Friday, September 21, I was lucky enough to attend a special event held by Nippon Ichi Software. There was food, drink, and several people of interest to the RPGaming public. In attendance was Naoko Mizuno, chief of game development for Idea Factory.
Unfortunately, the ten minutes or so of interview that I recorded was somehow overwritten by thirty seconds of me scribbling on paper and muttering to myself. I shall instead substitute an interview between my forehead and my hotel desk.
Back on topic, the game of the day was Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory. This is confirmed as the North American release title, so gamers over there need not worry about confusion over the use of the letter V in the original version.
The gist of the story is that Neptune, lazy young lady that she is, has fallen so far behind in her divine duties that she has actually regressed to level 1. In an attempt to get back on track, she busies herself all over her demesne of Planetune, only to discover a strange portal that transports her to the "Goddess Dimension." This place is a mirror to her own Hyper Dimension, only in 80s retro. It is governed by a grouping of very familiar goddesses, three of whom are so similar to her friends in the Hyper Dimension that it's hard to remember that they aren't the same people half the time. Neptune's own alternate is a bit different herself. There's also a fifth tutelary goddess, the Yellow Heart Goddess, that I remembered seeing in an issue of Famitsu two or three months back. When I asked about her, Ms. Mizuno wouldn't say much, though she confirmed that Yellow Heart represents the now defunct PC-Engine console.
Click here to see more screenshots.
When asked "Why the 80s?", the answer was that it was felt that Neptune's story in the Hyper Dimension had gone on as long as they could manage, but this trip into an alternate dimension, with a focus on the history of the gaming industry of thirty years ago, would provide fresh material.
The combat system was said to be faster and better organized, with specific mention made to a decrease in load times and an improvement on the attack combo system. A feature called the EX-Drive has been added in combat. Similar to systems in other RPGs, the EX-Drive is a gauge that slowly fills over the course of the battle. As it goes up, it unlocks new attacks which decrease the gauge when used.
The villains of the game also have their place in Japanese gaming history, mostly. The leader of the group, Rei Kiseijyo, has her name derived from a famous piece of legislature put forward by the Japanese Diet many years ago. It was an attempt to limit and censor the industry in order to protect the innocence of children. Likewise, another villain named Copyliace was derived from an early device used to break copy protection. The Akudaijin (Prime Minister of Evil), on the other hand, is a tribute to a similar character in an older title.
A few other new things to mention include the Scout system. Neptune can hire minions to scout out locations, hunt for treasure, or locate target monsters for her. While they can't win the game for her, their services would definitely cut down on the need to grind for items. In the field, a few new options have been added or modified. The most obvious is that Neptune has finally learned how to jump properly, and levels may now include areas that require a little platforming to find secrets. Also, the field skills can now be used to level up parameters that might naturally be associated with them. The effects may not be much, but they are sure to add up after a while.
Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory will be out sometime in spring of 2013, so stay tuned!
Generations of Chaos: Pandora's Reflection
Another game shown at the event was Generations of Chaos: Pandora's Reflection. This title is also coming out in spring of 2013, but as a PSN exclusive. In the presentation, it was described as simplified and fast-paced, as compared to previous titles in the series, but with plenty of content. The developers claim that it could take up to fifty hours or more to complete.
Click here to see more screenshots, click here to see art.
Combat now has aspects of real-time battle simulation, with units moving across the field of battle as directed until they engage with an enemy unit, at which point a regular battle commences. Beat-rhythm elements have been added to combat in the form of timed button presses on the major attacks.
Some other stuff!
Afterwords, I got to sit down with Jack Niida, who is a producer with NIS America. He was more than happy to show me the Neptunia app on his iPhone. It was the beta version (actual release is in December), but it was fully functional. When you load it up, Neptunia will be on your screen and will talk to you. She can serve as a chirpy alarm clock, remind you of important things on your schedule (like birthdays), or keep you informed of things on the NIS twitter account. As part of the app, you can take pictures with your camera and have Neptune included in the shot for a bit of augmented reality fun.
Mainly, it's a way to promote the game, and it's also free. So if you like silly, genki anime girls on your handheld device, check it out.
The last thing I talked about with Jack was Kami-sama to Unmei Kakumei Paradox. While not yet announced for North American release, it's only a matter of time.
In this title, a young man wins a department store lottery game, only to discover that what he's won is a divine power to change people's destiny. In order to save people, he has to take on various roles and somehow find a way to change whatever fate may await them. I mentioned the TV series Quantum Leap and Early Edition, and we agreed that there was some thematic similarity. However, eventually a greater evil is revealed behind the dark fates.
As a god, he has a small army of angels to back him up, or possibly to serve as stand-ins for AKB-48. The actual gameplay in Kami-Para is the sort of thing that NIS is best known for: hardcore tactical combat. Any quirks or environmental factors in combat have yet to be revealed.
On the subject of the Atelier series, that's complicated. As Gust has been acquired by Koei-Tecmo Games, that company will be handling all the publishing for Atelier titles overseas. However, NISA will still be involved in the translation and localization of Atelier Ayesha and any future Gust titles that make it out of Japan.
One last bit of information, is that Persona 4: Golden will be released in Europe by NIS America in early 2013 for the PlayStation Vita.