumoured in development for quite a long time so have there been any significant problems in getting it made?

BW: Overall it’s been quite a challenge making the DS version of Jagged Alliance as close to the PC version as possible. Luckily many of those involved are fans of the original games which has softened some of the pain involved.

Thanks to Ben and Sean for their time. Jagged Alliance is due for release in Europe on June 26.