Nippon Ichi Software President Sohei Niikawa talks Disgaea (Interview)
Live Game Deals had an opportunity to speak with Nippon Ichi Software President and creator of the brilliant Disgaea series, Sohei Niikawa.
Disgaea: Hour of Darkness elevated the strategy RPG genre to new heights with beautiful animation, a masterful battle system that still felt fresh 100 hours in, first class voice acting, and stylish humor. The iconic title saw itself reborn on PC back in 2016 and has recently made its grand return with Disgaea 1 Complete for the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4 consoles!
We spoke with the man behind Disgaea, creator and Nippon Ichi Software President Sohei Niikawa, about what he feels made fans connect with originals Laharl, Etna, and Flonne on such a personal level. It’s no coincidence after all, that the trio have had a cameo in every mainline Disgaea title ever since!
Nir Regev: Why do you feel Disgaea fans seemingly still connect with Laharl, Etna, and Flonne the most above the other titles? Is it due to it being the original cast or the overall art design/writing direction of the characters?
Sohei Niikawa: That might be because we weren’t thinking about a sequel or anything and made these characters with the mindset of making the most interesting, appealing characters ever. I feel that because it was the first time in the Netherworld and the first time with demons, we were able to pull out a previously unknown level of “interesting” to create these characters.
We are trying as hard as we can, today, to create characters that are just as interesting as that original trio.
Would you consider another straight sequel to Disgaea 1 similar to Disgaea D2? Is a new DLC planned for Disgaea Complete featuring the original trio of Laharl, Etna, and Flonne?
I don’t know if it will be an outright sequel, but in the future, I want to give Laharl, Etna and Flonne their place to shine.
Do you feel a large component of Western audiences’ connection to characters like Laharl came from their top English voice actors? NIS America is one of the few companies these days that still dubs their titles, will this continue in the future?
NISA do localizations that are what the fans want. They also choose English voice talent that fits the image of the characters. So long as fans continue to desire English voices, we will continue to provide them.
Would you consider doing another cartoon/anime series for Disgaea with the original voice cast?
I’m still interested in revisiting Disgaea in anime form. We are always at the ready to license it out and we’re waiting to hear from Amazon or Netflix any day now! (Laughs)
What’s it like working together with artist Takehito Harada to bring Disgaea ideas to life?
I create a document that explains the scenario and characters and Harada-san references that when he designs the characters. I also receive various suggestions from Harada-san and I feel that the character creation process is very collaborative. Certainly, Disgaea is what it is because of Harada-san’s illustrations.
You’ve spoken in the past that every employee at NIS has an opportunity to pitch a game title. How many employee’s ideas that had no game development or artist background successfully got their idea to be made and were actively involved with the game’s later development?
“htoL#NiQ”, “Yomawari”, and “The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince” were all created in the Internal Indies program. The creators of each of these games were all basically brand-new to the company when they made these titles, but each of them had an unquenchable passion that didn’t pale in comparison to seasoned creators.
The older people in the company supported them in the technical areas they were lacking in and they were each able to realize their respective visions 100%. They will each continue to grow and I believe they will continue to create games that are representative of the Nippon Ichi Software Group.
What are the day-to-day challenges of being the President of NIS?
I’m usually thinking about what needs to be done next. For example, current issues and how to deal with them, our future title lineup and how to make each title within it a reality, how to grow and foster our staff through our current projects, and so on. I also still occasionally write game scenarios.
I noticed you stated a Prinny 3 sequel would require a guarantee of 100,000 copies sold. How often do you take chances on titles with no guarantee of success? Go against the grain of even focus groups so-to-speak.
We continue to create projects that are going against the grain and challenging.
On the other hand, I see sales numbers as a popularity poll, and those titles with lower “votes” are harder to make sequels for.
There was a petition on Change.org started for Disgaea amiibos last year after you did an ‘Ask Me Anything’ on Reddit. You said it’s a possibility at the time. Any updates?
I would love to release a Prinny Amiibo someday.
You’ve been very open in the past about wanting to collaborate with other companies. One of those companies you were asked about was Arc System Works and a fighting game, and coincidentally a comparison to Dragon Ball Z. Are you close to some kind of deal with Arc System Works?
I wonder… I would love to be able to realize that someday.
You’ve mentioned you see Prinny itself as a hopeful future Mickey Mouse mascot and recently NIS has a working relationship with SNK/Neo Geo. Do you see an amusement park similar to Neo Geo World opening with both companies’ characters in the future?
That’s the dream. I would love for Prinny to come out as a mascot character in a place like that though.