La Pucelle: Tactics – Sohei Niikawa and NIS Get Strategic… Again

March 4, 2004

With the success of Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, NIS has gone from a veritable unknown for many western gamers to being a real emerging powerhouse in the SRPOG scene. Now with one critical success under their belt, the company has decided to localize with the aid of Mastiff one of their earlier works – La Pucelle: Tactics. As the story of a demon hunting girl with an attitude, this looks to be yet another successful outing for the little company that could. Recently we had the opportunity to speak with the Managing Director of Software at NIS, Sohei Niikawa, and took the opportunity to get to the bottom of this upcoming release.

Snackbar Games: Firstly, can you let us know who you are, and what your role you are currently playing in bringing La Pucelle to the North American gaming community?

Sohei Niikawa: I am Sohei Niikawa, Managing Director of Nippon Ichi Software. I wrote the story and the script for the original game, and was the producer of the original Japanese version.

SBG: Can you give us some background on the title, as far as story and characters?

SN: I don’t really want to give too much away here, and even if I did there are enough twists in the story to make it pretty hard to tell all in a few minutes. I think you know about the hero, Prier, a smart mouthed and undisciplined sixteen year old who just passed her exorcism exams. La Pucelle is about her and her buddies, their adventures, what they change around them and how they are changed.

The story is set in an alternate medieval Europe, and has a firm religious/mystical tone. However, the characters’ actions depart from that framework. This is especially true in the case of Prier. I wanted her and other characters to forced to abandon their former, traditional worldview and have a new outlook emerge.

The reason for choosing them to be exorcists is that it was relatively easy to design a fun game with that premise. Having magical powers and using them to fight evil — who wouldn’t get a kick out of that?

Our focus was on providing good gameplay. 3D graphics have improved so much recently that they have drastically changed the ways games look, but it’s the gameplay that really matters!

SBG: The community at large quickly fell in love with Disgaea when it arrived last year. Is La Pucelle directly related to Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, and if so how and where does it fit in the timeline?

SN: Both games were developed by the same team. They are different and separate, but there’s some character overlap. I’m not telling you who they are, but you will know if you play both!

SBG: What has been the biggest challenge in your mind thus far in getting the game localized for American audiences?

SN: Making sure that the North American and Japanese gaming experience were the same.

Working with Mastiff I think we produced a really transparent localization. That is, a game that feels like it was never localized, like it was originally developed for the North American market.

Mastiff took the time to achieve the same kind of subtlety as the Japanese original in English. They went over the script numerous times to get it right, translated the jokes so that the North American audience would have the same kind of chuckles at the same places. They also went to Hollywood and got a team of great voice actors. I don’t think there’s much else anyone could do.

And for fans who want to hear the Japanese voices, there is an option to switch between the two languages. This can be done anywhere in the game, from the Options menu.

We get asked this from time to time…Yes, most of the characters’ names are the same as the original.

SBG: Other than the obvious change in language, was the game altered in any way for the localization, and if so, what was the reason for this?

SN: We did take out a very few things we felt would cause problems in North America. However, we’re talking about a few pretty trivial graphics changes, nothing that in any way affects the game.

SBG: The concept of Dark Portals and Purification, and being able to purify defiled ground and enemies sounds intriguing. Can go into this a bit more, and explain what new play mechanics this introduces?

SN: Purification is an important tool in this game. There are a number of different kinds. Against an enemy, purification allows a demon hunter to get rid of the evil in the enemy’s heart. Repeated purifications will make even the most horrible monster turn good, and when that’s done, they can join the demon hunters’ team. Prier and her A