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Otakon 2012
NISA Games Industry Panel

by Gia Manry,

Nippon Ichi Software America's video games panel was run by the same trio as the anime panel: PR and marketing director Ryan Phillips, producer Mitsu Hiraoka, and localization director Eugene Chen. After packing the panel room with attendees and giving them each a raffle ticket for a giveaway at the end of the panel. Phillips revealed the giveaways to great audience enthusiasm: two Disgaea 3 for Vita games and no-longer-available limited edition versions of Hyperdimension Neptunia and Atelier Meruru.

Phillips introduced the NISA online store and some of the bonus items that come with the company's games when bought on their store. Phillips noted that a lot of the games are selling out before their release date and recommended that fans stop by the store if they want a title available for preorder. He talked briefly about the Facebook, Twitter, and newsletter, where they provide new announcements and information to fans.

Next came trailers and intros for various games: Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention for the PlayStation Vita, which includes the original game and all its downloadable content (DLC); Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 coming out on August 7 for the PlayStation Network; Character ChowDown, a free iOS game made by a company called Yummy Yummy Tummy and designed for teaching Japanese kana and kanji (Disgaea characters Raspberyl and the Prinny will appear in the game); Legasista, a survival action RPG that allows you to create your own characters by importing your own images, due out on the PlayStation Network on August 21; Mugen Souls, a PlayStation 3 game featuring cute girls doing ridiculous amounts of damage, coming out on September 18; The Witch and the Hundred Knights, which will not have a trailer until Tokyo Game Show but which features an 3D action RPG environment, which is new for Nippon Ichi. It's a darker, less silly game than the Disgaea series, due out in spring 2013 on the PlayStation 3.

Next, Eugene Chen discussed NIS' approach to localization, which is "quirky." They first play the game, get the text from the Japanese developers, translate it, edit it, match timings for recording voices, record the voices, debug the game, and then release it. There are two main approaches to localization of games: retaining the exact Japanese meanings versus a "liberal interpretation" approach. Chen says that the former is mostly about your hat to the creators and offering players the closest experience to their intention. The liberal approach is a more humorous one, with jokes popping up even in serious scenes. NISA likes to take both approaches, because these are games and they're supposed to be fun, and they get a lot more freedom than some companies. During the recording process, the actors and directors discuss context, emotion, feel, and timing to convey the translations as best they can.

Next came the Q&A session. A new Disgaea fan asked if the localizers really influence how the characters interact. Chen says that they do somewhat, they try to retain the same feel but they will add in lines and things, especially for random minor non-player characters. The next attendee complained that his first NIS game was Ar Tonelico 2, which wasn't playable because the game would freeze on one of the later bosses, along with other bugs and errors. He admitted that the packaging and price were good, but the game seemed incomplete and untested. The attendee asked how the company justified this release. Phillips acknowledged that there was a lot going on with Ar Tonelico 2: it has 500,000 lines of Japanese text; NIS was a lot smaller back then (Ar Tonelico 2 was a PlayStation 2 game); they've taken steps to make sure that no release along those lines happens again. Phillips joked that he felt okay about Ar Tonelico 2 because of the very popular YouTube video of nothing but the euphemisms throughout the game, then noted that the company is seriously always trying to improve its process and releases. He finished by apologizing for the attendees problems with the game.

A year ago, NISA announced a release for the Black Rock Shooter game and an attendee asked for an update on the game. Phillips said that "there is no C-word, no cancellation," and that it's still going forward. Last week the president of NIS said it should be ready soon, so NISA is just waiting on it. They're still trying to make it work but there are a lot of different parties involved in it. News will come out on Facebook or the newsletter when it comes available.

The next attendee complimented a variety of games, but complained that Legasista is only available on the PlayStation Network instead of on an actual disc. Phillips explained that it's a question more for their producer, who isn't on-hand. He recommended that the fan send in an email to try and get an answer to the question.

After thanking NISA for coming to the east coast, an attendee asked about why The Witch and the Hundred Knights went on hiatus in Japan, cuing the panelists to discuss off-microphone while the audience chuckled. Phillips stated that it was a balancing issue with the game, and that since it's a new kind of game for them, but not a new genre for other companies, they needed to really make sure they got it right the first time.

Asked about whether there was a game or genre they'd really like to work on in the future, Phillips noted that it's tough to answer because that's personal rather than official and that they also released a lot of non-RPG games in the last year. They're always looking at different directions, and personally Phillips would love to do a fighter game someday. This comment inspired a lot of audience applause. Phillips concluded that there's a lot of cool new stuff coming out from NISA and they'll be letting people know in the future.

The next question was about NISA's upcoming releases being on the PlayStation 3 and not on the PlayStation Vita, because he likes playing RPGs on the go. Phillips replied that going forward, a lot of games will be made that are cross-playable (so that gamers can play PS3 games on the Vita), but that they do have some stuff planned for Vita that he can't talk about yet. They don't want to neglect the Vita.

Following that was a two-word question: "Neptunia V." Phillips said that there is no official news on that but hopefully things will go smoothly and they'll have news on whether they will or won't do the game fairly soon, because they know everyone is waiting eagerly.

Asked whether there would be more games on the Nintendo 3DS or other systems, Phillips replied that it really depends on the coding of the original game, and they would consider any good game regardless of console. However, most of the games they work with are coded for PlayStation systems and getting Japan to re-code a game when they've moved on from it already is difficult.

An attendee asked what happened to Phantom Brave Online, but NISA hasn't heard any news on it coming Stateside; they're still just trying it in Japan. The attendee also asked whether there was any news about Marl Kingdom, and there was none.

Next came a question about Umineko no Naku Koro ni, which NISA just licensed the anime of, and whether they would bring out any of the games from the franchise. Phillips said that it's been popular on the forums, so they're aware of the fan base, but it depends on whether they can fit it in the pipeline.

The next question was about NISA's work with other studios like Compile Heart and whether they are looking to expand the roster of studios that they work with. After consulting with Hiraoka and Chen, Phillips replied that they've worked with lots of studios, and they can't drop any names until things are confirmed, but there are definitely possibilities for working with other companies.

An attendee asked whether Disgaea 5 will feel like a return to the first Disgaea because he feels like the franchise has moved away from its original vibe. Phillips stated that they haven't even begun working on it, and agreed that every game does feel a bit different as they bring in new characters and whatnot. He can't say anything official, but Phillips agreed that there are a "gaggle" of characters that really need to come back and hopes to be able to give good news in the future. The same attendee agreed with an earlier attendee that a Disgaea fighting game would be awesome.

The panel ran out of time and moved into prize giveaways.

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