Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice Interview (PS3)
Strategy Informer: Before we begin, could you spell out a few of the narrative and environmental differences we'll be seeing in Disgaea 3?
Sohei Niikawa: In comparison with Disgaea 1 and 2, the world setting is different. Disgaea 1 was netherworld, Disgaea 2 was fantasy, and with 3 we've decided to go with a school setting, because everybody has been to school at one time or another!
Strategy Informer: Unfortunately...
Sohei Niikawa: Exactly! So we thought it would be funny to put the school setting in netherworld, and make it crazier.
Also, with the last one, people could barely use the monster characters, so we wanted to create something they could use them with and have fun, so this is why we created Magichange, where the monster characters transform into a weapon which the human characters can utilise. We hope people will use these much more often this time round.
In other areas, Disgaea 1 and 2 had the Geo effect and the dark assembly for the random dungeons, but for Disgaea 3 we've improved that system and added more content like the Geo Blocks, with the dark Assembly becoming the School Council. So the basics will be the same but we've added more content on top.
Strategy Informer: You've been quoted as saying you wanted to make the storyline for Disgaea 3 as crazy as possible, do you feel you've gotten to the right level of madness with the final version? Or did you want to push further in the end?
Sohei Niikawa: For the school setting we think we've done everything we could do to make the experience as crazy as possible, including the storyline and characters – but as for the next game, we know we could do a lot more.
Strategy Informer: In terms of that school setting, can you briefly explain how that fits around the game structure?
Sohei Niikawa: Well, for example, in Disgaea 1 and 2 you had the Dark Assembly which has now changed to the school council. So in the classroom you have other characters – your allies – and how they sit next to each other and interact will convey different benefits to the user – things can be better or worse.
Every other system we have in Disgaea 3 has been connected to school rules and the school style, which is funny to see, and also – in the story – if you perform really badly in the school then you're actually a better student! So we've added an evil twist there.
Strategy Informer: The other thing I wanted to go into detail on was the new Geo Blocks system, and how they can be used in both attack and defence. Could you give us a few examples there?
Sohei Niikawa: The Geo Blocks came from the Geo effect in Disgaea 1 and 2, which used to be a flat plain, so for Disgaea 3 we added vertical levels which make the terrain 3D. As far as how it turns out in play, it's much like Tetris, so connect blocks of the same colour and they disappear – giving damage to whomever was on top of the column at the time.
You can also throw blocks to create paths to go through different sections, or destroy blocks to navigate past obstacles, so we have a lot of different ways of using them in the environment and gameplay.
Strategy Informer: A few different items have surfaced around how newbie-friendly the game is, with several websites giving completely contradictory reports. Where would you say Disgaea 3 lies in terms of being approachable for newcomers?
Sohei Niikawa: If you're a casual gamer then you probably won't be able to appreciate what Disgaea is all about, we created it for the hardcore. But we have a really comprehensive tutorials for the basics and the new systems, so those people who have never played the game before can enjoy Disgaea 3 easily. However, if you've never played a strategy RPG before... it'll be difficult for you to enjoy.
Strategy Informer: With the PS3 failing to gain a firm foothold on native turf, will the studio ever change focus to develop for a Western market first or will it always be a case of developing for Japan before porting across?
Sohei Niikawa: We would love to create something for the entire world to enjoy, but we're not entirely sure what that would be. We won't always just focus on Japan, but we create things that we think are fundamentally good and fun to play and crazy, and if that pleases people in different countries then that's the success.
Also, our first priority is pleasing the existing Disgaea fans, so we will keep on creating something fun and crazy that appeals to that crowd, and if other people grab it and enjoy it, then great!
Strategy Informer: On that note – and you must get asked this all the time – but now that you're running on the PS3 the leap to 3D can't be too far away? Or do you feel you have one more 2D title left in the series?
Sohei Niikawa: We will probably shift to 3D soon, however we will keep the 2D mechanics...
Strategy Informer: So the structure of the game will remain largely the same regardless of aesthetics?
Sohei Niikawa: Yes. It'll be a similar package, things will probably still almost look 2D, but will animate in full 3D for that type of effect. As far as our other games are concerned, these will likely be the same also – so things may look 2D, but will move and animate in 3D.
We appreciate the look of titles like Final Fantasy and other RPGs of that nature, but we're looking to take a different route.
Strategy Informer: With a lot of Japanese developers altering control schemes and themes to acclimatise for ease of play and an expanded worldwide audience – Resident Evil springs to mind immediately – do you think Disgaea can continue with the same core philosophy or will change inevitably occur at some point?
Sohei Niikawa: We don't think people will ever be expecting us to alter the entire game to adopt to Westernised standards, and if we did that it'd be bad for our company as a whole. But when we design, we're careful to choose themes that will not only appeal to Japan, or only appeal to America or Europe and so on. So for Disgaea 3 it was important for us to use the school setting, as everybody knows this.
On another note, if we were to make a game that had a truly global appeal right now, what race of people or nationality should we use? What would you use?
Strategy Informer: Difficult question! And one with no answer really.
Sohei Niikawa: Exactly! So as it stands – in short - we've no plans to ever make a fully westernised title.
Strategy Informer: The other thing I wanted to check on was the downloadable content, and when this will be available in the US - and more interestingly Europe, as I don't think we've had any confirmation of whether it'll appear yet?
Sohei Niikawa: As far as the US is concerned, we'll probably start downloading within the year. We've got no set date just yet, but we know it is in the pipeline. As far as Europe is concerned, we're still discussing it but I'm pretty confident we'll have something shortly.Disgaea 3 is already out in the US, and set for an early 2009 European launch.
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