RPGamer Feature - Interview with Yoshitsuna Kobayashi of Nippon Ichi Software

Makai Kingdom
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Publisher: NIS America
ESRB: Pending
Release Date: July 2005

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As of late, Nippon Ichi Software has found itself at the forefront of the Tactical RPG genre, though it certainly didn't seem like it'd turn out that way when their first North American title was localized in 2000. The title in question was a tactical RPG by the name of Rhapsody; the first title in Nippon Ichi's Marl Kingdom series. Rhapsody was met with lukewarm fanfare, and quickly disappeared from the memories of gamers everywhere. In 2003 however, another Marl Kingdom title called Disgaea: Hour of Darkness was met with much better reception, subsequently changing Nippon Ichi Software from "who's that?" to "all that" in the minds of RPGamers everywhere. In 2004, the Marl Kingdom series strayed from conventional tactical RPG norms in Phantom Brave; successfully reinventing the wheel and adding new, fresh elements to the genre.

Yoshitsuna Kobayashi, who has worked on Marl Kingdom titles such as Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, Phantom Brave, and La Pucelle Tactics in addition to his director and designer roles in the upcoming Marl Kingdom title Makai Kingdom, sat down with RPGamer recently to discuss the newest entry into the series. In this interview, Mr Kobayashi discusses such things as what similarities the game will share with previous games in the series, as well as the art style the game presents, and details on the game's story.

RPGamer: It has been said that Makai (Phantom) Kingdom is the "successor" of Phantom Brave and Disgaea: Hour of Darkness. Aside from Prinnies, what other familiar elements can players expect to see? As a "successor," how similar will Makai Kingdom be to Phantom Brave and Disgaea?
Yoshitsuna Kobayashi: On behalf of everyone here at Nippon Ichi Software, I would like to thank you for giving us this wonderful opportunity. We have seen the future of strategy RPG with Phantom Brave. Its unconventional grid less and confine system made it the revolution of its genre, which we adopted for Makai Kingdom. Of course, we did not simply just adopt the system and place it into Makai Kingdom. We felt there were minor tweaking necessary for both the grid less system and the confine system. In fact, the confine system has evolved into the all-new "Invite" system, where your own kingdom is summoned on to the battlefield instead of just your unit characters. System wise Makai Kingdom is nothing like Disgaea; however, Makai Kingdom shares some design styles with Disgaea like the world settings and character styles.

RPGamer: Different art pieces by well-known Japanese artists have been created for Makai Kingdom. How will these be incorporated into the game? Will they all be used, will one dominate, or were the different styles of concept art simply drawn for fun?
Yoshitsuna Kobayashi: To be fair no one artist will dominate the contents. Most of the artworks were incorporated into the game as a cut scene and each artist were given a certain number of scenes to work on. Some players might notice the sudden change in art style from scene to scene, but please enjoy it as an art show. Artists that took part in this project are truly talented, we might never have this kind of awesome opportunity in the future, so enjoy while you can!

RPGamer: One of the most enjoyable features for players in your previous games has been the endless optional dungeons and challenges available to extend the life of the game. What kinds of features will be implemented in Makai Kingdom to keep gamers coming back for more?
Yoshitsuna Kobayashi: Like Disgaea and Phantom Brave a random dungeon feature will be available for Makai Kingdom. This time it is called the free dungeon system and players can create a random dungeon unrelated to the main story. We named the random dungeon system for Makai Kingdom Free dungeon system because the battle fields on the main story is also randomly generated every time you play. Therefore, the very first stage can be different if you play it for the second time. It is our way to improve replay value of the game.

RPGamer: How deep will the story be in this game? Will it be light hearted and humorous, or stern and serious, or a mixture of both.
Yoshitsuna Kobayashi: The game is certainly not light hearted due to the nature of the main character. Actually the main character is quite different from our previous games. He is evil, arrogant, and full of himself, but easily outwitted by other demented devils. The story is rather humorous, but not lighthearted like Phantom Brave, so players might find the story a little similar to Disgaea in feel.

RPGamer: What was the most enjoyable part of creating the game?
Yoshitsuna Kobayashi: Being able to work with various big name artists was certainly fun. As will, as being able to make anything we wanted to, was simply awesome. For Makai Kingdom our theme during development was to have much fun in creating it and I certainly think we accomplished that

RPGamer: How long will it take to complete the game?
Yoshitsuna Kobayashi: Simply playing through the game will take about 30~40 hours. However, if you wish to unlock all the secrets and hidden characters, it will take you over 100 hours, so a guidebook will certainly help players!

RPGamer would like to thank Mr. Kobayashi for discussing Makai Kingdom with us. Look for the game to hit retailers in July of this year.

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