Special Feature: Nippon Ichi Software’s 25th Anniversary Event

It’s been difficult not to be concerned about Nippon Ichi Software of Japan in the last few years, though they’re admittedly at fault for some recent problems they’ve stumbled into. Their bad luck started when they experienced a mass exodus of talent near the end of 2013, after some staffers didn’t approve of the actions their higher-ups were taking regarding pay and benefits. That luck worsened when their games had trouble selling in Japan, including their once-most-popular Disgaea franchise, which fell from grace after how Disgaea D2 and especially Disgaea 5 sold. (In retrospect, though, D2 sold well compared to their current titles.) Though The Witch and the Hundred Knight sold well on PS3, the sequel didn’t perform anywhere near as well on PS4 earlier this year.

Despite the hurdles they’ve run into, they’re still trucking on. Though some recent titles like the Danganronpa-esque Exile Election didn’t take off in Japan (to the point of not even charting in the week it released), they’ve been fairing a little better outside their home country. PC ports like the Disgaea games and Phantom Brave sold well, while Disgaea 5 Complete reached a good audience on Switch in the west. NIS also has a series of upcoming titles they’re hoping will give them better luck, like turn-based Minecraft-style game Hakoniwa Company Works and the PS4 port of first-person dungeon crawler Coven and the Labyrinth of Refrain. The company just held an event to commemorate their 25th Anniversary, and further flesh out their upcoming lineup.

The first title announced was The Silver 2425 for PlayStation 4, a bundle including Grasshopper Manufacture’s The Silver Case and sequel The 25th Ward: The Silver Case. The former remaster was published on PS4 in western territories by NIS America in April, which was a port of the PC effort published by Playism late last year. The 25th Ward is an upcoming effort for all territories.

While all The Silver Case needed was a remaster due to being originally designed for PSOne, 25th Ward is “almost a full remake” in creator and director Goichi “Suda51” Suda’s words, due to originally being designed for flip phones. 25th Ward was previously announced for a worldwide release at Bitsummit in late-May, but platforms weren’t announced alongside it. Now we know it’s at least coming to PS4, but a PC version will likely come through Playism. The package with both will release in Japan on March 25th, 2018, and 25th Ward should arrive around that point for the worldwide audience. The date is perfect, after all.

The second announcement was for the long-awaited Makai Wars, a feature title that’s been promised for recurring NIS joke character Asagi since she debuted in PS2 title Makai Kingdom. Asagi has teased her own title in several guest appearances she’s made in more than the last decade, but now her title is finally coming…on mobile platforms. Needless to say, her fanbase is divided.

Makai Wars has been through quite a development history. It was first announced for PSP back in 2004, but was moved to PS3 in 2005. But mentions of it mostly vanished following this, while NIS teased fanswith possible reveals (especially in 2013) and gave Asagi more cameo appearances. Now, the project is finally coming, though not in the form or on the platform many expected.

Though it’s a strategy/RPG that looks similar to others NIS has previously developed, no one expected it to be a mobile title, or for this to be the first significant project from NIS for the platform. This doesn’t mean it won’t be a worthwhile effort, but Asagi’s fans were holding out for a big (by NIS’ standards) console effort — at least in the west. This could be what their Japanese fans wanted, and a mobile game will reach a larger audience in that territory, so their strategy makes sense.

NIS didn’t provide a date for Makai Wars, but they should have an update soon.

When NIS announced this 25th anniversary event, it appeared it would be one of importance. But if these two announcements were the best they could provide, maybe we should be concerned about their well-being.

On the other hand, this could hint at how they intend to focus more on their western audience in the future, given that NIS America’s Anime Expo panel had more announcements for fans to cheer over — even if most of them were for localizations. The American department has had more luck than the Japanese one recently, so it might be worthwhile for them to aim their titles towards a new target audience, particularly after they run out of old strategy/RPGs to port to PC. If that’s their plan now, it would make sense that this event was light on announcements.

In any case, it would be best for everyone if the company remains in business as they are, as those who play games on consoles, handhelds, and PC wouldn’t want them to shift their focus to free-to-play mobile games like so many other Japanese companies.

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