By Spencer . August 11, 2011 . 1:30pm
A vampire… who refuses to drink blood? That’s Valvatorez, the main character in Disgaea 4. He used to be a tyrant, but now he’s a Prinny instructor in a Netherworld prison with Fenrich, his loyal lycanthrope attendant. Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten launched strong in Japan and thanks to retail re-orders it became one of Nippon Ichi’s best selling games. With the Western launch on the horizon, we sat down with Souhei Niikawa, president of Nippon Ichi, to discuss the PlayStation 3 game.
The online mode where you can invade another player’s game and share maps is one of Disgaea 4′s key features. Why did the team want to add online connectivity to the series?
Souhei Niikawa, President: Disgaea 4 has a completely new look to it with the animation and hi-res sprites. That’s something different on the design side. We also wanted to add something evolutionary to the game mechanics and one of the big requests was the online elements we added.
[ This interview was conducted before NIS America announced changes to the the map editor. ]
While online gaming is very popular in North America, ad-hoc play is more popular in Japan. How has the reception to Disgaea 4′s features in Japan?
Japan is still building up their online infrastructure. It isn’t as big as it is in the U.S., but it is growing in popularity. For Disgaea 4, the hardcore players are showcasing how much they’ve played and what they’ve done with the game, so it’s starting to catch on.
Have you seen any user created maps that really amazed you?
The development team was surprised to see some of the maps players uploaded to PSN. There are some gamers that made something even more amazing than our team. In Japan, Disgaea 4 sold roughly 100,000 units and there are around 4,000,000 hours of game time, combined from the players that are playing online.
4,000,000 hours? That’s a lot of Disgaea 4 and I imagine only the most hardcore fans are playing online. How do you feel about the game’s reception so far?
I am very happy about it. When we making Disgaea 4, Disgaea: Hour of Darkness was set as the benchmark. All of the fans love Disgaea 1, it’s the original and has the greatest acclaim in the series. We wanted to make a game better than that. Sales-wise, review-wise, and from the fans they were saying Disgaea 4 was better than Disgaea 1 so the development team was very happy about that.
What can you tell us about the new downloadable episodes coming to Japan? I believe the Tyrant Valvatorez episode is coming out first.
The Tyrant Valvatorez story is about Valvatorez and Feinrich and it takes place in the past. It’s a kind of like a prequel to Disgaea 4. In addition, there is another chapter series with Fuka and Desco being the main characters. That’s going to be as long as the Raspberyl chapters from Disgaea 3.
I saw the teaser image of Fuka hugging Desco. What can you tell us about that?
Fuka and Desco are really popular characters in Japan, so we wanted to make a storyline for them. I can’t say too much about this because it would be a spoiler for Disgaea 4 and the extra chapters. However, I can say there is a surprising twist to the story. Please look forward to it.
We’ve seen character polls for Disgaea 4 in Japan where the favorite Nippon Ichi character becomes a downloadable character. Do you think you will ever run one of these overseas? Because fans in the West want to vote on their favorite characters too.
It’s possible, but we have to do it in Japan and the West at the same time. Otherwise it will be way to late for the U.S. and Europe. Once development is done we can’t add characters a year later on. Maybe in the future NIS and NISA can collaborate from the very beginning and say let’s do a poll now so we can send it to Japan with favorite characters from both regions.
The funny thing is, we tried something similar, but the characters that are chosen are pretty much the same ones! I guess the American and Japanese tastes are pretty similar.
Speaking of characters, there are so many anime crossovers. How did you get Index, Holo, and all of the other cameos in the game?
It was really easy because we’re all friends! [Laughs.] We just talk to each other on the side and say you want to do this? Why don’t we try this? Let’s do that! That’s how the crossovers became possible.
That’s an interesting way to tackle licensing issues! Will we see Nippon Ichi character crossovers in your friends’ works?
Yes, it’s possible and you’ll probably see more in the future. One example is Hyperdimension Neptunia, which has a NIS character.
Out of all the characters Nippon Ichi created? Which one is your personal favorite?
Of course, I have to go with Laharl, Etna, Flonne. And then Raspberyl, Fuka, and Desco. Generally, I like the girl characters.
For Disgaea 4, I think you changed the "training room" from the triangle horse to a cat. I remember early screenshots showed a different graphic. Why did you make the change?
When that screenshot was released we were trying out a bunch of styles for the room. The person in charge of releasing the screenshots picked the one with the horse because it was the funniest picture. The problem was, it got a really positive response because it was so funny. [Laughs.] At the same time the Prime Minister of Tokyo was trying to ban certain things from manga and anime. Because of that were thought it’s probably not a good idea to have the horse in the game. That’s why we changed it to a cat.
Our interview continues tomorrow with Nippon Ichi’s future plans, dungeon RPGs, and Soul Nomad. Stay tuned, doods!