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interview: Nippon Ichi Software president Souhei Niikawa

Zettai Hero Project

During NIS America's press event last month, Nippon Ichi Software president Souhei Niikawa announced that his company has elected to limit the number of games it will release a year in order to improve the overall quality of its games. Two titles that were created with this new approach in mind include Classic Dungeon (Cladun) and Zettai Hero Project (Z.H.P.), both of which were announced for release in the US that evening. Z.H.P. is a turn-based strategy RPG with a heavy emphasis on character customization while Cladun is a dungeon crawler with a robust power-up system hidden behind a very retro exterior. OXG had a chance to talk to Mr. Niikawa about these two titles, Nippon Ichi's future plans, the prospect of finally giving Asagi her own game, and much more. Here is what he had to say -

First of all, can you give us a brief rundown of who you are and what you do?

I'm Nikawa from Nippon Ichi Software. My titles include president of the company, producer, scenario writer, and song writer.

Before we get to Cladun and Z.H.P., I have a few random questions to ask.

Ok. Anything.

NIS is still mostly known as "the company that makes Disgaea." Is that something that you'd like to change?

I still want people to recognize the company through Disgaea because it's a very important title for us, but I want to increase the variety of the titles that people will recognize. For example, just like how people know that Prinny is from Nippon Ichi, I want them associate Zettai Hero with Nippon Ichi as well.

Prinny has already been in three games in which he was the main character. Are there any other secondary characters that you feel are ready to headline their own games?

One [possibility] is Asagi. [Many fans] make comments about her, but I'm not sure when that will happen. It's kind of a running [joke] in NIS games. Asagi [was first seen] in Phantom Kingdom as a side-character and she's been in pretty much most of NIS' titles as a sub-character [since then], hoping to one day become the main character of a game.

[note: Phantom Kingdom is known as Makai Kingdom in the US]

Asagi Wars

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Asagi Wars

Do you have any ideas for the game you will eventually put her in?

I'm still thinking about it...

Asagi and Prinny

NIS has done traditional and strategy RPGs, adventure games, platformers, visual novels, and dungeon crawlers. Are there any other genres that you'd like to explore in the future?

I want to challenge anything but sports games. Sports are more fun when you're actually doing them.

Do you think that female consumers in the US are ready for otome games?

That's a genre that attracts a lot of attention in Japan, so I am interested in knowing how it would do in the US. I'm interested in the market. Nippon Ichi did venture into that genre in Japan with Broccoli, but not in the US. It all depends on NISA, so you might want to ask them.

What was the title that you worked on with Broccoli?

Utano Prince-sama. You can go to the Nippon Ichi web site. We have a link to it.

[note: Utano Prince-sama translates to Prince of Music]

Let's touch briefly on Classic Dungeon. What inspired you to develop this title?

One of the influences was an NISA [published] title - What Did I Do to Deserve This, My Lord!? It was through that title that we learned that [2D graphics are] very appealing to the American audience. So, NIS wanted to implement [that graphical style] in its games.

Classic Dungeon

How did you do Classic Dungeon's 8-bit music? Was any special hardware used?

I don't think anything special was used. ZIZZ Studio made the music for Classic Dungeon, and they're very experienced, so I'm very happy with the outcome.

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old-school background music example

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modern background music example

It looks like we're running out of time, so lets switch to Zettai Hero Project. I can see that this game contains a lot of recognizable anime characters - or maybe just their costumes - from Dengeki Bunko's titles. How did that come about?

The theme of this game is customization. You can take off and put on different kinds of equipment and body parts. I wanted to incorporate what I [could through a collaborative effort] with others, and that's how those cameo characters came into play. Nippon Ichi has a very close relationship with the Dengeki group, so we kind of pleaded with them. We went to see if they would be interested in [working together]. [Forty-two of their titles are represented in Z.H.P.]

Spice and Wolf - Horo

Shakugan no Shana - Shana

Toradora! - Taiga

Just the costumes?

With customization, you can turn into those characters - like the entire body or just body parts. There are a lot of ways to customize.

Are there going to be any licensing issues when the game is brought over to the US?

That shouldn't be a problem. The contract says that if it sells well worldwide, some commission will go into the authors. Please help us sell it.

Do you think that your relationship with the Dengeki group will lead to NIS developing a game that only incorporates that group's characters?

It's not that there's no possibility, but Nippon Ichi likes to play with the characters that it's working with. I'm not very good with sticking to original stories. I'll do it if they allow me to do whatever I want with its characters.

Since NIS and Dengeki Bunko are on very friendly terms, does that mean that NIS America has priority when it comes to bringing the publisher's anime titles to America?

I wonder... Since Dengeki group is connected with the original authors of the anime series and everything, it might be easier to negotiate with them.

If there are any sequels, do you plan on doing similar collaborations with DB or any other company?

I definitely wish to do that.

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  • Aaeru


    Would like to have squeezed a bit more information out of him about the future of NIS and NISA. Are they going to go away?

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