NIS at Anime Expo, a summary of the Disgaea Panel



The Disgaea Panel at Anime Expo '08 featured Mr. Takehito Harada (the artist of Disgaea), Ms. Taniel (the character artist for Blade Dancer: Linage of Light), Mr. Hojo (CEO of Hit Maker), Mr. Steven Carlton and Mr. Phoenix Spaulding (NIS editors), and Mr. Jack Niida (localization editor).


First they covered some basics of Disgaea 3 as well as show the trailer for Disgaea 3 that most fans have probably already seen on YouTube. The world of Disgaea 3 instead of being an epic tale, will focus on a school campus in the Underworld.  The twist is that the more evil and cruel you are, the better a student you are in this school.  What's nice is that NIS added in a lot of fan-service to Disgaea 3 including insane amounts of damage, ridiculous towers and character throwing, and Prinnies are as awesome as ever.


One thing that really caught my eye during the panel was the introduction of 3D geo-panels, which add a puzzle element to the game since they can get destroyed and enemies sitting on top of them can take damager.


During their question and answer session, there was the one smart aleck who asked if it was a PS3 game, why did it still have PS2 graphics?  The gracious panelists answered that they wanted to focus more on fun and gameplay than just sheer eye-candy.


The panelists were then asked how they got their job.


– Mr. Harada said that he grew up loving arcade games, so he got involved with Nippon Ichi designing characters for Disgaea.


– Ms. Taniel said that her grandfather was an artist and inspired her to do art too.  She got a job with Hitmaker as a character designer.


Then they were asked what the most enjoyable aspect of their job was.


– Mr. Harada said it was getting to see the characters he drew come to life and move around.  He said he sometimes liked to go down to the developers' area and ask them to show him what they worked on so far just to see the characters move.


– Ms. Taniel liked being involved in the whole process from the beginning in creating the character, and then having a say in the plot and story of the game.


The next question was for Phoenix Spaulding: what is your job description?


– Phoenix said he does a lot of script editing, ad copy, the words that go up on the website, the back of the game box, and basically a lot of writing.  He majored in English and minored in Japanese.


– Mr. Steven Carlton says he also writes a lot.  He went to school for filmmaking. During his job interview, they gave him a rough translated script and he had to write a test copy for it.


Phoenix Spaulding and Steven Carlton were then asked what they enjoyed most of the job.


They both enjoyed working with the voice actors and directing them, hearing the words they wrote come to life.  Mr. Steven Carlton also enjoys writing the scripts.


The fans were then invited to line up and ask questions of the panelists.


One fan asked Phoenix how much of the localization of Soul Nomad reflected his own attitude.  Phoenix answered that all the swearing was him since he was given so much freedom with swearing (there isn't direct swearing in Japanese).  Gig's words were all him.


Another fan asked the artists on the panel what their inspiration were for all of their memorable character designs.  Mr. Harada answered that since there's so much manga and anime in Japan, he tries to focus on silhouettes of characters to make them stand out. 


Ms. Taniel said she liked to emphasize the eyes because they're so expressive.


The next fan asked if it was necessary to know Japanese for script editing.  Phoenix said that he studied Japanese in college and it makes his job easier since it helps when talking to the translators.  


Mr. Steven Carlton said Japanese isn't essential, but it is beneficial.


How about Disgaea 2 to PSP since Disgaea 1 on PSP was so successful? NISA says: let's hope.


The next question was about downloadable content in Disgaea 3.  The good news is that yes there will be downloadable content and the greater news is that past characters from other games will be playable and have their own story segments in DLC. Yes, that includes Flonne.


Someone asked if there would be higher res graphics in Disgaea 4 and the panelists joked that they weren't sure.  Maybe if enough fans bought the previous games and increased their budget, they can get higher res graphics in the future.



My favorite question was the fan who asked Mr. Harada how he thought up the concept of Prinnies and what was he smoking when he did?


Mr. Harada said that when he was asked to come up with a character design for a slave-like animal, he first thought of a bat or a crow, but didn't like it. Then one day, while watching TV, he saw some penguins on a nature show and thought they would be perfect. Then, for added flair, he added demon wings on the penguin because it would be funny since penguins can't fly.


The last question was if NIS would continue to be a translation house, or are they moving towards being a self-publisher and introduce new IPs for the US?


With A Witch's Tale, the three companies, Nippon Ichi Japan, NIS America, and Hit Maker are working on a simultaneous release.  


That means that while the developers are in Japan working on the game, NISA can still give feedback about the game and the developers take that into consideration.


Photo credit Spencer/Siliconera and Jeriaska/Siliconera. Images courtesy of NIS America.

Louise Yang