Japanese publisher/developer Level 5 made headlines lately when they announced a slew of new games at their 10th anniversary conference. Ninokuni, an RPG to be developed alongside acclaimed animation house Studio Ghibli, has especially been turning heads. The October 10th issue of the Weekly Famitsu showcased an interview with the president of Level 5, Akihiro Hino. Famitsu’s editor-in-chief, Katsuaki Kato, chats with Hino about the history of Level 5 in this, the first part of the interview. Stay tuned for more details about Ninokuni in parts two and three.
Weekly Famitsu Editor-in-chief Katsuaki Kato: First of all, congratulations on Level 5’s 10th anniversary. It’s already been 10 years, huh?
Level 5 President Akihiro Hino: Thank you. Yes, it went by in a flash. It feels just like yesterday that we were establishing this company.
Kato: Your first game was Dark Cloud, right? We all took notice when your first game was a unique RPG that really pushed the PS2, but before we knew it, you had made Dragon Quest VIII, and then became a publisher and made the Professor Layton series into a big hit. You guys are really becoming a juggernaut. As president, were you thinking of becoming a publisher from the start?
Hino: No, we had absolutely no aspirations to become a publisher. At the time, we thought it was unnecessary. Rather, we thought it was most important to make games that we were satisied with. We just thought, “Wouldn’t it be great to make good games, and to be able to put food on the table?”
Kato: I see. So you want the name ‘Level 5’ to denote good games?
Hino: That’s right. Like I said, at the beginning, we just wanted to make good, satisfying games. But in order for those projects to be accepted and loved by many people, of course, we have to sell a lot of copies, so we need to get results in that financial sense.
While we were working on DQVIII, we could sense the greatness of the series, and we started to change our thinking towards succeeding as a publisher. Our drive to surprise people also became a lot stronger. We want to do something different every time we make a game, and we want to make products that surpirse and interest gamers and non-gamers alike.
Kato: I can certainly buy that, because all of your recent announcements have been completely surpirsing (laughs). This being your 10th anniversary, this conference is unprecedentedly large. We’re really looking forward to the surprising new games you’ve announced here. The first is Ninokuni. It’s one of your “10th Anniversary Commemoration” games, right?
Hino: That’s correct. Ninokuni is one of the three games we’ve dubbed in our “10th Anniversary Commemoration” line of products. All of them are planned for 2009 releases, but it looks like Ninokuni will hit first.