Nintendo DS

Thoughts On Vision 2009


image I’d be lying if I said I was completely satisfied with Level-5’s press conference in Tokyo earlier this week. Vision 2009 is something quite a few of us were looking forward to, and considering Level-5 were expected to reveal three new projects at the conference, hopes were understandably let down when they announced just one.


Still, the day wasn’t a complete loss. We did get to see one of Level-5’s new games, namely Fantasy Life by Brownie Brown, which looks reminiscent of Mother 3. Details on the game are scarce, but we know Nobuo Uematsu will be composing 21 tracks for the game.


This was one of Vision 2009’s — and the past week in general’s — many minor highlights. Uematsu seems to finally, really have stepped back into the limelight in recent times, with contracts lined up to compose for Final Fantasy XIV and Marvelous’s new DS adventure game, Sakura Note.


image It’s a little funny how Marvelous, Level-5, Brownie Brown, Hideo Minaba and Uematsu all seem to be working together in some capacity nowadays. Uematsu is composing for both publishers, while Hideo Minaba, too, is handling art for both Fantasy Life and Sakura Note. Brownie Brown are developing a virtual pet game named Livly Garden for MMV, and in addition to Fantasy Life, they’re also developing a 100-hour-long bonus RPG mode for Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva, the first game in the new Layton trilogy.


Vision 2009 also shed some light on Inazuma Eleven 2: Fire and Inazuma Eleven 2: Blizzard. Both games will feature entirely different OPs and EDs. You also battle against two completely different teams depending on which game you buy. It’s nice to see Level-5 attempting to give the two games a little diversity, which actually makes both versions feel special in their own way.


Unfortunately, Level-5’s other two “secret” games, which may or may not have been Ushiro for PSP and Inazuma Eleven Break, weren’t in a state to be revealed. And this is where Level-5 slipped a bit, and probably learned a little something about announcing games before they’re ready to be shown. Details on ROID were scarce, too, with L5 president Akihiro Hino talking about games we already knew about, including Inazuma Eleven Future, and versions of Danbol Senki and Professor Layton, and a…game where you take care of a hostess? The only announcement with regard to the PC version of ROID was a game design contest.


Now, I don’t expect the mobile phone version of ROID to ever make it out of Japan, but seeing as how there’s a pretty good chance we could end up with the PC version, I really was hoping for more details on that front.


On a brighter note, details on Ni no Kuni: The Another World were finally made available, and now we even have a little preview of the game to fuel our hopes until it hits Japan in spring 2010 with a soundtrack provided by Hisaishi Jo, composer for several of Hayao Miyazaki’s films. If there’s one thing you can say about Level-5, it’s that they certainly understand the importance of great art and music in a game.


It was also pointed out at the conference that Inazuma Eleven manga just so happens to be the most popular serialization in CoroCoro magazine, and that the anime is getting a two-year extension. Level-5 also have plans to make the Layton movies an annual winter event, which is an extremely ambitious endeavour given the series’ production values.


To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what I was hoping for outside of what Level-5 showed. Overall, it seemed like a solid conference. I’m not all that disappointed about not seeing Inazuma Eleven Break. Neither am I surprised to hear there was no mention of Level-5’s new motion capture studio, which they plan to use for contract work for other developers. I’m sure this will be elaborated upon at TGS where Akihiro Hino is scheduled to give a talk on stage.


image Perhaps I was hoping to see more news on ROID for PC or the second Ni no Kuni project? Or maybe I was just looking forward to another of Hino’s insightful speeches on Level-5’s development philosophy? I’ll admit, to me, hearing entrepreneurs like Hino talk about their experiences never gets boring.


I suppose what it comes down to in the end is that Level-5 are growing faster than any Japanese publisher — save perhaps Capcom — in recent times, and so far, they haven’t failed to surprise with their future plans and services. While today’s conference was good enough, no doubt, expectations tend to be higher when you gain a reputation for constantly surprising your audience. What’s important to remember is that everyone stumbles, and that the development troubles or mismanaged scheduling that were responsible for the absence of L5’s surprises this week happen all the time. Suffice it to say I think Level-5 will learn and grow from the week’s events.

Ishaan Sahdev
Ishaan specializes in game design/sales analysis. He's the former managing editor of Siliconera and wrote the book "The Legend of Zelda - A Complete Development History". He also used to moonlight as a professional manga editor. These days, his day job has nothing to do with games, but the two inform each other nonetheless.