One of the best things about Nippon Ichi Software is the company’s willingness to take some risks and put out some highly creative, artistic titles alongside its longstanding cash cow franchises.
A reliable source of these fascinating “B-tier Nippon Ichi” titles is designer Yu Mizokami who, to date, has given us the Yomawari series of horror games and contributed to the excellent (and perpetually overlooked) Lapis x Labyrinth. Now he’s back once again with a brand new but equally stylish title: Mad Rat Dead, which aims to blend rhythm action with 2D platforming.
Both are genres that demand committed, attentive players with an eye for detail and a willingness to put in some practice. But can these two styles of game work together? Let’s take a closer look.
I love Nippon Ichi Software. Over the years they’ve provided some fantastic games, and they rarely stick to what’s “safe”; their games are, in many cases, some of the most joyfully experimental, mechanically rich titles out there.
A great example is new release Mad Rat Dead, which combines electro swing-fuelled rhythm action with tricky platforming, a surprisingly dark narrative and a colourful, punky aesthetic. It’s a lot of fun, but looks like being a pretty stiff challenge in the long term!
The MoeGamer Awards are a series of “alternative” awards I’ve devised in collaboration with the community to celebrate the sorts of things that never get celebrated in end-of-year roundups! Find out more here — and feel free to leave a suggestion on that post if you have any good ideas!
One of my favourite things about deviating significantly from what can be considered “mainstream tastes” is that you have a vastly increased chance of accidentally stumbling across absolutely wonderful experiences that you promptly want to tell everyone about.
Today’s award, suggested by Kharne83, celebrates one of these games from this year. A game that I initially didn’t really feel anything about… until I played it. And I was absolutely hooked. And I think you should partake, too.
After all, news of these games is best spread by word of mouth — because heaven knows press and marketing alike are inevitably terrible about letting people know they exist!
Genre blends can make for some interesting experiences, and over the years developers have tried all sorts of things.
We’ve had racing games with RPG elements, dating sims with strategy games attached, first-person shooters combined with adventure games… at this point most things have been tried, you might think.
What about dungeon crawler, platform game, action RPG, shoot ’em up and pachinko? I bet I have your attention now, hmm? Let’s look at Lapis x Labyrinth from Nippon Ichi Software — one of the company’s best games for a long time, and a title which looks distressingly set to pass by an awful lot of people unnoticed.
I made a throwaway comment to a friend a while back that I wanted to check out more of Nippon Ichi’s games.
This was partly due to some past positive experiences with Disgaea back in the PS2 days, an enjoyable bit of time spent with the surprisingly tragic The Witch and the Hundred Knightas well as a great deal of enjoyment of products NIS had contributed to, such as the early Hyperdimension Neptunia games.
Zip forward to the time of writing (Editor’s Note: 2013… and this is a game I’d like to cover in more detail in the future!) and I’m thoroughly engrossed in one NIS offering in particular: a PSP game from the team behind Disgaea. And, boy, does its heritage show.
This article was originally published on Games Are Evil in 2013 as part of the site’s regular Swords and Zippers column on JRPGs. It has been edited and republished here due to Games Are Evil no longer existing in its original form.
Criminal Girls, one of the more controversial Japanese titles to make it over to the West in recent years thanks to its semi-explicit depiction of BDSM-style “punishment” scenes, actually proved to be one of the more interesting games I’ve played for a while owing to its exploration of a concept we tend to take for granted: trust.
In most games, there’s an unspoken trust between the players and the on-screen characters. You trust them to do what you tell them and they, in turn, trust you to make the right decisions that won’t get them killed. The latter part in particular isn’t always made explicit because the player’s presence isn’t usually acknowledged, but in games where you’re not playing a self-insert protagonist, there’s a strong argument that it’s implied.
Criminal Girls is a little different, however. Not only do you, the player, have a participant role in the game — albeit not as a combatant in the game’s battle sequences — but you also have to spend a hefty amount of time convincing your party members to trust both you and each other. And it’s here that things get pretty interesting.
We see a lot of comedy in games these days — it’s something which a number of creators in particular have proven themselves to be particularly good at — but not much in the way of tragedy.
Oh, sure, we have sad scenes that are designed to milk a few tears from those with less-than-stellar emotional constitutions (like me) but very few games that truly explore tragedy in the Shakespearean — or more accurately Aristotlean — sense. That is to say, very few games that have the balls to present a main character that is tragically flawed, makes mistakes and undergoes a significant reversal of fortune — either from good to bad, or bad to good.
The last place I expected to find an example of tragedy like this was in a game from Nippon Ichi Software, a company best-known for somewhat more light-hearted titles, but here we have The Witch and the Hundred Knight, a game that is a significant departure for the Disgaea developers in more ways than one.