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Nihon Falcom's president talks new partnership with NIS and how they aren't willing to give up on the PS3 and Vita yet


An interview with Toshihiro Kondo

Nihon Falcom, unbeknownst to many, is one of the oldest gaming companies in existence.

Since 1981 they've been churning out classic JRPGs, most notably the beloved Ys series that just celebrated its 30th anniversary last month. They're also one of the few studios out there who's still actively supporting legacy platforms like the PS3 (and some would say, the Vita). In many ways, they're an enigma. While western AAA studios are chasing the latest bleeding-edge tech and inventing new ways to make open worlds bigger with more map icons, they're sticking to what they know.

I had the chance to chat with company president Toshihiro Kondo about the past, present, and the future of his company, and learned a few things in the process.

Destructoid: Some of us have been following Nihon Falcom for some time. What is the secret to your success? How are you still around after so many decades?

Toshihiro Kondo: I don't know if this is necessarily a “secret technique,” but we put our all into each and every title and will not release something that we are not proud of. When it comes to making titles that are part of series, the key is perseverance.

We take care that we don't get bored of making games in this long-running series. That said, we are sure to add new elements to the games as well so that the players don't get bored of it. Of course, we attempt new challenges on new non-series titles as well, which allows us to consider their elements for series titles. I guess you could call it a cycle.

Is Ys still your most globally recognizable series? Is there another that's more popular in Japan or the West, respectively? Cold Steel seems to be gaining traction in the West for instance.

Looking at this from a worldwide perspective is a little difficult for us as it’s still hard to really believe that our titles are being released in many places, but recently the Trails series is very popular. Looking at Asian sales, Trails is the top seller, however, in North America the Ys series is far more popular. We released an Ys title called Memories of Celceta for the PlayStation Vita and it actually ended up selling more copies in North America than in Japan despite being on a handheld!

So at the end of the day, it’s difficult to really pinpoint what is the most popular overall.

Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana launched in Japan last month. We've heard the debut is positive, but can you expand on that a bit?

Compared to previous Ys games, Ys VIII gives players a new cast and setting. This time, you are a castaway on an uninhabited island. This premise allowed us to add several features not seen in previous installments of Ys. One of the very well-received aspects was Adol meeting and recruiting other castaways of the sunken ship that he was traveling on. These passengers join Adol and they build a village that has to be protected throughout the course of the game. Moreover, Adol begins to dream of a mysterious blue-haired girl named Dana. During these dreams, the player actually enjoys the game from Dana's viewpoint.

This is something that is also entirely new to Ys. She has her very own story and Adol’s story proceeds as hers does. This was highly praised in Japan. What we see happen to Dana in the game’s climax was said to be something that was an experience and feeling that had never been present in any other Ys game. I can’t elaborate much beyond that without going into spoiler territory! Seeing this positive reaction from fans of the 30-year-old series probably inspired many new fans to pick up the game as well, and we've gained so many new fans, more than we've ever had, because of this.

Given that this is your first "from the ground-up" PS4 game, how was your experience with the system? It looks like you have at least one other project lined up in Cold Steel III, but are you done with PS3?

We had many ideas for the game even while we were developing the Vita version, but we weren’t able to implement them all due to the limitations of the Vita. The PlayStation uses Blu-ray discs that are able to hold a lot of data and now with the PlayStation 4 release I think that we can say that we included everything that we had originally planned. Of course, the graphics received an overhaul and there are many elements not in the Vita version.

It’s not fully decided whether we will stop development for the PlayStation 3 or not, and that goes for the Vita as well. However, most of our player-base has asked us to make games for the PlayStation 4. It’s also easier for the dev team to develop for a system with the highest specs, so this contributes to our decision as well. We also have many players in Asia, North America, and Europe and have expressed that they want games for the PlayStation 4. Of course, should their needs shift and we hear that many people want games for the PlayStation 3 or Vita, we will consider those platforms.

As many of us know, NIS is publishing Lacrimosa in the West. What led to the break from XSEED?

Actually, NIS America has been approaching us for years now, well before Ys VIII. In their proposal for Ys VIII, we felt a much stronger passion for the game than what we had seen before. We have released many games outside of Japan, but there were several things in their proposal that we had never seen before. For these reasons, we decided to go with them for Ys VIII.

Thanks for you time!

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Chris Carter
Chris CarterReviews Director, Co-EIC   gamer profile

Chris has been enjoying Destructoid avidly since 2008. He finally decided to take the next step, make an account, and start blogging in January of 2009. Now, he's staff! ------------------- T... more + disclosures


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