Last night was a big moment for NIS, the developer of fan-favorite tactical RPGs such as Disgaea and Phantom Brave. The publisher’s US arm, NIS America, announced three new PS3-exclusive games set to roll out over the next calendar year: dungeon crawler Legasista, strategy-RPG Mugen Souls, and action-RPG The Witch and the Hundred Knights.
We sat down with NIS America Producer Jack Niida to learn more about each of the new titles. Enjoy, and leave your thoughts in the comments.
Legasista for PS3 (PSN)
This post-apocalyptic 2D-styled dungeon crawler — NIS America is describing it as a “survival action-RPG” — takes place in a far-flung future where science has been forgotten and technology is treated with superstitious awe. The gameplay and concept will be familiar to fans of the ClaDun series, but Legasista ups the ante by enabling you to customize your weapon and skills, creating “thousands of attack combos.” This PS3-exclusive RPG is scheduled to release in August 2012 on PSN. Below, we discuss first details with NIS America Producer Jack Niida.
PlayStation.Blog: Legasista is set far in the future, after society has somehow forgotten the nuts and bolts of science. What kicks off the story?
Jack Niida, Producer: It’s set a couple of thousand years in the future, after the world mysteriously ends. A structure called the Tower of Ivy is the only remnant of the past, and is filled with artifacts from the high-tech civilization that has since vanished. The main character is an adventurer named Alto, and after his little sister becomes petrified by a curse, he heads to the Tower of Ivy to try to find a cure. Of course, along the way he’ll encounter enemies and rival adventurers, but little by little Alto will build a team and progress through the Tower.
PSB: So far, Legasista’s cast includes an android and, perhaps most intriguingly, an intelligent bean sprout. What’s their deal?
JN: NIS is always known for its weird, quirky characters and comedic elements, and Legasista is partly inspired by NIS games such as the Disgaea series. The bean sprouts are basically part of an experiment that was conducted ages ago…and they just kept evolving and growing as time went on. Now they have a mind of their own! They are a type of NPC that can help you, showing up in the storyline and leading you to a randomly generated dungeon within the Tower of Ivy. So you can focus on the main story, or explore as much as you want – and the rarest, best items are found on these bean sprout stages.
PSB: Poison and cursing also seems to be a big focus, with some poisons even helping you. How does that work?
JN: It can be a little confusing! There are different classes of poison and ailments that you can take on from enemy attacks or traps. You might get a different effect depending on the combination of poisons; some poisons might just kill you quickly, others might put you to sleep or make you take more damage. But some combinations can actually help you; one combination will cause you to hallucinate and see other traps or hidden objects you normally couldn’t see. So in some cases, you may want to deliberately poison yourself.
PSB: There’s also a big emphasis on creating custom characters, including the ability to import your own artwork…
JN: You can actually load up a painting program in the game and create your own artwork pixel-by-pixel, if you want to, and it’ll animate in the game. If you’re not a great artist, you can import images from your PS3’s hard drive and the game will morph the art into a character. A photo of an environment won’t work so well, but a simple cartoon-type image should work well. You can also edit existing photos using the painting program in the game.
Mugen Souls for PS3
Due out on Blu-ray Disc this fall, Mugen Souls is notable for combining NIS’s traditional turn-based combat with free-roaming movement (i.e. it’s not grid-based) and for enabling you to seduce enemy characters to your party using “moe kills”, resulting in some 1000 playable potential party members — and even more, if you create your own. The main character is also able to switch between seven different personalities, each with different strengths and weaknesses.
PSB: What’s the general concept of Mugen Souls? Why would I want to play it?
JN: If you’re a fan of strategy RPGs like Disgaea, Makai Kingdom, and Phantom Brave, Mugen Souls is a game you’ll want to pick up. The game itself is heavily inspired by other NIS properties; it uses a turn-based battle system that allows you to roam freely on the battlefield. That means it’s not grid-based, you can move wherever you want when it’s your turn.
It’s somewhat old school compared to real-time strategy games, but turn-based games have that chess game element — it gives you time to think. If you want to sit down and take your time, Mugen Souls is definitely the one. It’s also got an amazing list of characters and a lot of comedy.
PSB: The lead character seems interesting, especially since she has seven different personalities. What’s her story?
JN: The main character is a little girl, a demonic little brat who wants to take over the seven different universes in the game. She has seven different personalities, and every time she changes into a different personality, her appearance totally changes — think Sailor Moon and you’re not too far off. You can transform whenever you want, and her stats and the way she fights changes. Depending on your team, you may want to change personalities accordingly.
PSB: You can also enslave enemies. How do I know how to enslave different enemy types?
JN: Once you begin to weaken an enemy, you can charm them instead of killing them. If you see an enemy who may benefit you, there’s an option to make them a teammate. You do this by uttering a series of seductive phrases; if those phrases matches the enemy’s personality, they’ll get charmed and they’ll join your side. So against a more aggressive, hyper enemy, you might want to use softer, kinder, praising phrases. Other enemies prefer to be overpowered or dominated a little, so you can choose those phrases too.
The Witch and the Hundred Knights
From the team behind the Prinny games and the designer behind Disgaea and Phantom Brave comes this intriguing action-RPG set for Blu-ray release in early 2013. In a major departure to NIS’s RPG tradition, the game is set in a fully 3D environment and features real-time RPG combat. What’s more, the darker, mature presentation is a serious deviation from the silliness of Disgaea.
PSB: This game is a serious departure for NIS. Why make an action-RPG when the company’s legacy resides in more traditional JRPG design?
JN: NIS is definitely known for its RPGs and strategy RPGs, but our team wanted to try something new. Compared to a full-blown action game, an action-RPG is a smaller leap for us; NIS is always going to be known for our RPG expertise, so we didn’t want to hop into a first-person shooter or anything! It’s probably better to build on what we’re good at instead of doing something completely different. So that led to the premise of The Witch and the Hundred Knights.
But we wanted to make it unique, so rather than focusing on a single character or a traditional RPG party, why not have 100 units and see what we can do? So that’s where the 100 knights come from. They’re a bit like the T-1000, they don’t have a true body and can morph into anything they wish. You can morph a knight into a tesla coil to zap enemies, or into a weapon, or a shield, and other objects and characters. So that’s how the 100 knights help you.
PSB: The storyline premise sounds interesting. Can you touch on this war between the Swamp Witch and the Forest Witch?
JN: There are two witches that have been going at each other for hundreds of years. The Swamp Witch, who is seriously evil, decides to destroy the Forest Witch once and for all. She stumbles upon the remains of a legendary dark knight who died hundreds of years before, resurrects him and enslaves him. So the Swamp Witch is your master and you have to follow what she says.
PSB: Are there wrinkles in that story? Do you have to work for here, or can you turn against her?
JN: That’s all up to the player. You can be as evil as you want by pillaging villages and killing innocent NPCs, or try to help them and solve their problems. There are two different paths, and it’s all up to the player.
PSB: Is this part of a bigger push for NIS to try new and different things?
JN: Absolutely. We’re known for our RPGs, but there are a lot of gamers out there who love different styles of games. So we want to listen to what they’re saying and cater to these different audiences. Action-RPGs seems like a good place to start!
So, NIS fans — what’s the verdict? Sound off in the comments!