2009 looks set to be a vintage year for Nintendo fans, with a level of 3rd party support not witnessed since the days of the SNES. Of all the companies releasing games for the console, one publisher in particular stands out; Marvelous Interactive. Having started out with No More Heroes, the company has continued to cherry pick some of the best Wii games emerging from the east, and in the process gain a strong reputation among traditional Nintendo gamers. In part 2 of TVGB’s look at the company (read part 1 here), their lineup for 2009 and beyond will be scrutinized.
A bumper harvest
While Harvest Moon seems to be stuck in a rut, its spin-off, Rune Factory, continues to expand in interesting new ways. Frontier sees the game making the jump from handheld to home console, and the results look pleasingly lush. While not pushing the advanced effects seen in games like The Conduit, it’s clear that Nevererland Co. are investing real time and effort on the game’s visuals. While no radical changes have been promised from the previous DS games, the developers are looking to expand on all the core elements that have made the series such a pleasing off-shoot. Rune Factory: Frontier seems to be a safe bet by Marvelous Interactive (MMV), as it will attract the same gamers that made the first two games a success and help shape the birth of the rpg market on the Wii just like the original did on the DS.
Big swords, and even bigger hair
Imageepoch is a relatively new and ambitious developer based in Tokyo, Japan. Their first two games, Luminous Arc 1 and 2, were solid strategy RPGs on the DS very much in the mold of Square-Enix’s Final Fantasy Tactics series. Since the release of those games the company’s staff has swollen in numbers, so that its 120 members can now handle the simultaneous development of multiple titles. Top talent from established developers like Namco-Bandai have also been recruited to aid in their first venture into the home console market. Arc Rise Fantasia is by far Imageepoch’s most ambitious undertaking yet; the quality of its CGI cut scenes and lavish character designs are proof of this. What’s not so clear is what gameplay elements the game will feature to distinguish itself from other traditional turn-based RPGs. Due for release in 2009, Arc Rise Fantasia remains an exciting and risky prospect for MMV because of the game’s obvious potential and the apparent apathy that Japanese gamers have toward new IPs respectively.
Hack, slash and repeat
Valhalla Knights: Eldar Saga is perhaps the least appetizing game that MMV is planning on publishing, the series has already seen the release of 2 distinctly mediocre titles on the PSP. A fast paced RPG with a focus on heavy customization and action, there is the suspicion its existence hinges on the fact that MMV are directly involved in its development. Making a quick buck from a straightforward PSP port seems to be the objective, but can be forgiven due to the prospect of a bloody reunion with a certain Travis Touchdown…
A glorious struggle
Guichi Suda stated that if No More Heroes proved to be a success, then a sequel would be made: he has proven to be a man of his word. The tremendous original had many rough edges (literal and figurative) that are just waiting to be polished in a sequel; the potential truly is mouth-watering. Suda has targeted the open world sections as the most in need of attention and expansion, showing himself to be well aware of the first game’s faults. Due to the original’s poor sales in Japan, MMV has yet to confirm its release there, but will be publishing the game in North America through XSEED; a wise decision since the bulk of the game’s sales will be in that territory. Grasshopper Manufacture’s increasing skill with the Wii hardware has been demonstrated with Fatal Frame IV, and bodes very well for No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle – a game that will be at the very top of many people’s most wanted list.
Staring at my sandals, that’s a paddlin’
Rounding out MMVs release list is the unique and frankly bizarre looking WiiWare title Discipline. Somewhat reminiscent of Portal, the game has the main character performing trials for a shady sounding company called Discipline. Screens of the game show a unique pencil drawn, cel-shaded art style and an emphasis on a device that looks like a disturbingly misshapen sex-toy. Kazutoshi Iida is the man behind the game (the creator of cult hits Doshin the Giant and Tail of the Sun), his involvement sheds some light on why the title seems so strange. Discipline has the potential to become one of WiiWare’s most innovative experiences, and is a shining example of the creative freedom digital distribution affords.
If any company is out to change the perception that the Wii is a platform for only casual or shovelware titles, it is Marvelous Interactive.