NIS America, a niche RPG publisher formed by more established Japanese developer and publisher Nippon Ichi Software, confirmed four games for the North American market in 2007: Vanillaware's Grim Grimoire for PlayStation 2, Nippon Ichi's Soul Nomad & the World Eaters for PlayStation 2, Hit Maker's Dragoneer's Aria for PSP, and the long awaited PSP version of Nippon Ichi's Disgaea.
Vanillaware's GrimGrimoire, developed by the team behind Princess Crown (SAT) and the upcoming Odin Sphere (PS2), takes a slightly different tack both visually and gameplay-wise from much of NIS' library. The title is essentially a small-scale real-time strategy game played from a side perspective, with full hand-animated 2D graphics. Unlike many of the games published by NIS, which feature a fairly straight-ahead anime aesthetic, GrimGrimoire takes cues from both anime and traditional Disney-style Western 2D animation. Grim Grimoire is set to ship for PlayStation 2 this June. (Screenshots, concept artwork)
Soul Nomad & the World Eaters puts players in the unusual role of a powerful villain character, pitted against the also-villainous World Eaters when the good guys are unable to actually accomplish anything. The strategy RPG is from the developers of Digaea and began work immediately after the release of Disgaea 2. A trailer shown last night included promises such as "This game will let you annihilate everything! Come summer 2007, it will annihilate your life!," "Steal from shops!", "Steal from anyone!", "Attack the towns!", and "Nothing is sacred!" Soul Nomad is expected to ship in August. (Screenshots, concept artwork)
Dragoneer's Aria is an RPG for PSP from developer Hit Maker, which bears no relationship to the defunct Sega second party developer Hitmaker. The game is rendered in full 3D, and has traditional RPG gameplay expanded with features such as a rhythm game-like guard system, chainable attacks, and customizable items. Character design is being handled by Lineage and Lineage II artist Juno Jeong. The game is set for release this July. (Concept artwork)
The PSP version of Nippon Ichi's strategy RPG Disgaea, released in Japan last year, was confirmed to be coming to North America this August. It will feature two key additions not present in the Japanese release, a local versus multiplayer mode (promised not just to be a case of "highest level wins") and a new single-player story segment based around female character Etna as an unlockable extra.
Finally, during a presentation on NIS America's new RosenQueen Company online store, a company executive strongly hinted that Nippon Ichi is moving into Wii and Nintendo DS development. "I've heard rumors--just rumors!--that NIS is preparing DS and Wii contracts," the exec laughed. The point was further solidified by the multiple Wii and DS accessories the company now sells online.
Good news for Wii owners. NIS America is responsible for bringing over a lot of great jRPGs that would have never been localized by another company.
I'm also hoping for some new information about the Playstation3 NIS Japan and GUST games in development as well since NIS America traditionally picks up titles from those two developers. The prospect of sprite based, hand drawn background games developed at high definition resolutions is awesome.