Thoughts On Vision 2009

By Ishaan . August 30, 2009 . 1:15pm

image I’d be lying if I said I was completely satisfied with Level-5’s press conference in Tokyo earlier this week. Vision 2009 is something quite a few of us were looking forward to, and considering Level-5 were expected to reveal three new projects at the conference, hopes were understandably let down when they announced just one.


Still, the day wasn’t a complete loss. We did get to see one of Level-5’s new games, namely Fantasy Life by Brownie Brown, which looks reminiscent of Mother 3. Details on the game are scarce, but we know Nobuo Uematsu will be composing 21 tracks for the game.


This was one of Vision 2009’s — and the past week in general’s — many minor highlights. Uematsu seems to finally, really have stepped back into the limelight in recent times, with contracts lined up to compose for Final Fantasy XIV and Marvelous’s new DS adventure game, Sakura Note.


image It’s a little funny how Marvelous, Level-5, Brownie Brown, Hideo Minaba and Uematsu all seem to be working together in some capacity nowadays. Uematsu is composing for both publishers, while Hideo Minaba, too, is handling art for both Fantasy Life and Sakura Note. Brownie Brown are developing a virtual pet game named Livly Garden for MMV, and in addition to Fantasy Life, they’re also developing a 100-hour-long bonus RPG mode for Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva, the first game in the new Layton trilogy.


Vision 2009 also shed some light on Inazuma Eleven 2: Fire and Inazuma Eleven 2: Blizzard. Both games will feature entirely different OPs and EDs. You also battle against two completely different teams depending on which game you buy. It’s nice to see Level-5 attempting to give the two games a little diversity, which actually makes both versions feel special in their own way.


Unfortunately, Level-5’s other two “secret” games, which may or may not have been Ushiro for PSP and Inazuma Eleven Break, weren’t in a state to be revealed. And this is where Level-5 slipped a bit, and probably learned a little something about announcing games before they’re ready to be shown. Details on ROID were scarce, too, with L5 president Akihiro Hino talking about games we already knew about, including Inazuma Eleven Future, and versions of Danbol Senki and Professor Layton, and a…game where you take care of a hostess? The only announcement with regard to the PC version of ROID was a game design contest.


Now, I don’t expect the mobile phone version of ROID to ever make it out of Japan, but seeing as how there’s a pretty good chance we could end up with the PC version, I really was hoping for more details on that front.


On a brighter note, details on Ni no Kuni: The Another World were finally made available, and now we even have a little preview of the game to fuel our hopes until it hits Japan in spring 2010 with a soundtrack provided by Hisaishi Jo, composer for several of Hayao Miyazaki’s films. If there’s one thing you can say about Level-5, it’s that they certainly understand the importance of great art and music in a game.


It was also pointed out at the conference that Inazuma Eleven manga just so happens to be the most popular serialization in CoroCoro magazine, and that the anime is getting a two-year extension. Level-5 also have plans to make the Layton movies an annual winter event, which is an extremely ambitious endeavour given the series’ production values.


To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what I was hoping for outside of what Level-5 showed. Overall, it seemed like a solid conference. I’m not all that disappointed about not seeing Inazuma Eleven Break. Neither am I surprised to hear there was no mention of Level-5’s new motion capture studio, which they plan to use for contract work for other developers. I’m sure this will be elaborated upon at TGS where Akihiro Hino is scheduled to give a talk on stage.


image Perhaps I was hoping to see more news on ROID for PC or the second Ni no Kuni project? Or maybe I was just looking forward to another of Hino’s insightful speeches on Level-5’s development philosophy? I’ll admit, to me, hearing entrepreneurs like Hino talk about their experiences never gets boring.


I suppose what it comes down to in the end is that Level-5 are growing faster than any Japanese publisher — save perhaps Capcom — in recent times, and so far, they haven’t failed to surprise with their future plans and services. While today’s conference was good enough, no doubt, expectations tend to be higher when you gain a reputation for constantly surprising your audience. What’s important to remember is that everyone stumbles, and that the development troubles or mismanaged scheduling that were responsible for the absence of L5’s surprises this week happen all the time. Suffice it to say I think Level-5 will learn and grow from the week’s events.

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  • shuyin

    You’re wrong about the two ‘secret’ games being Ushiro and Inazuma Eleven Break. They weren’t supposed to be only secret, but new too. L5 advertised their conference by saying they will reveal 3 new, unannounced games. Both Ushiro and Inazuma Break were announced @last year’s L5 Vision, so they must be two different games.

    The conference was pretty underwhelming… I was expecting definitive release dates (japanese dates) for Ninokuni, Ushiro and Cardboard Senki. One of them wasn’t even shown (Ushiro) while the other two got delayed!

    Anyway, great article!

    • Joanna

      I think Level 5 bit off more then they could chew. What are they working on, like 10 games simultaneously?! They aren’t even that big of a studio yet, and are expanding, so I think they overestimated what they could accomplish in a year, and are now delaying a lot of projects. I don’t mind delays as long as it results in the end product being better.

  • jb0

    They did announce three new games. They announced Fantasy Life, as well as several new Atamania games — Mystery Room and Atama Taisen 3 and 4. If you want to count London Life as a separate announcement, that’s another one. I’m not sure where people are getting the idea that they didn’t announce anything. Just because a couple of the announcements fell within their “casual” series, it doesn’t mean they weren’t made.

    • shuyin

      London Life is not a game. They specified it is just an end-game bonus for Layton 4, in the form of a new game mode (rpg style).

      They announced Fantasy Life, which was one of the 3 new games, but at the end of the conference Hino apologized for not being able to show the other 2 new games they previously advertised..meaning they are distinct from the Atamania games announced.

      If they only had Fantasy Life in a state to be shown, why advertise their conference with an add saying ‘3 new games will be unveiled’?

      • Funny thing about London Life is it was originally a separate game for ROID — not like that matters to the west where ROID doesn’t exist. Perhaps, we’ll have a chance to play it if (when?) the new Professor Layton trilogy comes to the states.

      • jb0

        They apologized for not being able to show off two new games that they had previously announced. However, they advertised saying they’d unveil 3 new games and they DID unveil 3 new games. Not that hard to get.

        • shuyin

          jb0, I think you’re the one that doesn’t get it.

          They advertised announcing 3 new games. They showed one and they apologized for not being able to show the other two due to their early stage in production.
          If you think the Atamania games were the two that were supposed to be announced you’re too naive. The two Atamania games announced had nothing to do with the two projects they used to advertise the conference and for which Hino apologized in the end.

          Basically: 1 new game unveiled (Fantasy Life) + two new Atamania games + 2 unknown projects for which Hino apologized in the end = 5 games..there were supposed to be 5 game announcements. Nobody cared about the Atamania games; everyone was waiting for the 3 unknown projects. Two of which weren’t shown. Not that hard to get ;)

          @Spencer: I find it more interesting that London Life is developed by Brownie Brown, who’s also making Fantasy Life for Level 5. It might be a Fantasy Life lite :D

          • jb0

            Can you show me where they said there were supposed to be five game announcements? Everything I read beforehand said 3. It’s obvious Ushiro and Inazuma Eleven break weren’t new game announcements, because they were announced at last year’s Vision event, and they had media for them at that event. I don’t know why you’d then think that’s what they were going to “announce.”

            Again, they said they’d announce 3 new games and they did, in fact, announce 3 games. You can say that no one cares about Atamania games, and I don’t really care about Atamania games either, but when Hino says right before announcing them that they’ve sold 230,000 copies of the other Atamania games in Japan, it’s obvious Level 5 cares about them and that people in the audience do.

          • shuyin

            First of all, you’ve misunderstood what i said. i wasn’t expecting Ushiro and Break to be part of the 3 new games. In fact, in my first post i specifically said it couldn’t be those two because both were announced @last year’s Vision. Why you thought i’d consider Ushiro and Break part of the 3 new games (even though i said in my 1st post they couldn’t be part of the 3 new games..) eludes me.

            As for your 2nd paragraph… my good man, what part of what i said don’t you understand?
            I suspect you can add a few numbers, so let me answer to this question “Can you show me where they said there were supposed to be five game announcements?”:
            – Fantasy Life
            – TWO GAMES THAT HINO TALKED ABOUT @the end of the conference and apologized for not showing them
            – two new Atamania games
            Yes, they never said there were supposed to be 5 announcements, but three. Yes there were 3 new games announced. But you’re ignoring the context: those two that he talked about @the end are in fact the ones that were advertised so on that account they failed to deliver.

            At this point we can argue forever if you decide to continue ignoring the context (it being: they replaced the two initially advertised games, giving them only a little attention @the end, with two Atamania games).

            There were supposed to be 3 new titles (Fantasy Life, and two other that Hino specifically said were not ready to be shown). Besides these three, they also announced 2 Atamania games. What’s so hard to understand? Ppl are mad because those two projects thast L5 is working on, projects they promised to unveil, weren’t shown.
            I hope i made it clear this time. If not i’s a fool’s errand to explain it to you again and again and again.

  • favel5com

    Do you guys think Level 5 will to be bringing Ushiro over to North America?

    • Much of their past RPG releases sure did so I think there’s a good chance. The game seems to be still rather early to justify even a Japan date mind you.

  • jb0

    Shuyin: It was Ushiro and Break that Hino said he was sorry they couldn’t show off because they weren’t far enough along, not two other random unannounced games.

    Anyway, regardless of whether you think they were going to announce even more games or not, they said that they would announce 3 new games and they announced 3 new games. The opening paragraph of the article (“considering Level-5 were expected to reveal three new projects at the conference, hopes were understandably let down when they announced just one.”) is not correct.

  • Banang

    The only thing I was really looking forward to from this conference was more info on Ushiro and a confirmation of Dark Cloud 3.

    Neither happened, so I’m a sad puppy.

    There’s always TGS I hope.

  • Aoshi00

    Not sure what kind of game Fantasy Life would be, I’m not too interested in sims like Animal Crossing, but I love what Minaba did w/ Archaic Sealed Heat (guess the design here looks more like FF9). Ushiro the ghost game looks interesting too, I had no idea such a game existed just until now, better than Infinite Loop at least.

    Personally I think Uematsu needs to score FF XV (slowly work on it for 5-6 yrs) and not waste time w/ XIV.

  • jarrodand

    With Layton’s gigantic overseas success, I wonder how long it is until Level-5 sets up their own American and European branches?

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