Our mega interview with NIS America president, Haru Akenaga

The maxim I got from the chat with Mr. Akenaga is NIS America is focusing on quality over quantity. Just because there is an RPG with sprites, and appears to be something similar to NIS America’s previous games doesn’t mean they are going to license it for North America. This mantra is being applied to their parent company, Nippon Ichi Software’s, releases too. Surprisingly, there are no current plans to release Jigsaw World: Daigekitou! Jig-Battle Heroes, a Nintendo DS game from Nippon Ichi set to come out in June, outside of Japan.

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I was fortunate enough to squeeze in many of the reader questions, including the barrage of “are you working on game X” in the interview. However, if I didn’t get to your question I apologize and please understand we were lucky to have this much time speaking with Mr. Akenaga. On to the interview!


The first question I want to ask is, you’ve been supporting the DS a lot, but have you decided to support the Wii at all.


(Laughs). We haven’t announced it yet, but we are considering it.


OK. What are your thoughts on the Wii as a platform?


Because of the way you use the controller, I think that you can make an entertaining game. So, we are seriously considering the platform.


Last year I read a Nippon Ichi press release that you are an official Xbox 360 developer too.


Ah, yes. We just got the contract from Microsoft.




We don’t have any titles at the moment.




Do you think that you would bring Disgaea to the Xbox 360? (Disgaea 3  for the PlayStation 3 pictured.)


Right now, no.




Right now, no.


Are you thinking about bringing a new franchise to the Xbox 360?


It’s possible.


rh.jpgTonight, you talked about strongly supporting the PlayStation platform with your key franchises first. Does that mean we will see more Marl Kingdom (note: Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure is part of the Marl Kingdom series) on the PS3 or PSP?


Today, we announced we’re doing Rhapsody for the DS. We haven’t decided which platforms the other Marl Kingdom titles will be on. This is our first step our footstep into the DS and possibly other platforms as well. If we had no intention to do more, maybe we wouldn’t release Rhapsody on the DS.


I understand. That’s what I kind of thought. The question has always been where [the other Marl Kingdom titles will be released] and when I heard you say tonight you’re going to support the PlayStation platforms with primary franchises I specifically asked this question.


That’s the number one choice, but it depends on the situation. If the DS version sells really well maybe customers want the other titles on the DS also. That’s why we haven’t decided yet.


Here’s a thought: there are so many Marl Kingdom games that have not come out in America it might be great to introduce those to the American audience so they can see what they’ve been missing.


That’s why we released Rhapsody for the DS. That should be our next step.


Sounds great. What about the PlayStation 2? Do you plan to continue to support the PS2?


Right now Nippon Ichi Software doesn’t have any PS2 titles for the United States.


Wow. Right now?


Right now.


I guess I’m kind of surprised. I thought I was guaranteed to see Ar Tonelico II here.


That’s not from Nippon Ichi.


I know it’s from Gust, but NIS America did such a great job with Ar Tonelico I thought we would see it tonight… I have to ask about Tori no Hoshi next. I played a bit of it and it’s very calming.




It’s a relaxing game. My first thought was actually this [Tori no Hoshi: Aerial Planet] would be a great Wii game. It sounds silly, but you could use the motion controller to move the glider up and down. The analog controls are OK, but it’s a cute, charming game to play.


Nobody said that. You’re the first!




If you really think so…




I wrote about it too, but it’s not like I spent a long time playing it. I just had a taste of Tori no Hoshi: Aerial Planet so maybe my opinion isn’t as valid, but I’m curious about the potential for a release.


Unfortunately, that game didn’t sell well in Japan. So, maybe it’s tough to port it to the Wii platform. But for the US if you really think so, we can think about it.


I think you might be able to sell it as a value title. A $20 or a $29.99, maybe $20 since $30 is becoming more of a standard price for PS2 games. OK, a $20 title it might work out since it’s such a unique game. Another option would be to make it a downloadable game, like a downloadable PSP/PS3 game, but that’s probably pushing the boundaries of porting it could be successful too. It’s just a thought. Actually, a lot of my readers asked about Tori no Hoshi I would be doing a disservice to them if I didn’t ask.


OK. [laughs] I’m glad to hear that. Other customers and staff didn’t say that. That’s why I already gave up doing the title for the US, but we will evaluate it again.


You know Capcom and other Japanese subsidiaries have started to do their own internal development, specifically making games for America first. Have you considered that?


No. We don’t have enough power to do that. That’s why we made an alliance with Hit Maker to make our game. That’s A Witch’s Tale.


nisw.jpgA Witch’s Tale is designed for the American audience?


Yes, basically. That’s why the world setting is based on Halloween. In Japan, Halloween isn’t a big holiday.


That’s interesting! How long has A Witch’s Tale been in planning? How long have you wanted to make this game?


Last June or July.


June 2007?




That’s some time ago. You were thinking about the game before you were announced as official DS developers. Thinking about original games, have you or your parent company thought about making a 3D game?


3D game?




Yes. Actually, we are developing a 3D game.


Really! For PlayStation 3?




Speaking of the PlayStation 3, what do you think of Cross Edge?


That’s not our title.


That’s true it’s not, but I tend to think if anyone is going to localize it it’s going to be NIS America. You worked with Ar Tonelico, you worked with the Atelier series, and you own Etna and the other Disgaea characters. The only company you haven’t worked with is Capcom. I was wondering if you thought about it.


You’re analysis is so interesting, but we don’t have any plans for Cross Edge.


Speaking of Idea Factory, I haven’t seen you localize any Idea Factory games for awhile. What’s going on with Idea Factory?


We have a relationship with them, but unfortunately our mission is to release quality titles. Their titles are good, but not good as we expected. That’s our reason. They always ask us to localize their titles, but at this moment we answer with “we’re sorry”.


I guess that means you won’t be doing Agarest Senki or Spectral Genesis?


No, but maybe you will be surprised in the future.


The last game I have to ask you about is Tears to Tiara. It’s a PlayStation 3 strategy RPG developed from Aquaplus. Have you thought about that game at all?


Not yet.


It seems like something that meshes with other releases from NIS America.


Do you think it’s good for us?


Honestly, the game looks so different from the PC version and we haven’t seen much of the PS3 version yet. There are some things that might be questionable in the release, things that the US audience may not respond to positively. But we have seen the PlayStation 3 release yet so when it comes out we’ll have a better idea about it. Actually, I’m debating on covering it or not myself.


Up until now some of our games may not have been up to the quality standard that our users are expecting, but we would keep within our genre, the kinds of similar games to what Nippon Ichi might be coming out with. We’re starting, for the future, we really want to be more particular about the games we bring to the market. We are really looking at quality of games. We want to have a high standard for all the games that we put out. We are out there looking at games, and just because it looks similar to some of the things we have put out we don’t want to be licensing everything out there that might suit our image. We want to become more conscious about quality, and high entertainment value for your dollar.


We really appreciate if you could tell us about quality games, really nice games that we should do. Let me know.


I’m honored. Thank you for trusting my opinion. Speaking of high quality games, what about Jigsaw World that’s coming out in July or is it June.


It’s not a jigsaw game.


It’s a fighting game right?




Where you drag the puzzle pieces with the stylus?


That’s from Nippon Ichi Software right?




We’re not working on it.


You’re not considering to bring it over? No Conveni DS either?


I don’t think we’re doing those.


nislogo.jpgThinking back to Conveni, NIS America has that new casual label which Puchi Puchi Virus will debut under. What happened with the whole causal label? I thought we would see an explosion of casual games.


That’s right. We had some plans to do that, but at this point we canceled some titles. It doesn’t mean we aren’t going to do puzzle games anymore. We want to release them. They are simple and you can enjoy them in five minutes. Especially, for puzzle games Japanese companies are doing really well with the puzzle games they make. I want to do that too. Also it depends on quality, how fun the games are.


If you have a good idea for a title for a US audience, I would like you to tell me.


I would be happy to. Thanks for the time, but I think someone else should get a chance to interview you too.


Thank you for coming.


Images courtesy of NIS America.

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