NIS America Spring Showcase Coverage
I was able to attend NIS America’s annual Spring Showcase for the second year in a row (congrats me!), with only the faintest knowledge of what the company was going to be showing off this year. However, I left the event pleasantly surprised with what they have to offer for 2013.
The event kicked off with a couple of minor, somewhat nonchalant announcements about the company before the new games were revealed to the audience.
First, the long-delayed The Witch and The Hundred Knights, a game I saw footage of & previewed last year at NIS’s 2012 event, is still due for release in North America in 2013. Last I had heard before the event, it was scheduled to release in Q1 of this year, though with a month left in the quarter, I’m not exactly sure if they’re going to pull it off. However, the game looked very promising when I had last saw it, so I’ll gladly wait to get my hands on the title.
Second, though seemingly a no-brainer, NIS announced that they will be supporting the PlayStation 4 platform in the future & are more than eager to share their upcoming titles for the next-gen system in the near future.
Now then, let’s get to some games. Four games were shown/announced at the event. I’ve written blurbs of impressions & notes about the games about each one below.
This is an iOS “edutainment” title developed by Yummy Yummy Tummy that is already available on iOS platforms, but will be seeing an update in the Spring. Character Chowdown aims to teach players how to read Kanji and other Japanese characters though a simple touch-based game, featuring characters from the Disgaea series. Tap on the correct character for your avatar to eat. There are achievements & the difficulty level scales to your grasp of the language. The game is already available on the App Store if you want to give it a shot before the update releases.
Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness
Perhaps the most beloved of NIS’ properties, the Disgaea series is returning for a PlayStation 3 exclusive title releasing in the fall. This is a direct sequel, taking place right after the first Disgaea, where fan-favorites Laharl, Etna & Flonne take part in a new, slightly more light-hearted and tongue-in-cheek adventure. Laharl becomes the Overlord of the Netherworld but is seen as more or less of a joke, so he ventures out with Etna & Flonne to gain the respect he deserves, while uncovering more secrets & surprises on the way. NIS America emphasized the newly streamlined combat & menu systems, in an attempt to lower the learning curve for folks who might have been overwhelmed with the previous games in the series (myself, basically) while providing the robust character customization & strategy that the fans have fawned over for a decade.
The Guided Fate Paradox
The Disgaea team is taking on this so-called “spiritual successor” to the PSP rogue-like ZHP: Unlosing Ranger vs. Darkdeath Evilman for the PlayStation 3. The game follows a student named Renya who, one day, meets the angel Lilliel & becomes a deity-like figure after winning a lottery. Renya & Lilliel must travel the dungeons of the “copy world” in order to change events in the real world & make humanity’s dreams come true. The game itself is a rogue-like, strategy RPG with randomly generated dungeons. The 2D art, commissioned by Noizi Ito (known for the Haruhi Suzymiya series of graphic novels) complements the ridiculous amount of customization found in the title (Lilliel was riding a Prinny-shaped rocket in the demo, for instance). The grid-based, isometric style of gameplay will feel strangly familiar to those familiar with the genre.
One thing that NIS really wanted to drive home was the accessibility of the title. As opposed to more “by the book” rogue-like titles, Guided Fate is much more forgiving. Picking up & equipping new items will give the character access to a special ability or attack. The player can even boost Reyna’s stats permanently & store certain items for later use, dodging the frustrating literal sense of loss felt when a player dies in the middle of a dungeon, losing all the loot & experience they racked up to that point in time. Some might cry foul, but these additions could make for a compelling title that stands on its own in the genre down the line. Look for it in the fall.
Time and Eternity
Time and Eternity is an incredibly ambitious RPG from Namco Bandai & Imageepoch that’s due out on the PS3 this summer. The main character, Toki, is a beautiful princess from Kazma, awaiting to wed her knight in shining armor until said knight is assassinated during the ceremony. Little did they know that Toki has a second “soul” living within her, Towa. Together, they can travel though time & uncover clues to the mystery.
The game is turn-based (with some slight real-time elements), featuring one-on-one combat. The player will switch between the two alter egos as they level up though the game, though they cannot change between them on the fly while in battle, so it is encouraged that the player knows the strengths of each- Toki is a ranged fighter, armed with a musket, while Towa prefers knives & hand-to-hand combat, for instance. The game itself is a sight to look at, as NIS America even compared it as a combination of an anime & a game, though with much more agency on the player’s part (this isn’t Asura’s Wrath after all). There’s definitely a heavy emphasis on animation priority, as I viewed from the hands-off demo, but the detailed characters are a sight to behold.