The Tokyo Game Show has seen the Wii begin to redeem itself in the eyes of the hardcore after a disappointing E3. Having recognized that they ignored the traditional gamers that have for so long been their bread and butter, Nintendo stepped up and showed why ’09 will be a year to savor after the barren ending to ’08. Yet despite their strong showing, another company is threatening to steal their thunder with a lineup that makes Nintendo’s look pale and lifeless in comparison: Marvelous Interactive. From the visceral action of No More Heroes to the hand drawn beauty of Muramasa: The Demon Blade, Marvelous Interactive is gearing up to deliver some of the very best games from Japan’s left-field.
Much like Travis Touchdown, Marvelous Interactive (MMV) casually shook off what other companies would have considered a fatal blow. No More Heroes, MMV’s first published title for the Wii, debuted in Japan with less than stellar numbers – approximately 10,000 copies were sold on its first day of release. Compounding this was a poorly attended launch event at Akihabara’s Sofmap Amusement, where Goicha Suda was personally available to sign copies of the game; 20 minutes passed before a single purchase was made and journalists from Famitsu had to step up to take photos with the game’s creators due to a lack of attendees. MMV’s decision to support such a violent and offbeat title for a console known for its simple mini-games began to look foolish at best. Even Suda himself began to loose faith in the platform. NMH’s release in the U.S. was far more successful, only Ubisoft had picked up publishing rights in the territory and not MMV. Through subsidiary Rising Star Games, MMV finally found justification for its support with strong sales in Europe despite heavy censoring. Initial figures and demand had Rising Star Manager Martin Defries “weeping with delight”.
Missing out on No More Heroes’ sales in North America clearly left a lasting impression on the company. Not wanting to miss out on the Wii’s most lucrative market again, MMV decided to team up with XSEED to publish all subsequent titles in the territory.
A New Heir
Early in 2007 MMV unveiled Project O, which would later come to be known as Little King’s Story. The developers handling the game – Cing Inc. and Town Factory, housed top talent culled from games such as Dragon Quest VIII, Final Fantasy XII and the Harvest Moon series. The game is due for release in Jan ’09 in the U.S. and has been garnering universal praise for its charming visuals and characterization. While Nintendo is dithering over which of their IPs to update or even re-release next, MMV may be ready to make a new addition to the Pikmin series slightly redundant. In a direct comparison, Nintendo’s game has you throwing your creatures at enemies with little regard for their safety or well being as the Pikmin are more or less identical. Little King’s Story’s characters in contrast have been been imbued with greater personality, making their loss during the game far more poignant. MMV will surely be expecting the game to do better in Japan than No More Heroes did, as it will appeal to those gamers who have already bought Tales of Symphonia 2 and Nintendo’s more traditional titles. This will also be the first Wii title where MMV will be involved in all three major territories.
Independent Japanese studio Vanillaware have come to be known for their incredibly detailed 2D visuals and genre bending gameplay. Both GrimGrimoire and Odin Sphere for the PS2 were well received by critics and gamers alike, so it was no surprise when MMV decided to publish the studio’s next title for the Wii. Despite initial rumors of the game’s development being in trouble due to a lack of funds, Muramasa: The Demon Blade has turned up alive and well at TGS ’08 and has made many Best of Show lists. As expected the visuals are truly stunning, featuring a level of style and sophistication rare in the gaming world. However, questions remain as to whether the action will have enough depth to satisfy the demanding customer base the developer has cultivated, though this is not an area where Vanillaware has struggled in the past. By deciding to publish the game, MMV took another canny step to becoming the publisher to watch on the Wii.
In part 2 the rest of Marvelous Interactive’s lineup will be covered, from the epic Arc Rise Fantasia to the lush Rune Factory Frontier.