If you, like many RPG enthusiasts, cut your teeth on Final Fantasy VII, you most likely fell in deep with PlayStation role-playing games. And that means you probably have fond memories of Working Designs.
The now-defunct publisher actually began publishing well before FFVII took console RPGs from niche to mainstream, supporting underdog systems like the Turbo CD, Sega CD, and Saturn in the early-to-mid ’90s, yet the company truly made its mark on PlayStation thanks to its elaborate box sets (which predated today's overpriced special edition releases). The company's packaging started out well above average for PS1 licensees and ultimately made its way to over-the-top insanity. The deluxe boxes for Lunar and Lunar: Eternal Blue gave those dated-looking RPG remakes a much-needed boost of publicity, and WD's farewell to the PS1 took the form of an absolutely ridiculous collection for the Arc the Lad saga — ridiculous in the best possible way.
Working Designs closed its doors at the tail end of the PlayStation 2's lifetime, but the company's spirit lives on to a degree in the shiny packaging that XSEED lavishes upon many of its premium releases... and, of course, in former WD president Victor Ireland's current company, Gaijinworks. While Gaijinworks has largely focused on facilitating digital reissues for classic games on services like PlayStation Network and Virtual Console, they do publish current releases, too. Well, for a certain value of "current," that is. The publisher's latest release, Summon Night 5, debuted at the end of 2015... for PlayStation Portable. That's a bit on the late side, but then, bringing up the tail end of a system's life was always the Working Designs way (their Magic Knight Rayearth localization famously being the absolute final Saturn title in America). Bringing out a PSP game while retailers are beginning to phase out that system's successors: That's 100% classic Working Designs.
But what really hit me in the nostalgia was the mailer the physical release of Summon Night 5 shipped in. Although it took an extra several months for the UMD edition of the game to ship following its PSN debut, the wait was worth it. Gaijinworks packed the game in a heavy cardboard mailer adorned with art, and it truly feels like a throwback to the PS1 days. My UMDs showed up over the weekend, and after the interesting things I documented at Midwest Gaming Classic over the past few days, I couldn't resist the temptation to record this one for posterity, too.
Note: Gaijinworks sent out press samples of the packaging several months ago but asked us not to publish photos until the game had shipped to customers. Now that my own preorder (bought and paid for with my own American dollars) has arrived, I figure it's fair game. But if you for some reason haven't received yours yet and want to be surprised when you open your mailbox, turn back now...
Gaijinworks built the Summon Night 5 mailer of heavy cardboard, with every inch wrapped in artwork. The mailing label was affixed directly to one side of the box and peeled off fairly easily, but not without lifting a bit of the print. The label side of the box sports a muted background scene, though, so it was clearly designed around the purpose of supporting a label to begin with.
The reverse of the box features more elaborate character art...
...which, yeah. This is all very much in the spirit of Working Designs, both for better and for worse.
The box interior neatly contains both the packaged UMD game and a soundtrack CD. The support slots inside the box actually offer room for two UMD/CD sets for those who purchased doubles.
I did not purchase doubles, so instead my box contained this spacer image. It's so quaint! A "sexy" anime character illustration that basically amounts to a demoness wearing a cocktail dress. I didn't know video game ladies were allowed to wear this much clothing these days.
The actual UMD comes crammed with a super-thick manual that practically bursts at the seams of the standard PSP game case. I'm not quite ready to open mine yet, but I can tell just by holding it that it has a preposterously elaborate manual.
Considering I really just wanted a digital copy of the game, everything that arrived in the mail alongside it feels like a luxurious bonus. Certainly the physical game didn't need to ship out in such an over-the-top mailer when a simple white box would have done. I'm happy that it did, though. Deluxe physical game editions for digital releases have become something of a specialty good for companies like Limited Run Games (and our own parent corporation's Gamers Edition), so there's nothing totally outside the norm about Gaijinworks' production here. But, still, given the history at work and the fact that this was a completely unnecessary extra, this package's arrival felt like something special.
As for Summon Night 5? I've enjoyed what I've played so far, although the digital release launched at a bad time and fell into my daunting stack of games I chip away at a little at a time. The physical version of the game is the nudge I needed to get back to playing it... just as soon as I'm through with the three or four other games vying for review attention on my Vita these days. For a dying system, it sure does have a lot of interesting content. But that's what makes Vita — and, not coincidentally, Summon Night 5, which most people are playing on Vita — so appealing. They target niche audiences, and what they lack in budget or visibility they make up for with loving care and attention.