A Conversation with NIS America’s Souhei Niikawa and Yoshinori Terasawa

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NIS America allowed me the privilege to talk to both President Souhei Niikawa and Producer Yoshinori Terasawa at their NIS America Press Event Reunion 2014.

NIS America is a video game developing and publishing company, a subsidiary of the Nippon Ichi Software Japanese. They create hit series such as Disgaea, running a tight operation in the western market targeting a niche but loyal market.  They are always trying to expand to new users, but they are devoted to creating games for their core audience first.

Mr. Niikawa Interview

Mr. Niikawa is the President of NIS America and his devotion to their fan base has created a passionate community.  Mr. Niikawa will personally get disappointed with himself when customers are not satisfied. He also has a close relationship with his company. “I hate it when somebody quits the company.”  Not surprising for a company dedicated to their fans.

Mr. Niikawa became interested in the gaming industry in college after playing Final Fantasy V. He thought, “Man this game is so awesome, but they could make this part better.”  With that he decided to join the gaming industry.  A true gamer at heart, his favorite game last year is Pokemon X/Y, which he plays with his son.

NIS America develops and publishes for many different video game devices such as PS3, PS Vita, and Nintendo 3DS.  They have even partnered with companies such as Yummy Yummy Tummy to create games for smartphones and tablets, such as Character Chowdown an educational puzzle game on iTunes.

They would love to develop for as many platforms as possible.  Given realistic constraints, they develop games for the platform which the target market is located.  When it comes to US and Europe markets, they tend to focus on consoles. Mr. Niikawa explaining that it “Comes down to the fan base.”

Development on a game for the PS4 is currently in progress with more details coming at the Tokyo Game Show. Trying to not reveal too much, Mr. Niikawa said, “We think that networks are going to become a big thing in the future.” He gave an example, “We want make it so you can take out a hand held and play a part of the game and level it up outside your living room TV.”

One of the last question I had to ask was about Japanese business culture.  I have always heard that being able to drink sake would help get you promoted. Mr. Niikawa told me what is most important is accepting invitations to drink with your boss, jokingly adding “That is how I became President.”

Mr. Terasawa

I also got to interview Yoshinori Terasawa, producer of Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, a detective mystery solving game. Danganronpa has you trapped in a school and only someone who can get away with murder is allowed to leave.  This creates a cloud of mistrust between the characters you meet.  The storylines is one of the most intense ever for a video game as you experience betrayals from the most unexpected characters.

The intense themes from the Japanese film Battle Royale are depicted from not knowing who to trust, having friends die, and seeing acts of desperation. Though, Danganronpa also has murder mysteries and more twisted characters that you will encounter. Danganronpa does a great job of making you experience an unbearable situation while also giving you mysteries to solve.

Mr. Terasawa has said Battle Royale helped influence Danganronpa.  He liked how all the different parts of the story fit really well together. His favorite character in Battle Royale was the cruel headmaster Kitano. “He was very scary.” That might explain the psychotic headmaster in Danganronpa.

Danganronpa also has a sinister headmaster running the school, Monokuma. He is a talking bear, but do not underestimate how evil this bear can truly be.  If you love Battle Royale and anime you need to check this game out, which was released just this month on the PS Vita.

Mr. Terasawa is also on record for saying alcohol helped influence Danganronpa.  I asked him what his favorite drink was and he said beer, specifically Sapporo.  Though he said, “but this beer here is really good you should try it out.” I have to agree Thirsty Bear had great beer, Panda Bear Ale was my favorite.

If I ever find myself going to Tokyo Game Show in Japan, I will definitely take you up on that offer to get food and drinks, Mr. Terasawa.

Thank you again to everyone at NIS America for inviting me to this event I had a blast.

Major thanks to Chieu-An Photography for the amazing pictures!