How Final Fantasy V Changed Nippon Ichi Software CEO Sohei Niikawa’s Dreams

By Sato . September 9, 2012 . 5:15pm

Nippon Ichi Software, known for bringing us Disgaea, Z.H.P. Unlosing Ranger vs. Darkdeath Evilman and the upcoming title The Witch and The Hundred Knights wouldn’t be the same had their CEO followed his childhood dreams.


Current NIS CEO, Sohei Niikawa, was like any other child and a big fan of Indiana Jones. Inspired by his childhood hero, he took it to another level as he grew older and majored in Archaeology. He dreamed of traveling around the world to explore ruins and dungeons while running from giant boulders. How did he go from future Japanese Indiana Jones to present day father figure and CEO of NIS? He talks all about it in a Nippon Ichi Software 20th anniversary Dengeki interview.




Dengeki: Today, we’ll be talking about how you got yourself into the gaming industry. Have you always had an interest in the gaming industry since you were a child?

Niikawa: Actually no, I’ve always dreamed of being Indiana Jones.


Huh? So you wanted to be an adventurer?

That’s correct. I’ve always wanted to explore the world and even majored in archeology. After graduation, I had plans of becoming a freelance archeologist to explore ruins from around the world. Just to be clear, I’m not joking, I was actually really serious about it (laughs).


So what made you decide to get yourself into the gaming industry?

ffva One day, after playing ‘Final Fantasy V on the Super Famicom (Super Nintendo) and I thought to myself, "That was freaking fun"! The job changing, ability combinations and customizations, they were all really interesting. I had so many thoughts running through my head such as, "What kind of person would be able to come up with this?" and "If it were up to me, I’d make a system like this!"


I thought of it as an epiphany that was telling me what to do at the time. The following day I started looking for a place in the gaming industry. This was during my third year in college.

I’ve always loved video games since early age, and played them even before the release of the Famicom (NES). I was really into the Space Invader types and Janputer1 games when they were popular. I often stayed up late at night playing video games during my college years. It wasn’t until I played Final Fantasy V that I thought about getting into the gaming industry.

1Janputer is a mahjong arcade game developed by Space Invaders maker Taito.


It must’ve had a huge impact on you.

I just couldn’t escape the thought of it at the time. I still remember the speechless look on my professor’s face. I mean just a few days prior, I still wanted to be an archaeologist and out of nowhere, the gaming industry. (laughs)


Do you have any memories of what it was like looking for a job in the gaming industry?

At the time, there was a rather famous book called "Finding Employment in the Gaming Industry," So, I bought that and applied to at least 50 companies out there. Speaking of which, I actually applied for Nippon Ichi Software upon finding out about it after seeing an ad on "The Oni taiji!!! Mezase! Nidaime Momotaro".


Nippon Ichi Software is located in Gifu Prefecture, were you living around the area at the time?

No, during my college years I lived in Kanagawa Prefecture but I wasn’t about to pick a company based on its location. Honestly, as long as it had anything to do with game development, I would’ve been okay with any company.

That being said, although I was interviewed by several major gaming companies, there were many cases where the bigger the company was, the harder it was to be accepted. At the time it was expected to have previous experiences of either having several years of working at a game center and at least a year in sales. So I pretty much would’ve accepted a job offer from any company that would’ve given me the chance to do what I wanted.




After all that, how did you end up in Nippon Ichi Software?

After being accepted, I went to go check it out. It was a really small company at the time. There were 3 or 4 other people that were also accepted and after talking about how we could probably do what we’ve all been wanting to do at a company like this, I made up my mind and decided to join.

Although I found out afterwards, Nippon Ichi Software had only posted an ad just once and I had happened to catch it that one time. I sent an application and was accepted shortly after. Till this day, I am still amazed at such coincidence and the fate of it all. It makes me wonder about all the possibilities out there. I’m still very grateful to the people that made it possible for me.

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  • XypherCode

    Good for him :)

  • I liked that story, especially since it involves FFV. I think FFV is one of the most underrated titles in the series.

  • Visa Vang

    That’s a nice story. It makes me want to try harder and pursue my goal.

  • thaKingRocka

    This was a great article, but I could have sworn I read it a little while back. Now, I’m suffering from a weird feeling of deja vu and/or time warps of some sort.

    • keithmaxx

      You must’ve seen this on some other gaming news site, then. I sort of felt that too, until I remembered reading it from a rival site’s article.

    • Glad you liked it! Andriasang actually did a summary of the interview, I translated it from scratch :P

      • thaKingRocka

        Ah, that must have been it, then. Thanks.

  • ffboi7

    Awesome for him!! But just to let you know you misspelled Witch in The Witch and The Hundred Knights

  • leadintea

    FFV changes lives for the better. That’s why it’s my favorite FF.

    • Type9

      Top 3 FF, no question. Actually, I pretty much agree with him in terms of inspiration.

  • Rirath

    Always awesome to see a CEO who started from the ground up like the rest of us, and still remembers his roots. Good for him!

  • Dylan Anantha

    Hehe, FF V is one of my favourite games of all time.

  • Reminds me of Sony’s Andrew House, he did get to travel around the world with whatever little he had, ended up in Japan and taught english I believe and moved on from being a translator to president of SCE just this year after Kaz.

  • Carocaro4

    YAY! Good for him! I love these interviews. like. thanks. :3

  • Mazdian

    The Dengeki interview link appears to be broken! :O

  • xAKUM3TSUx

    NOT experiencing DISGAEA and etc- was riding on that one decision? I don’t know whether to laugh or be scared lolz :0

  • Simon Andersson

    Makes me wonder if NIS will make a ruins exploration rpg in the future.

    • You mean like a Japanese Indiana Jones with RPG elements?? Sure, why not?

  • Loves Indiana Jones and doesn’t bash FF V, I may just love this man

  • neocatzon

    The FFV’s Job Changing System is really powerful, look how a man turn from archeologist to CEO (mastery)

  • TheSwordUser

    FF V is so underrated.

    However, I would’ve never guessed it could change someone’s life like this.

    •  Keep in mind that FFV had the same amount of praise VI got here. XD  I’m not kidding, it was beloved there.  And I can see why.

      • komiko12

        But the fact still remains that FF5 (and to a lesser extent, FF6) is underloved by the very company that made them.

        But Square Enix still incorporates the Job System in some games (Bravely Default and Dimensions)

        •  Aye, and that’s just depressing. >:

          But it is good to see the Job System live on.

  • FFV is one of the best FF ever, sadly it’s so underrated.

  • fate … such a mysterious concept. I remember I was 13 and I met this girl, was at a my schools carnival, I was a total geek going on about chrono trigger to my bud when I tried to tell a joke in hopes to get this girl to laugh, mind you, I couldn’t even talk to girls, I don’t know what came over me … failed, everyone was quiet and I went home and replayed FF 5.

    4 years later on my 17th birthday, I was replying silent hill 2 (a small tradition of mine) i received a phone call, turns out it was that girl, and she asked me out. apparently she caught glimpses of me hanging out with my buds and the likes and apparently that joke left an impression.

    6 years later … and we getting married in December

    makes one wonder, what if  I’ve never told that joke or Sohei never read that ad let alone play ff v. life is just and amazing and wonderful adventure

  • Speedo Redempteur

    Rofl FF5 made me change my career from ingenering to programmer

    That’s the power of ff5
    I totally understand the CEO … such a big impact 

  • Christ

    Finally someone who loves FF5, it’s my first FF and my most beloved :)

  • atc483

    Fate, coincidence, luck-all the words I ALWAYS hear associated with this nearly impossible to get into industry-but at least these days I have a wide open door with the web and indy development too. Good to hear successful origin stories though.

  • Thank you NISA for helping me through all the sleepless nights..
    or maybe it IS because of NISA the nights where sleepless :P

  • good for him, :) i have to be grateful to ff5 XD

  • Learii

    wow FF 5 sure have some power lol

  • Göran Isacson

    I think I’m gonna shed a few manly tears here, because stories like these are so damn inspirational. Not just due to the power of videogames converting someone who had a whole different life set out for him, but this mans dedication and courage to just throw away all that had come before him and just go nuts for a dream that might never have come true. This guy right here? He is awesome, and I am both jelly and impressed.

    • This. I was moved by the story and wanted to make it my first Siliconera post! As much as I love the games we have today, I can’t really think of as many having the same life changing impact as FFV and several others from the time.

  • MINT_FanFan

    Heh, “Class change” much? 8D

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