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Nippon Ichi

Review: Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc

Feb 10 // Wesley Ruscher
Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc (PS Vita)Developer: Spike ChunsoftPublisher: NIS AmericaReleased: February 11, 2014MSRP: $39.99 As Makoto Naegi, you've been accepted to the prestigious Hope’s Peak Academy, a school that only admits the most talented “Ultimate” students of various fields each year. Though strangely for Makoto, he’s pretty average across the board and only got the chance to enroll because he won a raffle as the “Ultimate Lucky Student.” However, upon reaching the school’s gates, his luck begins to run out. Inexplicably, Makoto suddenly loses consciousness only to awake hours later in what appears to be the school’s gym surrounded by 14 other “Ultimate” students. No one knows what is going on, except for one fact: they’re trapped. [embed]270284:52512:0[/embed] It’s here where a maniacal remote-controlled bear named Monokuma appears -- a two-faced Teddy Ruxpin looking monster, with a penchant for rules -- who drops the bombshell that all the students are now imprisoned at the school for the rest of their lives. That is, unless they are willing to do the unthinkable to earn graduation from the academy: murder another student without getting caught. Well it wouldn't be much of game, or a story, if some of the students didn't eventually succumb to the pressures and start killing each other. In the time leading up to a murder event, known as “the Daily Life,” you’ll spend the majority of it getting to know each student and trying to understand the situation that has befallen you. During this time, you’ll explore the available areas of the school from a first-person perspective. Similar to the investigation scenes in the Phoenix Wright series, you’re free to scour each area in search of information or to perhaps talk to a student hanging out in the area. Once all the information is collected for the day, the game pushes the story forward. Eventually the game awards the player with “free time,” which allows Makoto to roam the school and build stronger relations with other students. Akin to Persona’s Social Link segments, whom you talk to is completely your choice. Additionally, you can also purchase gifts from a capsule vending machine to gift to them in order to increase your bonding. The interactions are quite simple, but they are a necessity since they also allow Makoto to build up special skills that he can later use in the game’s main attraction: Class Trials. All this good willed nature comes to an end with the discovery of a murder, in which the game enters the “Deadly life” section of gameplay. The first phase consists of investigating and collecting clues, called “Truth Bullets,” for the looming trial ahead. Like the earlier phases of the Daily Life, the game pushes the story forward upon the collection of all pertinent information. These moments that lead up to the Class Trial could be very tedious under a poor script. And though NIS America’s localization is usually hit or miss with me, the majority of the characters here are exceptionally interesting. I found myself enjoying the messed up situations that surrounded even the more flamboyant characters; waiting to see how they would respond once the crap hit the fan. Of course, with fourteen characters you’re bound to find tropes, but their predictable tendencies are often used to throw players off the scent. Additionally, the game moves at a much more rapid pace than most other adventure/visual novel style games which helps keep the tension focused throughout. Once the Class Trial begins though, the tension magnifies immensely. Similar to the Phoenix Wright series, false accusations can be your undoing, but unlike those games, time also serves as your opponent. There are four main styles used for figuring out who the culprit is in each trial (Nonstop Debates, Epiphany Anagram, Machinegun Talk Battle, and Climax Logic) and they get progressively more difficult as the game moves on. Nonstop debates lead off each trial and involve all surviving classmates. During these discussions, it’s up to the player to find contradictions in specific highlighted phrases and shoot them down with the acquired Truth Bullets gathered from the previous investigation. White noise created from other students can interfere with hitting the right statement in later trials in addition to some other surprise elements that are added later to up the difficulty of these scenes. As the answers begin to unfold in the trial, players eventually get into a one-on-one Machinegun Talk Battle debate with a fellow student. This style threw me for a loop the first time, as it mixes rhythm based gameplay with shooting down a student’s remarks. Progressively, like the other styles, it gets harder to maintain the rhythm further since opponents can make your tempo bar disappear or change the speed of the rhythm entirely. The idea to add action, via shooting or by rhythm, segments into the actual trial is something I really enjoyed once I got the hang of things. It cleverly brings tension -- something you would actually feel if your life was on the line -- during every murder trial. The fact that things get more difficult, later in the game, only amplifies the disparity of the situation at hand. Getting an answer wrong is one thing, but it’s entirely different when you choke under the pressure of time. My favorite of the gameplay styles though was the Climax Logic puzzle. In this style, a comic strip -- that recreates the events of the murder -- must be put together using the fragments of information derived from the trial with the basic facts already known. Time is your only enemy here, but there are typically extra potential answers to each slot in the puzzle that can lead a player astray. Danganronpa mixes a variety of art styles throughout each case, but the way it all comes together helps paint an exquisitely disturbing picture. Its mix of 2D and 3D, over-the-top death scenes, hyper stylized murder images (with neon pink blood) combined with a well thought out story make the game’s world all that much more alluring, even amongst its sadistic nature. Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc is easily one of the most intriguing games I've played in quite some time. It’s as if Persona and Phoenix Wright got together and had a little demon spawn that I didn't want to put down -- no matter how disturbing it can be at times. For fans of adventure/visual novel games, this is an easy must play on Vita this year. But it’s also a great entry for those who tend to find this type of game a little on the slow side and well worth the time.
Trigger Happy Havoc  photo
Phoenix Wright X Persona
Adventure games enable developers to guide their audience on an incredibly focused journey. Completely scripted -- with little variation or user input that impacts the outcome -- they rely on the quality of their storytelli...

Review: The Guided Fate Paradox

Nov 04 // Wesley Ruscher
The Guided Fate Paradox (PS3)Developer: Nippon Ichi SoftwarePublisher: NIS AmericaReleased: November 5, 2013MSRP: $49.99 As Renya, a 17-year-old high school student down on his luck and just about the most unfortunate soul ever, your life is exponentially changed one day when you meet a cute girl in a maid outfit. Long story short; she sees you have a lottery ticket, makes you enter a raffle, you win the grand prize, then she pulls out a spiked club and smacks you on the head. When you finally come to you awake in a strange land known as Celestia surrounded by a gaggle of angels and demons dressed like maids and butlers... oh and you're now God.  But you're not just some omnipotent deity from the moment you come to. As the one and true God it’s your job to answer the prayers of all living creatures (including fairy tale characters) in the universe, using something called the Fate Revolution Circuit, to guide their fates to happiness. Like any new job you've got some things to learn; a group of coworkers to get know; and more importantly a plethora of systems to manage all while some fiendishly evil devils plot, from Disgaea's Netherworld, a scheme to overthrow the heavens. [embed]264852:51152:0[/embed] The story is what you'd come to expect from a NIS title. It borrows heavily from the typical tropes of anime and prepubescent humor, but keeps it all in line to tell a cohesive narrative. While the subject matter deals with angels and devils, it’s hardly preachy. There’s likeable characters (pretty much all the cast of heaven and hell) and some truly awful ancillary characters (damn that zombie) that make the game’s dubbing, which for the most part holds steady to NIS standards, borderline unplayable. The game does include the original Japanese voices, so if that’s your cup of tea it’s something I'd recommend for overall consistency. The music is also fantastic, especially when it goes all Japanese symphonic metal.  Though the story is not as wacky as in NIS's Disgaea series, the battle system in contains just as many crazy subsystems. It shifts away from the strategy-RPG set-up that NIS is most famously known for, and instead tackles the brutality of a dungeon crawling roguelike. It that may sound scary at first,  but the game does a fantastic job of introducing each and every subtle system needed to slaughter the likes of anything foolish enough to challenge god. Battles break down into a sort of chess-like structure with a twist, where when the player performs an action (be it moving, attacking, or healing) every other unit on the map gets the opportunity to counter. Those new to the genre can find this overwhelming at first, since ill-advised moves can find one quickly outnumbered. The control scheme can additionally lead to some accidental deaths, as adjusting to the camera's rotation can cause you to move in the wrong direction from time to time. It's annoying at first, but is quickly forgotten over the long haul.  As God though, you never go into battle alone. Through the course the game you'll be able to take in any one of your angel companions into the fold to help you wipe out the aberrations that are preventing prayer’s to come true. Each angel offers a different skill that aids in progression ranging from healing, shielding, and added follow-up strikes. Additionally angel companions can be given a behavioral intelligence to direct their exploring and enemy killing habits. When entering any dungeon for the first time players will always start at level one. This may sound like some sort of cruel and unusual punishment to the unfamiliar, but it’s one of the most rewarding, though sometimes frustrating, mechanics found in Japanese roguelikes.Where Guided Fate Paradox differs from other titles in the genre, that severely punish players amongst death, is that levels gained in combat contribute to an overall “Total Level” that makes you stronger each time you being a dungeon. As the total level grows, players can assign points to Renya's attributes through a system known as the Divinigram.  Similar to Final Fantasy X's sphere grid, the Divingram is a large gridded board that allows Renya’s core stats (attack, defensive, hit, and speed) to be improved. They scale with his total level and can additionally be boosted with clever arrangements and the assistance of Holy Icons purchased from the game’s shop. On top of that Holy Artifacts (which can be boosted by strategic placement of Holy Icons) can be placed in the Divingram that add perks to weapons and armor or increase the overall capacity of items that Renya can carry. It sounds like a lot to swallow, but is in execution is fairly simple. Moving through each floor and killing enemies builds both you and your angels levels as well as the strength of your gear called Divine equipment. Dungeons typically consist of 10 floors, with enemies becoming stronger from floor-to-floor and the final floor culminating in a boss battle that pits Renya without the aid of his angel servant in battle. Pushing to the last floor is a careful dance of gaining levels, strengthening items, and not running out of energy. The biggest key to successfully completing any dungeon, funny enough, is not dying. It sounds like a no-brainer, but along with being reverted back to level one and having to push through a dungeon again, all items Renya is carrying are lost for good. It’s additionally upsetting when you've leveled up gear multiple times. Divine weapons are really your one and only savior, especially when you have two of the same items equipped since they allow you the ability to unload spectacular attacks that fill the screen with flashy over-the-top visual stimuli. The best strategy is to keep some exit items on you when the going gets tough, but the occasional enemy swarm can catch even the most prepared off guard and out of luck. Visually, The Guided Fate Paradox offers up some charming character designs. Big colorful sprites encompass the battle field, and though enemy types are limited to a few per dungeon, each dungeon varies in both theme and enemies keeping things fresh. My favorite visual touch, hands down, goes to all the nutty gear equipable on both Renya and his angel companions. Everything you equip is portrayed on their bodies no matter how ridiculous: Fish heads, Prinny jets, mech legs, batwings and so on. The combinations you'll end up with sometimes border on abominations, but in an roguelike appearance is the last thing to worry about. The Guided Fate Paradox may not have the most engrossing story, and at times, it can roll at a snails pace when in full swing, but its overall attention to the little things is what makes it one of this year's surprises. You'll die, you'll cry, you may even reboot some saves ad nauseam, but that's the sadistic charm of a great roguelike -- a game that may not be for everyone, but one that offers enough addictive carnage for veterans and newcomers alike. 
Guided Fate reviewed! photo
Even angels have last names
One of the greatest things about video games is the opportunity they afford us to take on roles we'd normally never have the chance to do. For example, in The Guided Fate Paradox, the latest from the team that brought us the ...

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A new Nippon Ichi action RPG is in the works


Says Dengeki
Oct 09
// Dale North
We know that Nippon Ichi are working on a new RPG, which is pretty much a given at any time as well as a huge 'no sh*t' kind of thing. But Dengeki PlayStation says its an action RPG. Maybe it's something like the upcoming The...
The Guided Fate Paradox photo
The Guided Fate Paradox

The Guided Fate Paradox headed west on November 5


Dood, check out that sweet limited edition!
Aug 18
// Wesley Ruscher
Though NIS America's last title left much to be desired, I can't help but be overly optimistic for the release of The Guided Fate Paradox. Set to release November 5, the upcoming PlayStation 3 exclusive roguelike will be ava...
Dragon's Crown photo
Dragon's Crown

NIS America publishing Dragon's Crown in PAL territories


Cool dood!
Jul 13
// Kyle MacGregor
A rating for Dragon's Crown has emerged from the Australian Classification Board, indicating the PlayStation 3 and Vita title will be released in PAL territories. The listing suggests NIS America will distribute the title for...
Time and Eternity photo
Time and Eternity

Time and Eternity looks great, and sounds great too


Music by Yuzo Koshiro
Jun 11
// Jayson Napolitano
Okay, we posted about Time and Eternity a couple months back, and many of you seemed to have reservations. You might have even read a review of the Japanese version over on our sister-site, Japanator. I just came back fr...
Limited edition unboxing photo
Limited edition unboxing

Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory LE lunch box unboxed


Not safe for school... or work
Apr 09
// Jayson Napolitano
The thing I am most excited about regarding Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory is Nobuo Uematsu's soundtrack which also features an appearance by his band, the Earthbound Papas. The OST is included with the limited edition ...

The story behind Time and Eternity's revolutionary look

Mar 05 // Steven Hansen
“Even at the beginning of RPGs, people wanted to make games like this -- animated games -- but the tech wasn’t there. Even now, it’s really hard to do. Through the whole process of making the game and working on the game, we thought we were going to die a million times,” Hirono explains, working through a translator. The influence of anime on the Japanese gaming sphere is evident. Just look at the proliferation of the anime-styled visual novel genre that’s so successful in Japan. That influence colors Time and Eternity more than it does most. That’s why Imageepoch outsourced the animation to Satelight, known for Macross -- Robotech in the US -- and the recent Bodacious Space Pirates, which I’m told is as good as its title. Hirono talked about wanting an instantly recognizable look. Something with a little more nuance, style or idiosyncrasy to transcend a ubiquitous, general anime look, as well as the desire to avoid moe cuteness. Though Nichijou (My Ordinary Life) is one of the best shows ever, I respect the decision. Ultimately, they found this required fresh blood, so they traveled to Taiwan to get their look. The Taiwanese artist Vofan is “known as the illustrator of lights and colors. His illustrations look a lot like water color in a way,” Hirono said. You can find some of his work here. I flipping love it. Vofan got on the radar thanks to his illustrating work for the light novel series Bakemonogatari, which was a huge hit in Japan and adapted into an equally huge anime with character designs drawn from his style. “He’s the only person doing this kind of art, so it’s recognizable instantly.” The style fit the bill and the ball got rolling. “He wasn’t the one and only choice,” Hirono said. “We approached five or six other illustrators as well.” They had him draw one half of Time and Eternity’s leading duo, Toki, first “and when he did, everyone thought, ‘Wow, this is what we like.’” After five or six months the details were hammered out and Vofan came on the project in official capacity, adding some international influence to something that is typically Japanese. The logistics of getting 2D animation moving the way they wanted it, of course, was still a hurdle. “There was no previous example of how to do a game exactly like this. [The team] made a sample version of the game in the office to see what translated best into the animation and Vofan’s work translated well into that.” While his hand drawn work for the game features less of his signature lighting flourishes and water-color palette, it still looks stunning. As a proponent of 2D art and general enjoyer of anime, it’s exciting to see Time and Eternity come to fruition. Whether I’ll like the end product couched in JRPG orthodoxy remains to be seen, but, like cel shading before, it’s nice to see yet another visual style at developers’ command.
Draw so hard photo
Dark Souls producer Kei Hirono explains the making of an 'animation RPG'
When the PlayStation 1 and N64 came out and rough, polygonal, 3D character models became the norm, it took me a while to realize what was wrong. Playing certain games would creep into the uncanny. It took me a surprisingly lo...

Disgaea Item World photo
Disgaea Item World

Disgaea ditches the Item World for the Item Sea in D2


Shiver me timbers!
Feb 19
// Chris Carter
According to a report from Siliconera, it appears as if Disgaea Dimension 2 will change a mechanic that's been a part of the franchise from the beginning -- the item world. The Item World is basically a way for people to grin...
INAFUNE LAZOR photo
INAFUNE LAZOR

I'M KEIJI INAFUNE, AND I'M-A FIRIN' MUH LAZOR!


Inafune is a giant spaceship in Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory
Feb 05
// Tony Ponce
Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory, the second sequel to the admittedly bland RPG about anthropomorphic videogame consoles fighting a literal console war, is still on track for a PS3 release in the US on March 12, 2013. Despite ...
Disgaea photo
Disgaea

Laharl gets...um...what...for Disgaea Dimension 2


Can't wait to see what the context is
Jan 17
// Chris Carter
The Disgaea franchise is known to get a little crazy every now and then. But not this crazy! It appears as if returning protagonist Laharl is going to undergo some... changes at some point in the game. Siliconera is reporting...
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Disgaea Dimension 2 gets a crazy new video


Classic Disgaea craziness ensues
Dec 28
// Chris Carter
At this point, you know whether you're a Disgaea fan or not. If you're not, part of the reason may be the lack of a return to Laharl's classic tale in Hour of Darkness: which Disgaea Dimension 2 is fixing, seeing as it's a f...
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Disgaea Dimension 2 features a new hub, Laharl's sister


Sicily looks like a welcome addition
Dec 20
// Chris Carter
More news is starting to roll in for Disgaea Dimension 2, and it's looking better and better as time goes on. It looks like a new cast member will join in for this direct continuation of Hour of Darkness: Laharl's younger sis...
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Disgaea D2, a true Disgaea sequel, is on the way


Laharl returns, officially
Oct 20
// Chris Carter
Look, I have nothing against Disgaea 2's Adelle, Disgaea 3's Mao, and Disgaea 4's Valvatorez (I love them all actually), but there's just something about Laharl that made the original game so special.Well, after years of...
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La Pucelle: Tactics is heading to the PSN this week


Sep 10
// Chris Carter
I first heard of this news a few days ago, but I held off on posting it until I could get more concrete information. Thankfully, it looks like the internet rumblings have been correct, as La Pucelle: Tactics is going to be a ...
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Dood! Enjoy some exclusive pages from UDON's DISGAEArt!!!


Apr 24
// Tony Ponce
Fact: The English-language VA for Laharl in the original Disgaea is Barbara Goodson, who also voiced Rita Repulsa in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Boom! Suck on that knowledge! Now that your minds have been properly blown, le...
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The Witch and the Hundred Nights lets your morality shine


Apr 10
// Hiroko Yamamura
Nippon Ichi Software have finally taken the wraps off their first action-rpg, The Witch and the Hundred Knights. The upcoming PS3 title looks to be a cross between Diablo and Bioware games, allowing players to either help or ...
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Dood: 10 million hours of Disgaea 3 have been played


Feb 21
// Dale North
Players have gone through 10 million play hours of Disgaea 3: Absense of Detention, says Nippon Ichi. That is...that's insane! I wouldn't be surprised if this breaks down to each player playing 100 hours or more. Disgaea 3 ca...
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Here's a new batch of screenshots for Disgaea 3 on Vita


Jan 24
// Brett Zeidler
A little over a month ago NIS released a good thirty-something screenshots for Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention and now they're back with fifty more screenshots to get you excited. Everything you'd expect to be there is there....
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Check out these new Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk. 2 screens


Jan 13
// Josh Tolentino
The first installment of cheeky little parody RPG Hyperdimension Neptunia didn't exactly set Matt's world alight last year, but that certainly didn't stop Idea Factory from making a sequel, and NIS America from bringing it to...
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PS2 classic GrimGrimoire is available on PSN now!


Oct 06
// Dale North
The PlayStation 2 classic strategy RPG GrimGrimoire is now available in the...PlayStation 2 Classic section of the PlayStation Network -- where else? Now this is speaking my language. We're talkin' a delicious 2D strateg...
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Nippon Ichi's next game is about a witch and cavalry men


Sep 29
// Liam Fisher
While some might think Japanese developers have lost touch and are conforming to Western styles (with good reason), developers like Nippon Ichi Software have consistently delivered with the likes of Disgaea, Cladun, and the A...
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Nippon Ichi has 'serious' plans for Steam releases


Sep 26
// Dale North
Clan of Champions (Gladiator Versus in Japan) is a PlayStation 3 exclusive in Japan, but here the game will also be an Xbox 360 title as well as available through Steam on PC, thans to NIS America. Wait, Steam? Nipp...
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Seminar on working in the Japanese games industry


Sep 02
// Raz Rauf
Japanese high school students and their parents got to hear about the nature of the Japanese games industry at a seminar held at the Tokyo University of Industrial Arts. The panel consisted of CyberConnect2's General Manager ...
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Disgaea 3 for PS Vita confirmed, other new titles teased


Aug 09
// Dale North
Nippon Ichi has confirmed that Disgaea 3 is coming to the PlayStation Vita. We had a hunch it was coming. Here's hoping this next bout of SRPGing will use the Vita's touchscreen and rear touch pads in a cool way. I could see ...
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Atelier Totori also has a ton of new screens released


Jul 26
// Brett Zeidler
Earlier I showed you a gallery for Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten that was pretty freaking large. If for whatever reason your itch to see awesome new screenshots for anime games is not scratched, here is another ginormous g...
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Lay your eyes on this massive gallery of Disgaea 4 shots


Jul 26
// Brett Zeidler
As usual, NIS America is not shying away from the extreme and has released over sixty screenshots for Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten today.  If you are a fan of anime, tactical RPG's or awesomely ridiculous games in general, definitely check out the massive gallery below. You can pick up Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten on September 6th exclusively for the PlayStation 3.
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Disgaea 4 includes free OST, plus more if you pay extra


Jul 17
// Bob Muir
Depending on how much you want to spend, you can potentially get a bunch of collectibles with your copy of Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten. I mean, the standard edition of the game is only $49.99, so you can already buy the ...
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Japanese market keeps NIS stuck on PSP Development


Jul 03
// Patricia Hernandez
You want Disgaea 4 on the Xbox? So does Nippon Ichi's president, Haru Akenga. In an interview, Haru explained that Nippon Ichi asks Microsoft for the opportunity to develop for the system all the time, particularly when it co...

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