Platform(s): Nintendo Switch™, PlayStation®4
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NISA Europe: First off, I would like to congratulate you on the 15th anniversary of the Disgaea series!
Niikawa San: Thank you!
Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk is the first time Nippon Ichi software has developed this type of RPG. How was the jump to developing this new type of RPG for the studio?
Niikawa-San: Exactly! As you said, this is the first time Nippon Ichi Software has delved into what we call the “Wizardry” type RPG in Japan. However, because there are games like Wizardry and lots of other really good examples in this genre, we looked at what worked well and what didn’t when developing Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk. After looking at all the good elements of these types of RPG we were able to put the Nippon Ichi Software flavour on top, and that is how we approached the development of Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk.
NISA Europe: Wow, that sounds really cool!
Niikawa-San: Comparing it to Disgaea, if you look at the basic playability of the game and how it plays from a movement point of view, it’s very orthodox but has all these different intricate elements that differentiate it from any other game in its genre. We approached Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk in a similar manner.
What influences did the development team look at when creating the world and characters of Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk?
Niikawa-San: I actually didn’t write the story for Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk, it was Izumi-San (Tatsuya Izumi) who previously directed and wrote The Witch and the Hundred Knight. Izumi-San took a lot of care and effort when writing the story; it’s really deep and dark, very different from the Disgaea series. Izumi-san's goal was to create something that’s as great as Disgaea or even greater! Obviously, it’s a new series and there aren't as many fans as Disgaea, but the approach to the story in Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk showcases his ability as a really good writer.
NISA Europe: So is it safe to say there is some kind of rivalry between you and Izumi-San?
Niikawa-San: Regarding comedy stories, I think I come out on top, but when it comes to more serious things like this, I definitely have to give it to Izumi-San.
Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk is a new IP for Nippon Ichi Software. How was it managing the development of this title compared to a more established series, like Disgaea or The Witch and the Hundred Knight?
Niikawa-San: When it comes to new IP, Nippon Ichi Software strives to release between 4 and 6 games that could be considered new IP every year. As you mentioned earlier on, it is the 15th anniversary for Disgaea, but there are new things that need to come out in order to surprise players. We believe it’s our mission to continue creating new IP, this is a mindset everyone on the team has. We are always looking and thinking of new ways to make something that will resonate with players.
So, you might have heard about a system we use at the head office, which allows anyone in the company, including those that don’t work in game development, to propose a game idea. After all the games have been submitted, we choose the best game to be made. We’ve continued using this method six times so far, which is how titles like htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary and Yomawari came to be!
This method represents the kind of idea that we should continue making new ideas instead of treading the same waters. This is something you never hear any companies in the game industry ever do; and it’s great that it’s open to everybody, from new employees to current ones. I even throw in some ideas occasionally. People from all over Japan join our company located in Gifu, which is a small place in the middle of nowhere, because they heard about this system and want to be part of the team.
We heard that Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk and The Witch and the Hundred Knight series are somewhat connected, can we expect any cameos or references?
Niikawa-San: As it's the same writer and director as The Witch and the Hundred Knight series, the world is kind of the same; so if you like The Witch and the Hundred Knight, as well as find it interesting and compelling, then definitely pick up Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk.
Translation by: Alan Costa