In these seemingly tumultuous times in our industry where you hear about a game studio shutting down more often than I'd like it's great to see the little guys still chugging along. If I had to pick a favorite from the little guys it'd have to be NIS America. I got a chance to play one of their upcoming games - Mugen Souls - as well as sit down with some of the guys from NIS America to ask some questions about their other titles, the localization of Mugen Souls, and anime localization.
First, Mugen Souls. You play as Chou-Chou, a self-proclaimed Undisputed Goddess who has decided to take over seven worlds. Doing so requires that you make the Demon Lord and Hero of each land your peon, and so Chou-Chou sets off on a mission to make everyone in her way kneel before her. That's her story and she's sticking to it. Oh, and she has eight different personalities that she can switch between at will, forgot about that. It's not meant to be anything epic or serious; it's all-out comedy.
A main character with octuplet personality syndrome isn't the only kooky and unique part of Mugen Souls, however, there's also the crazy battle system. It's a pretty standard turn based battle system, albeit with some crazy animations and a Disgaea-like team attack system for allies close enough to each other, but then you get into the crystals and the moe kills.
Crystals are strewn around the battlefield, and they all have their different preferences for girls, or what they find cute (or “moe”), as well as their mood at that time. Enemies on the battlefield also have preference. Change Chou-Chou to the appropriate personality - and say the right things enough times - and you can change your enemies into money or items, but if you say the opposite of what they want to hear then you'll antagonise them and double their level. Nick Doerr, an editor at NISA, told me that these moe actions weren't part of Chou-Chou's normal turn, so you can try them without sacrificing a turn, which is useful since it seems you have to make quite a few attempts before you get the desired results.
If you perform these same moe attacks against a crystal it'll put bumpers in the sky. Normally you can use attacks to smash enemies into other enemies, like in a game of pinball, but when these bumpers are in the sky and you toggle on the “blast off” option on one of these skills you can try to hit the bumpers. It takes a bit of doing to get the right angle in order to actually hit one, but just like in real pinball if you can get them up into the bumpers they'll smash around for some massive bonuses in experience, money, and items.
Much internet discussion, and maybe, just maybe, the odd in-person conversation has been about the cuts being made to Mugen Souls in order to bring it to the States. You see, in the original Mugen Souls there was a bath scene with a naked Chou-Chou that you could interact with (think heavy petting with a sponge) which would increase her stats. For those who didn't like the idea you could skip that specific scene and still get all of the stat increases. NIS America decided that the bath scene was just too much for Western shores considering the apparent age of the main characters, so they yanked it and now you'll just get the stat increases without that particular scene. Nick also mentioned they had to change one of Chou-Chou's personalities that was highly explicit in her language; she's been toned down for the North American release. So don't worry though, NISA fans, there's nothing that changes the overall story.
Earlier I got a chance to talk to several employees of NIS America (Nao Zook, Ryan Phillips, and Jack Niida) at length about their other titles, as well as their thoughts on anime localization. When Black Rock Shooter came into the discussion they mentioned that it was still in the works, so there's a bit of reassurance for those that were beginning to worry about the title's fate. I asked them how things were going with their relationship with Gust after the Tecmo Koei buy out and they said they were actively discussing this with both Gust and Tecmo Koei; they would love to continue on the Atelier Series, and will keep their fans updated of any developments. Obviously not the straight up "yes" I wanted to hear, but things are looking up.
Discussion then moved on to anime localization and when asked if they would consider dubbing titles in the future, Ryan Phillips said that it was a debate for when they started localizing anime, but at this point their position is unlikely to change. Dubbing is a huge financial investment and if they did that they'd only be able to bring over a fraction of the series that they've been able to localise so far. The anime streaming site Crunchyroll came up in discussion as well, and Ryan said that when Crunchyroll is simulcasting a series that NISA plans to work on in the future that the two companies collaborate to speed up the process.
While NISA only had one demo on the floor this year that's not to say that it's their only game coming soon. So if you're a fan of Japanese gaming, like me, then keep a look out for the following:
Legasista, coming to PSN August 21st.
Mugen Souls, coming to the PS3 on September 18th.
The Witch and the Hundred Knights, coming to the PS3 in early 2013.