First thing first, I have to mention that I'm specifically talking about the Japanese developer Nippon Ichi Software, not their American publishing branch Nippon Ichi Software America.
It might be a bit of a surprise to some of you, but me, the idiot who wrote two really long threads about Neptunia's obscure reference (shameless self advertisement), is actually not a big fan of NIS until two months ago. I mean, I don't hate them, I had played few of their games but never finished them. I did finish Disgaea 3 a couple of years ago and I like what I played, but I don't think that's enough for me to call myself a fan, nor is it enough to convince me to be one. However, I always remain an open mind for their games and will give them a try whenever I have a chance. And then I saw my chance during my trip to Hong Kong, the limited edition of both The Guided Fate Paradox and The Witch and the Hundred Knight were lying in the display case. Now that I think about it, I must be crazy to spend those amount of money just to try out two games that I don't even know is it going to be good or not. The good news is, I don't think I regret it.
(To be fair, I only bought the limited edition of The Witch and the Hundred Knight because the regular edition is out of stock, that thing sold out quick)
And then I played them after I came back to the US.
And then I can't stop playing them.
And this is when I fall in love with them and become a fan.
Believe it or not, it took me quite some time to come up with that uninspiring title for the thread. I wanted to make a post about NIS because I want more people to know about them, but I just don't know what I should be talking about, so instead of discussing this topic objectively, I will just list out all the reasons of why I love them so much that I have Lilliel as my avatar pic after finishing only three of their games.
Unique Sense of Humor
I am pretty sure this is no surprise, after all, that unique sense of humor that can be only found in their games is one of the things they are
infamous for. This is easily found in the Disgaea series, take Disgaea 3 for example, it takes place in a school, and the story is about bunch o young men trying to kill a demon lord, sounds pretty typical eh? But there is a twist, the moral of the school is reverse, honorable students are the ones who skipped classes all the time, people who got good grades and do good things are all delinquents, and the main character wanted to kill the demon lord, his father, only because the reason of bad things are what a demon lord should do, and killing your own father simply because he broke your video game console is the worst thing you can ever do, find me a game like that. Of course you can't forget about forth wall jokes whenever you mention Disgaea, like how in Disgaea 2, Etna was really strong and high leveled before she join your party, but her level went drastically down because the main characters messed up her summoning ritual. Let's not forget about the part when Laharl was trying to make the game into an anime.
And then there is The Guided Fate Paradox, a game about a high school boy Renya, who became a god by winning a raffle outside of the supermarket, and his job is to grant people's wishes by changing people's fate. How? By going through dungeons. What does changing fate has to do with dungeons? Nothing, you just do it. And whose wishes he has to grant? Cinderalla, zombies, mermaids, anything but the expected. Though I think the best part about the humor in the game is not really the story, but the equipment.
The chances of finding another game where you can wear a horse mask as head gear? IMPOSSIBRU (that's just the translated version actually, in the original Japanese text, that skill is simply called Impossible).
Also, if you watched Gundam 00, try to find a weapon called Arm Blade and use it's skills. You will see what I mean.
The Witch and the Hundred Knight, featuring Metallica the Swamp Witch (who I would like to call the female Laharl, but then I realized there is already one), who loves her swamp so much that her motivation to dominate the whole world is fill it full of swamp. Totally legit reason for conquering the world. Though I have to say, that game does indeed have a lot less humor than other NIS titles, which brings us to the second reason.
Humorous Story, But with a Dark Twist
As much as I love comedy, I'm also a sucker for dark and insane stories, and NIS provided me for both.
Well you see, not every game they made has a funny story that's totally out there, for each funny moment in the game, there is always some crazy and scary stuff happen behind it, for example, two of Disgaea 2's villains, as well as that crazy Bad Ending, which I'm not spoiling in here(yes, I watched and read the spoilers of the game, that game is on my radar, well the whole series is on my radar anyway). And remember what I said about the main character in Disgaea 3 wanted to kill his dad for a stupid reason? Well it turns out there is more than that (though I think Disgaea 3 has the least story-focus game in the series). And in The Guided Fate Paradox, while everyone by Renya's side seems so friendly, in the same time you also feels like none of them actually trusted each other and are only doing what they were doing for their own gain. Not to mention the the mood in the beginning of Phantom Brave is just straight out depressing(from what I have heard, at least).
And then there is The Witch and the Hundred Knight, which, in my opinion, has the best story out of all the NIS games(but then again I only finished like 3 of them), it definitely has some memorable holy shit moments that you just can't find in other games, everything that seems to be nothing more than a comical moment in the beginning actually turns out to be something serious and lead to some tragic and crazy stuff. Not to mention it has one of the most unexpected final boss I have ever seen. Let's just say that despite she sounds like a villain from the description, Metallica is probably one of the most innocent character in the whole game(as well as one of my favorite character, her character development with the main character is excellent, you can really feel a strong bond between the two by the end of the game).
Keep Things Traditional
Innovation is one of the many things that are going on now, for the better or worse, with every developers (well, most developers) are trying to do something new, and I think that actually makes NIS a little special in the industry. Don't get me wrong, I like trying new things, but I think traditions are as important as innovations, the two of them need a balance, and I think NIS contributes to that balance greatly. They don't just keep the traditions, they know what they are doing when they are designing a game, they know how to make a game just fun to play within those traditional formulas. What's so special about Disgaea in terms of gameplay? The Witch and the Hundred Knight? Makai Kingdom? Rhapsody? Nothing really, but they are just fun and addictive. I honestly couldn't put the controller down when I was playing The Guided Fate Paradox, it might not be the same for other since I'm pretty sure it is not a game for everyone, but for me, that game actually manages to keep enjoyed in a way many AAA games that fails to do (Can't say the same about The Witch and the Hundred Knight though, which I won't explain now
so that I can have an excuse to make another thread. Don't worry, it's a good game nonetheless).
You see, I hate games that are grindy, but their games actually motivated me to grind, and I actually had fun grinding in the game, I think that alone says something about them. Not to mention in many of their games, grinding is optional, not required.
Moe, But Never Went Too Far
Okay, I know you are already virtually looking at me like I'm some freaky fat sweaty otaku, let me explain myself. Now, it's no secret that NIS like cutesy characters, they like 'moe' characters. But they also knows how to make interesting and likable characters. Now, if you hand the concept about a high school dude who has a little sister, and one day he became a god and was being served by bunch of female angels in maid uniform to a random developer, chances are that they will make it into a harem story with his sister loves him more than she should, and he will use his god like power to the pervy things.
But NIS didn't do that, instead, they turn it into a story with an interesting and likable cast of characters and one of the most realistically portrayed sibling in a Japanese game, to the point that in a way the "moe" actually reinforced for a better experience. And yes, there are male angels in butler suits, and they didn't get their screen time cut out either, but instead have a fair share of character development just as the others(though I was disappointed that Legiel is not a tsundere, I think Mana Khemia did this thing to me to start thinking that all blonde dudes with glasses are tsundere). This, my friend, is what I think a good example of how to do "moe" in a right way, and it's definitely refreshing to see someone can actually still pull this out today.
And let's not forget about other games like Disgaea. How many people here like the characters in Disgaea despite they have really big cutesy eyes? Exactly.
This one is a bit more personal, but I actually like the juvenile love story between the characters they wrote for some of the games, like Adell and Rozalin from Disgaea 2, or Renya and Lilliel from The Guided Fate Paradox. As much as I love a more mature take on love story, I think sometimes it's also great to just take a break by throwing all your adult issues behind and enjoy some puppy love.
Because it's mother f**king Asagi. What's not to love about her? You can't get a better video game character than this. Hollywood adaption can star Chuck Norris or Jet Lee.
Well for those you who don't who the hell Asagi is, she was originally planned to be the main character of a game called Makai Wars. Before the game was released, she made a cameo appearance in Makai Kingdom. And this when shit went bad, Makai Wars was cancelled.
But Asagi didn't.
Till this day, it was said that she is still wandering around somewhere in almost every NIS games by traveling back and forth through the forth-wall, trying to take the position of the main character away by defeating them...
To sums it up in a less dramatic way, she is NIS's Deadpool, except less crazier and more tragic, constantly appear in NIS games, challenging their main characters so that she can be one by defeating them. Well, obviously, she never heard of Kickstarter. Though she did briefly get to be the main character in the extra scenario unlocked in Prinny 2, where you get to play as Prinny Asagi defeating other Asagi clones such as manly Asagi, 8-bit Asagi and zombie Asagi. I heard that they will make a real game for her if she has enough following, let's hope that's true.
So that's it. If you have never been interested in NIS, I hope you do now. If you are already a fan, your turn, tell me what you like about them.
If I have to mention one bad thing, it will be that they never use Sawashiro Miyuki in their game. Even Atlus and Gust used her, why not you too, NIS?
Also, The Guided Fate Paradox and The Witch and the Hundred Knight is coming to west (former being next month, latter being next year), I love them, but I can tell they are not for everyone, so I plan to write a review for the two games before they come out.