Our mega interview with NIS America president, Haru Akenaga

By Spencer . June 9, 2008 . 9:17pm

prinny1.jpgThe maxim I got from the chat with Mr. Akenaga is NIS America is focusing on quality over quantity. Just because there is an RPG with sprites, and appears to be something similar to NIS America’s previous games doesn’t mean they are going to license it for North America. This mantra is being applied to their parent company, Nippon Ichi Software’s, releases too. Surprisingly, there are no current plans to release Jigsaw World: Daigekitou! Jig-Battle Heroes, a Nintendo DS game from Nippon Ichi set to come out in June, outside of Japan.


I was fortunate enough to squeeze in many of the reader questions, including the barrage of “are you working on game X” in the interview. However, if I didn’t get to your question I apologize and please understand we were lucky to have this much time speaking with Mr. Akenaga. On to the interview!


The first question I want to ask is, you’ve been supporting the DS a lot, but have you decided to support the Wii at all.


(Laughs). We haven’t announced it yet, but we are considering it.


OK. What are your thoughts on the Wii as a platform?


Because of the way you use the controller, I think that you can make an entertaining game. So, we are seriously considering the platform.


Last year I read a Nippon Ichi press release that you are an official Xbox 360 developer too.


Ah, yes. We just got the contract from Microsoft.




We don’t have any titles at the moment.




Do you think that you would bring Disgaea to the Xbox 360? (Disgaea 3  for the PlayStation 3 pictured.)


Right now, no.




Right now, no.


Are you thinking about bringing a new franchise to the Xbox 360?


It’s possible.


rh.jpgTonight, you talked about strongly supporting the PlayStation platform with your key franchises first. Does that mean we will see more Marl Kingdom (note: Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure is part of the Marl Kingdom series) on the PS3 or PSP?


Today, we announced we’re doing Rhapsody for the DS. We haven’t decided which platforms the other Marl Kingdom titles will be on. This is our first step our footstep into the DS and possibly other platforms as well. If we had no intention to do more, maybe we wouldn’t release Rhapsody on the DS.


I understand. That’s what I kind of thought. The question has always been where [the other Marl Kingdom titles will be released] and when I heard you say tonight you’re going to support the PlayStation platforms with primary franchises I specifically asked this question.


That’s the number one choice, but it depends on the situation. If the DS version sells really well maybe customers want the other titles on the DS also. That’s why we haven’t decided yet.


Here’s a thought: there are so many Marl Kingdom games that have not come out in America it might be great to introduce those to the American audience so they can see what they’ve been missing.


That’s why we released Rhapsody for the DS. That should be our next step.


Sounds great. What about the PlayStation 2? Do you plan to continue to support the PS2?


Right now Nippon Ichi Software doesn’t have any PS2 titles for the United States.


Wow. Right now?


Right now.


I guess I’m kind of surprised. I thought I was guaranteed to see Ar Tonelico II here.


That’s not from Nippon Ichi.


I know it’s from Gust, but NIS America did such a great job with Ar Tonelico I thought we would see it tonight… I have to ask about Tori no Hoshi next. I played a bit of it and it’s very calming.




It’s a relaxing game. My first thought was actually this [Tori no Hoshi: Aerial Planet] would be a great Wii game. It sounds silly, but you could use the motion controller to move the glider up and down. The analog controls are OK, but it’s a cute, charming game to play.


Nobody said that. You’re the first!




If you really think so…




I wrote about it too, but it’s not like I spent a long time playing it. I just had a taste of Tori no Hoshi: Aerial Planet so maybe my opinion isn’t as valid, but I’m curious about the potential for a release.


Unfortunately, that game didn’t sell well in Japan. So, maybe it’s tough to port it to the Wii platform. But for the US if you really think so, we can think about it.


I think you might be able to sell it as a value title. A $20 or a $29.99, maybe $20 since $30 is becoming more of a standard price for PS2 games. OK, a $20 title it might work out since it’s such a unique game. Another option would be to make it a downloadable game, like a downloadable PSP/PS3 game, but that’s probably pushing the boundaries of porting it could be successful too. It’s just a thought. Actually, a lot of my readers asked about Tori no Hoshi I would be doing a disservice to them if I didn’t ask.


OK. [laughs] I’m glad to hear that. Other customers and staff didn’t say that. That’s why I already gave up doing the title for the US, but we will evaluate it again.


You know Capcom and other Japanese subsidiaries have started to do their own internal development, specifically making games for America first. Have you considered that?


No. We don’t have enough power to do that. That’s why we made an alliance with Hit Maker to make our game. That’s A Witch’s Tale.


nisw.jpgA Witch’s Tale is designed for the American audience?


Yes, basically. That’s why the world setting is based on Halloween. In Japan, Halloween isn’t a big holiday.


That’s interesting! How long has A Witch’s Tale been in planning? How long have you wanted to make this game?


Last June or July.


June 2007?




That’s some time ago. You were thinking about the game before you were announced as official DS developers. Thinking about original games, have you or your parent company thought about making a 3D game?


3D game?




Yes. Actually, we are developing a 3D game.


Really! For PlayStation 3?




Speaking of the PlayStation 3, what do you think of Cross Edge?


That’s not our title.


That’s true it’s not, but I tend to think if anyone is going to localize it it’s going to be NIS America. You worked with Ar Tonelico, you worked with the Atelier series, and you own Etna and the other Disgaea characters. The only company you haven’t worked with is Capcom. I was wondering if you thought about it.


You’re analysis is so interesting, but we don’t have any plans for Cross Edge.


Speaking of Idea Factory, I haven’t seen you localize any Idea Factory games for awhile. What’s going on with Idea Factory?


We have a relationship with them, but unfortunately our mission is to release quality titles. Their titles are good, but not good as we expected. That’s our reason. They always ask us to localize their titles, but at this moment we answer with “we’re sorry”.


I guess that means you won’t be doing Agarest Senki or Spectral Genesis?


No, but maybe you will be surprised in the future.


The last game I have to ask you about is Tears to Tiara. It’s a PlayStation 3 strategy RPG developed from Aquaplus. Have you thought about that game at all?


Not yet.


It seems like something that meshes with other releases from NIS America.


Do you think it’s good for us?


Honestly, the game looks so different from the PC version and we haven’t seen much of the PS3 version yet. There are some things that might be questionable in the release, things that the US audience may not respond to positively. But we have seen the PlayStation 3 release yet so when it comes out we’ll have a better idea about it. Actually, I’m debating on covering it or not myself.


Up until now some of our games may not have been up to the quality standard that our users are expecting, but we would keep within our genre, the kinds of similar games to what Nippon Ichi might be coming out with. We’re starting, for the future, we really want to be more particular about the games we bring to the market. We are really looking at quality of games. We want to have a high standard for all the games that we put out. We are out there looking at games, and just because it looks similar to some of the things we have put out we don’t want to be licensing everything out there that might suit our image. We want to become more conscious about quality, and high entertainment value for your dollar.


We really appreciate if you could tell us about quality games, really nice games that we should do. Let me know.


I’m honored. Thank you for trusting my opinion. Speaking of high quality games, what about Jigsaw World that’s coming out in July or is it June.


It’s not a jigsaw game.


It’s a fighting game right?




Where you drag the puzzle pieces with the stylus?


That’s from Nippon Ichi Software right?




We’re not working on it.


You’re not considering to bring it over? No Conveni DS either?


I don’t think we’re doing those.


nislogo.jpgThinking back to Conveni, NIS America has that new casual label which Puchi Puchi Virus will debut under. What happened with the whole causal label? I thought we would see an explosion of casual games.


That’s right. We had some plans to do that, but at this point we canceled some titles. It doesn’t mean we aren’t going to do puzzle games anymore. We want to release them. They are simple and you can enjoy them in five minutes. Especially, for puzzle games Japanese companies are doing really well with the puzzle games they make. I want to do that too. Also it depends on quality, how fun the games are.


If you have a good idea for a title for a US audience, I would like you to tell me.


I would be happy to. Thanks for the time, but I think someone else should get a chance to interview you too.


Thank you for coming.


Images courtesy of NIS America.

Read more stories about & & & & & & & on Siliconera.

  • r

    thank you so much for asking about tori no hoshi: aerial planet, i hope it will come out here and hope your interest maybe set something moving thank you.

    ps- thanks for asking about conveni ds and the other games as well, very thorough interview without being pushy.

  • Reader

    His answers weren’t very thorough or anything, but there was some interesting stuff in there.

    The subtle (but oh-so-magnificent) burn on Idea Factory was probably the highlight. X-P

    I’m glad they realize stuff like Atelier Iris and whatnot shouldn’t be published simply because “it feels like an NIS game”. While it’s nice to see JRPG’s localized, I find a lot of NISA’s stuff extremely hard to enjoy.

  • I love how frank he is about everything he’s asked, especially on his opinions on other developers’ games. Why can’t other American developers be like that and not start a riot?

  • Amazing interview, but of course some of the answers are NIS Specialty: sketch at best. I really wish they’d just say “yes” or “no” when it comes to Ar Tonelico 2.

    Also, keen on Tears to Tiara. Maybe they’ll evaluate it a bit… and maybe we’ll see a few RPGs on the PS3 outside of Japan.

  • mg

    Thank you for asking about the Wii. Using the DS to question their Wii support was great too. Many thanks.

  • THIS is why I love SiliconEra. Great questions asked from the readers, and I love how honest and humble Mr. Akenaga was. I’m curious what this 3D title will be.

  • Mazen

    Wow you really asked him about everythings Thank you,
    he was very harsh on Idea Factory its not that I liked any of their games but I felt sad for them I think they were begging him to release their games. I wish luck for NIS I really wnat them to be a really big company in the near future hopefully.

  • jeffx

    Nice interview and all, but a bit of a downer this morning with all the negative answers. Really disappointed about Ar Tonelico II not even being considered at this point.

  • Keriaku

    So I guess we still don’t know about hayarigami?

  • @jeffx – He never said “no” about Ar Tonelico II.

  • FoliathR

    Thanks for the interview! It was a wonderful read =) He sure was honest in the interview.. =D

  • Hero of legend

    Great interview!

    Do this more often, where you ask us what questions to ask, that was a great idea, do it more often! :D

    But why are they STILL just considering Wii support?! It’s been like two years or so! O_o

  • RiceBoi

    Thanks Spencer for doing this interview. I was really hoping for confirmation for Ar Tonelico 2, but I’ll just keep my fingers crossed and hope for the best.

  • @Hero of Legend – I tried asking readers to submit questions many times before and there are plenty of times where few to no one submitted questions, which is why the concept started to die out. :(

  • Pedro Silva

    I want Nippon Ichi games on my Wii :D

  • Pedro Silva

    why asking for disgaea 3 on X360 without disgaea 3 on the Wii though?

  • @Pedro Silva – Because they are considering developing on the Wii, while they are working with the Xbox 360.

  • SomeDude

    Dangit…I was hoping you’d ask about them bringing Cooking Fighter Hao to the US.

  • matty

    Great interview, Spencer. Even though you were strapped for time your questions had a nice flow that made it easy to fallow. Sounded fun, too.

    Very interesting resonsonses! Would have never known that they had such high, strict expectations from other developers. Since Mr. Akenaga definitely cleared some speculations, I wonder what they’re planning for the upcoming year. Mr. Akenaga did ask for your suggestions, so we’ll see!

    BIG thanks for the Marl questions! I’m glad to hear there’s more in store for the series if things go well – which I hope it does!
    Mr. Akenaga thought your speculations were interesting… that’s very interesting ;)

  • Hayden

    I’d call that Ar Tonelico 2 response promising. Especially how he specifically called it not a Nippon Ichi game after his other comment. The Tears no Tiara answer didn’t sound as positive.

  • Yeah to me it sounded like Ar Tonelico 2 has no chance of releasing. I’m really disappointed about Spectral Gene and Cross Edge… I was looking foreward to both in the future!

    Great interview Spencer, hopefully we will get lots of NIS / Nippon games this christmas. ^^

  • Anon

    I’m taking his answer about Ar tonelico II as a good sign. He’s obviously playing on word technicalities.

    Thanks Spencer.

  • Anon2

    Seems like his general tone wasn’t pleased with some of the straight questions you asked that were not directly related to the NIS at hand. Especially seems so from the gruff answers.

    I don’t expect Agarest nor Tears to be released simply because of the risky nature and use of lots of onscreen text to move the story.

    Cross Edge obviously because of the licensing issues.

    Thanks for the interview though!

  • Pedro Silva

    @ Spencer

    already working on X360? :|

    Makes no business sense when they’re still thinking about Wii. :O

    Either way, even PSP/PS2 ports for Disgaea should be asked that is not a HD game in the slighest

  • btw, just reread looking for that… if they’re developing because “I read a Nippon Ichi press release that you are an official Xbox 360 developer too.”

    they can develop for the wii whenever they want, they became Wii developers at the same time they did for DS. (check nick website, since I tried to post before and didn’t appear, perhaps hiperlinked sites are disabled? if not and it’s just lag erase this)

  • Anon2

    That link only says they’re hinting to for the Wii.

    They actually have applied and been approved the 360 contracts since a year back.

  • Anon2 I believe they also did for the Wii, just like with DS, it was at the same time and DS materialized.

    They can do Wii games whenever they want and had licence to do so before they had for X360.

  • Hello Hello

    I’m really disappointed that he said no to Spectral Force Genesis. I was really hoping that one would come over. I guess I’ll have to hope that Aksys or Atlus takes pity on us.

  • Starfall

    It’s nice that he took the time to answer a lot of questions. Quite, a few executives would not want to do such a thing. Especially, questions with regards to game requests or asking if and when a game will be released or published by the company. In this case NIS America.

    I also did find it interesting his comments regarding Idea Factory. It’s too bad I enjoyed Spectral Souls (PSP) despite the slow down. But, I can definitely see where he probably felt really let down by that title and all the complaining done by people who played it. It wasn’t as bad on the slim PSP. For that matter the slim PSP makes other games faster as well. Like FFT: WotL.

    But, he also makes it sound like Idea Factory is desperate and can find no one else to publish. hehe Since, he says IF always ask NIS America to localize and they always say “we’re sorry”

    Honestly, this was the most interesting and rather amusing part of the interview. Sad, though because IF has some really interesting ideas. Too bad they’ve had technical problems of quality with their games.

    The rest was a bit disappointing. Since, it seems like they aren’t committed
    to publishing a lot of titles in the near future. But, I can’t blame them. If they feel that the quality has been sacrificed in the past.

    Well, I guess…I’d rather have fewer quality games rather than a huge quantity of rushed or low quality games. They do have to be careful.

    It will be interesting to see what the 3D game they are creating. I hope it ends up being a RPG for the PS3. The PS3 has been getting stronger recently with MGS4….but it still needs RPGs!

Video game stories from other sites on the web. These links leave Siliconera.

Siliconera Tests
Siliconera Videos