RPGFan Exclusive Interview: Souhei Niikawa, Head Entertainment Division, Nippon Ichi Software
translated by Chris Winkler
Two years ago RPGFan had the opportunity to sit down with Nippon Ichi Software president Kouichi Kitazumi. Since then, the small Gifu-based company and its US subsidiary (NIS America) have shown a lot of love to its American fanbase, by not only bringing its strategy RPGs Disgaea II and Phantom Kingdom (Makai Kingdom: Chronicles of the Sacred Tome in the US), but also Idea Factory's Spectral Souls, Gust's Atelier Iris, and Sony Computer Entertainment's Blade Dancer to this side of the Pacific. Currently the company is working on a number of titles, including Makai Wars and Soul Cradle.
Despite a large number of projects whose development he is overseeing, producer Souhei Niikawa was kind enough to talk to RPGFan about Makai Wars, Soul Cradle, and what 2007 has in store for Nippon Ichi Software.
Q: Thank you for granting us another interview this year. First we would like to ask about Makai Wars. There hasn't been any follow-up information since last year's announcement. What is the project's current status? Is there a chance it will be released in Japan in 2007?
A: We haven't decided whether the game's title will be Makai Wars or not, but we are steadily working on the preparation of the new game. We hope you look forward to it.
Q: Why was Makai Wars, which was originally in development for PlayStation Portable, turned into a PlayStation 3-based project?
A: It's not as if the development for PlayStation Portable has been cancelled. I'm sorry, but since [the project] including its title is still in its prepatory stage, I can't tell you any details at this point.
Q: With Soul Cradle: Sekai wo Kurau Mono, Amagoushi no Yakata, and Grim Grimoire, you are currently working on three entirely new games. What is your impression regarding those titles?
A: Thankfully, we have completed two [of those three] games by now. Soul Cradle is a strategy RPG, that is our company's speciality, but we have created a presentation that differs from [previous efforts].
Amagoushi no Yakata is an adventure game, which we are looking forward to as a new line for our company. The joint development together with an established company in this genre was a new experiment.
Grim Grimoire is still in development, but it is a project where we teamed up with a development company possessing great technology, and great ideas as well. It's shaping up nicely, so please look forward to it.
Q: Are you working on any other games, apart from the four aforementioned titles?
A: Yes. We are currently advancing multiple projects.
Q: Is there a chance that Soul Cradle will be released outside Japan (in the US and Europe)?
A: We are looking at ways to release as many as titles as possible outside Japan. If there is support from everybody, we probably will be able to realize that goal.
Q: The PlayStation title Rhapsody has recently become playable on PlayStation Portable (via the PlayStation 3's download service). What are your thoughts on these kind of download services?
A: We are looking forward to it as a new business. I think, offering the chance of those old games not just becoming obsolete, but instead reviving them through [this] new method, and allowing new users to experience them again, is great for everybody.
Q: Disgaea and Disgaea 2 have become renowed and popular titles worldwide. Are you thinking about releasing new installments of Disgaea in the future?
A: Thank you. Thanks to the support, we have been able to create Disgaea 2 and the anime. Currently we are looking at various plans for the Disgaea series in the future. We will give our best to make everybody happy.
Q: In 2004 Nippon Ichi Software set up NIS America. What are you thoughts on NIS America's achievements?
A: I'm surprised. It was a pleasant surprise, that our company's software, which even in Japan falls into the hardcore category, is so well received in America too. We are very anxious how future titles, with which we seek new challenges, will be received.
Q: Recently, you have cooperated with other developers, such as Fog or Vanillaware. Is this a strategy against the increasingly harsh situation in the [game] industry?
A: Of course, that is the case as well. However, what we are aiming for is a challenge that other companies can't do. Even within these tough conditions, we are always reaching for new [ways of] playing. Teaming up with other developers is one part [of this strategy].
Q: On November 30th 2006 you released Disgaea Portable for PlayStation Portable in Japan. How about that title's sales performance? Is Nippon Ichi Software planning to bring more games to PlayStation Portable or DS in the future?
A: It has been performing well. This positive development has exceed [our] projections. We are currently considering releasing handheld games in the future as well.
Q: Finally, what are your expectations for 2007?
A: I think that, with the availability of the next generation consoles, new markets are waiting for us. We still don't know which side will win, but for us there is only one thing to do: create interesting games. If we can accomplish this, we will naturally get to see the light. Please keep an eye on Nippon Ichi Software's future [developments].
RPGFan would like to thank Souhei Niikawa and Keiichi Inoue for their cooperation and support in enabling us to present this exclusive interview to our readers.