Level-5 created a monster of a series withYo-kai Watch but in its earlier days after Dark Cloud they tackled a whole different monster in its own right with the development of Dragon Quest VIII for Square Enix.
This week’s issue of Famitsu magazine has a big feature on Level-5 in celebration of the company’s 20th anniversary. CEO and president Akihiro Hino talked about some of the big titles Level-5 worked on in its earlier days.
Famitsu: As for Dark Cloud, it released out of nowhere overseas and went on becoming a million-seller.
Akihiro Hino, Level-5 CEO and President: We were fortunate that our first game as a developer was a hit. Right after we finished with the development of Dark Cloud, after Sony Computer Entertainment saw how complete it was, they immediately said “Let’s do the next one,” so we began working on something that would be a sequel of the Dark series. While we were in the middle of developing Dark Chronicle (titled Dark Cloud 2 in the US) we released the overseas version of Dark Cloud. However, the overseas version had a system that was made for Dark Cloud 2 in it. That basically makes the overseas version something of a Dark Cloud 1.5.
And then it became a big hit and it was well-received.
Akihiro Hino: Looking back at Dark Cloud now, it didn’t have enough guide-like elements. For example, there was a way to enhance your sword, but the explanations were lacking. However, while developing Dark Cloud 2 I was able to get a “sword growth hierarchy chart” so I got it and put it in the overseas version of Dark Cloud. I just can’t help but fix things when they’re right in front of me.
We didn’t have many people when making Dark Cloud, but for Dark Cloud 2 and Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King we had about 100 employees. It was just around that time that we developed a relationship with Microsoft when we worked on an online game called True Fantasy Live Online for Xbox that was unfortunately cancelled, but we increased the number of people and the scale of our company grew large.
Was everybody surprised when you told the company that you guys were going to make a new Dragon Quest game?
Akihiro Hino: Oh yeah, we were all, yeah, it was amazing.
And what was that like at the time?
Akihiro Hino: It was basically “Keep your hands busy,” “Keep on moving and creating.” It was hard to say whether I was the president, game designer, programmer, scenario writer, or what have you.
So you were basically doing everything.
Akihiro Hino: Yeah. To top it off, Dragon Quest VIII’s development was different from the Dark Cloud series. I believed that Dragon Quest needed a revolutionary change, while keeping the good points of Yuji Horii alive. While we had to implement what Horii-san wanted, we also had to show that it was made by Level-5.
Dark Cloud first released in Japan in December 2000 for PlayStation 2. Dragon Quest VIII released in Japan in November 2004 for PS2.