Mike Salbato
NIS America Reveals Three New Titles
A roundup of Thursday's press event.
07.17.10 - 11:31 AM

A roundup of last night's press event.

NIS America held their annual press event last night, at the Zebulon Restaurant & Bar in San Francisco, California. It was a night of gaming, awesome people, great food, scary rocket fuel-esque mystery drinks orchestrated by certain PR people, and oh, some game announcements too.

First up was a PSN-exclusive PSP title called Cladun: This Is An RPG. Yes, that's really the subtitle and yes, it's the greatest subtitle in gaming history. Better known to you hardcore folk as Classic Dungeon, Cladun is just that: a retro-styled classic dungeon crawler. The game features random dungeons as you may expect, but also a complete pixel-based editor for creating your character from scratch. Furthering the customization, you get to choose your nemesis in the game, power up your home-grown hero (or cluster of pixels depending on their artistic talents), and something sure to delight many people, choose between "modern" and "8-bit" music styles. We got to hear both in the game's trailer, and the 8-bit music is fantastic retro goodness. Finally, the game supports ad-hoc multiplayer for adventuring with your friends. Cladun: This Is An RPG launches September 7th.

Next up: Z. H. P. (which stands for Zettai Hero Project) A strategy RPG from the Disgaea team, NIS has high hopes for the title, going so far as to state they're as excited about Z. H. P. as they were about the original Disgaea. Considering they refer to Z. H. P. as a "new IP" as opposed to a new "title," it's probably safe to assume they intend to make more titles in the series.

Like Cladun, there's a wealth of customization available. You can outfit your character with a wide range of pieces and parts, from drill arms to tank treads for legs and of course, a Prinny head. Going a step further, as this is "your" hero, you get to build your own secret base. Customizing aside, gameplay is grid-based strategy RPG fare, in randomly-generated maps populated by puzzle effects and traps. The trailer for Z. H. P. was narrated in an intentionally silly over-the-top manner, so one would imagine the game itself also takes a light-hearted tone, presenting you with a fun game in which you do battle with your own superhero. Sounds good to me. Z. H. P. releases this winter for the PSP.

Following the Z. H. P. presentation, it was confirmed that a new Disgaea is in development for the PlayStation 3. While they couldn't show it yet, it's scheduled for release this year in Japan. More information will be coming on Disgaea (4?) at Tokyo Game Show this fall.

The final game shown off was Ar Tonelico III, or, as it shall be known here, Ar Tonelico Qoga ~ Knell of Ar Ciel ~. Why the change? Two reasons: First, NIS didn't want people who missed either of the first two games to feel they wouldn't be able to play this one, which they felt would happen if they left the number in the title. Sound logic, I think. Second, in the Hymmnos language the game employs, "Qoga" means "end" or "final" - reminding us that this is the last game in the Ar Tonelico series.

Another reason NIS may have wanted a slight disconnect from the first two games is that Ar Tonelico Qoga employs an all-new heavily action-based battle system and a new cel-shaded graphic style. Battles also make use of something called "song magic," in which pressing the right combination of buttons in proper rhythm will make your magic more effective. If you happen to be in the cross section of gamers who love and excel at both action RPGs and Parappa the Rapper, the battle system should be right up your alley.

I know you're probably tired of the word "customization" by now, but that's present here too, via a new system that links character development and skill progression. Ar Tonelico Qoga's Cosmosphere allows you to enter the subconsciousness of your party members to learn more about them and flesh out their stories. As you do, you'll open up new abilities for them. It's an interesting concept, so I look forward to seeing how it plays out.

The segment on Ar Tonelico Qoga was unfortunately the shortest of the three, with only still images shown as the game was explained to us. The reason of course is the far-offness of the game itself: Ar Tonelico Qoga ~ Knell of Ar Ciel ~ ships in spring 2011.

All in all, NIS had an impressive presentation, and by showcasing only three titles (though Atelier Rorona was also on hand to play alongside Cladun), they reinforced their new desire to focus on localizing fewer - but higher quality - games than they used to. I of course can't speak for the whole staff, but as the only RPGFan editor on hand, I was impressed with what I saw, and especially like the emphasis on customization. I think it's an aspect often overlooked in RPGs - JRPGs especially - a shame, as it's something that makes you feel much more involved in the games, interacting with them on a deeper level than usual.

Look for more updates on all of these titles in the future, including media updates early next week. Finally, NISA shared with us a message from Mr. Niikawa, Producer of Disgaea series and other NIS titles, which we're passing along to you:

"My name is Souhei Niikawa, and I am the producer of Nippon Ichi Software. Thank you very much for coming to NIS Americas press event tonight.

From this year on, Nippon Ichi Software will limit the number of titles we release in a year. We are doing this to improve the game quality, and also to increase the customer satisfaction. The games that have been showcased here tonight were strictly selected and developed with this new policy. The first title is Z.H.P. This is our latest dungeon RPG that has been created by the same staff members of Disgaea 3. The project began soon after the release of Disgaea 3 and for 2 years it has been under intense development to formulate the game system. Were proud to say that Z.H.P. was made to surpass the Disgaea series and, also it is a title with all of our know hows and ideas we build upon combined in to. To describe how confident we are about this title... Let's just say were as excited as the time when we first developed Disgaea. This is a title that we would like to nurture into the level of Disgaea, so please help us.

The 2nd title is Cladun. This is a hack & slash type action RPG. This title also has some of the same staff members as Disgaea and it is highly addictive.bAs our wish it would be great if you can help these 2 titles grow.

Oh and one last thing. This year the latest Disagea will be released in Japan and it will be for the PS3. Plans to make Disagea evolve to a new level and also plans to surprise everybody is in progress. By the time Tokyo Game Show comes around we will be able to release more information, so please look forward to it. Thank you very much."

So there you have it! We at RPGFan would like to extend our thanks to everyone at NIS America for having us (well, me) at their event; it was great fun, and if you ever wondered, yes, NISA is staffed entirely by awesome people.