Dragoneer's Aria Preview--Thoughts From the Developers

Nippon Ichi and HitMaker weigh in on their latest PSP role-playing game in this ongoing commentary series.


Dragoneer's Aria

Disgaea makers Nippon Ichi Software have been big supporters of the PSP so far, with role-playing games like Blade Dancer, Aedis Eclipse, and even a forthcoming small-screen version of Disgaea itself gracing Sony's handheld. The company is also working in conjunction with developer HitMaker on Dragoneer's Aria, another PSP RPG that NIS says is somewhat different than the sort of games in this genre that the company is typically known for. Key players in the game's development will be weighing in on the production of Dragoneer's Aria in this ongoing commentary series; check out their thoughts below.

Sohei Niikawa
Producer, Nippon Ichi Software

Hello everyone! Dragoneer's Aria will finally be released next month! Why do I say "finally," you ask? It's because I'm really excited to tell everyone about this title. Don't you get that epic and grand feeling from seeing the screenshots and the illustrations? I'm a little worried about someone mentioning, "But you're Nippon Ichi Software!" Even so, I feel that this title will help support us as we take a shot at something that's a little step away from the usual NIS titles.

The story itself is a noble sort of fantasy, taking the basic fantasy feel head-on and ramping it up. It's more meaty than many role-playing games nowadays. I don't want it to just have an "epic" feeling--I'd like to see it described as epic itself. So the staff and I are working very hard on the release of this game.

Also, as some of you may have already realized, we used the character designer from a certain well-known online RPG. I think this will be a big selling point for us. Dragoneer's Aria will be coming out soon, and I would be delighted to hear everyone's excitement and support for it.

Nippon Ichi says Dragoneer's Aria is a slight departure from the company's usual style of game.
Nippon Ichi says Dragoneer's Aria is a slight departure from the company's usual style of game.

Yukihiko Hojo
Executive Producer, HitMaker

Hello and nice to meet you...again. My name is Hojo from HitMaker, and I am the executive producer for Dragoneer's Aria. We announced our title on GameSpot to start off with, and since then we've received tons of feedback from our fans and the media. Our staff's motivation has skyrocketed. Thanks!

But that doesn't mean we can just let up now. If we did, we might have to push back the release! It's been a whole six months since we decided to produce this dream-game with Nippon Ichi Software and NIS America. Our staff is sprinting wildly through the summer.

The themes for this game during production were unity, security, and achievement. Everyone loves the world of swords and magic and dragons. The story is one of a dragon knight and the dragons, a dilemma of hearts, and the mysterious dark dragon. It features controls and gameplay that people can feel secure with. We followed this goal, and ended up, as Mr. Niikawa said, with a "meaty" game.

I'm very proud to say we've followed the high road of fantasy here. But if that were the end of it, I'm sure all the Nippon Ichi fans would be disappointed. We've also got exciting characters, an exciting story, and an exciting game system. We hope you'll discover and enjoy the many hidden moments of excitement buried within. And thanks to the PSP system, this game turned out exactly as we'd hoped. I hope you're all looking forward to it.

Lineage 2's Juno Jeong handled character design on the game.
Lineage 2's Juno Jeong handled character design on the game.

This time, we had a few talented guests supporting us on our high-road adventure. We had Mr. Juno Jeong--who captured the hearts of fans all over the world with Lineage II--to do our character design. And the number one blog idol in Japan and rising TV/radio star, Mimika, sang our theme song.

With the beautiful melody of "Air in G-minor," we'll make sure to deliver "Dragoneer's Aria" to you this summer. Hope you can wait just a bit longer!

Continue to the next page to read commentary from character designer Juno Jeong.

Juno Jeong
Character Design

I had very good relations with Nippon Ichi Software from before, so I had no hesitation when I first heard about this project. And then I was introduced to the development staff of HitMaker, whose games I always loved as a fan and a gamer. My will was determined. Actually, my position in Korea as a game developer is more of a managing director over the graphic process rather than the actual drawing of images and pictures. That is partly because Korea's gaming market depends heavily on PC online games that are strongly influenced by new solutions and infrastructure.

Since I work in such an environment, this project has a very special meaning to me.

Jeong hasn't done specific character illustrations for a game in three years.
Jeong hasn't done specific character illustrations for a game in three years.

First, I personally really wanted to be a part of the development process in console games. It's pretty hard to get a chance like that being a game developer in Korea, so making new ties with skilled and dependable development companies and being able to work with them was just a very fresh and enjoyable experience. And it's been a while (three years, actually) since I worked as an illustrator. That's big.

Oh, and one more thing. As the director in the actual development of our games, I have to always think about the network play and interactive contents. But as a game designer, I always had an interest in classic RPGs like Dragoneer's Aria. The scenario and game system are loyal to the basics, but they bring out the depth of the game itself. I think that's the biggest anticipation I have for the game.

As for this project, if there is one thing I can mention that I kind of regret, it's that I worked far away, distance-wise, from the development team. So I couldn't sit down right next to them and exchange opinions during the development process. After all, in a 3D game, I think it's the designer's responsibility to watch over the 3D character as it grows into its final form. Other than that, I feel like if I had more time, I could have put in more details into this and that. But then again, that's just how I am. But being stimulated by the HitMaker development team, who put everything into their work, I also put a lot of thought into how the characters can come to life on the PSP, and did my very best. I would love to see the official retail version of Dragoneer's Aria in stores as soon as possible!

Lastly, I would like to mention that this is an honor, and I am very happy to be able to speak to all the gamers like this.

Continue on for an update from the game's director at HitMaker.

Hiroyuki Maruhama
Director, HitMaker

Hello, I am Maruhama, the director for Dragoneer's Aria. When I first thought about the world settings and the original story of this game, I actually didn't expect this project to become so big. But the staff's pickiness and outrage and desires (uh, maybe those aren't the right words) helped to make this game. When I asked Mr. Juno to do the character designs, I felt kind of unreasonable at times, but Mr. Juno laughed with me and accepted it all, which made me very thankful. It's just that, the first time we met, he said I looked scary... I was kind of sad, naturally. I wonder what he thinks now. Haha. When I make a game, usually, if it's far from the image I have in my head, I completely reject it, and sometimes I get quite stubborn about it. But this time, it was different. I was pleasantly surprised by the staff many times. Thank you so much!

Oh, uh, the staff just scolded me, because I have to talk about the game. So, about the gameplay system...

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

We started making the system with the theme "the noble RPG" in mind, but I wanted the characters and the unique traits to show in the gameplay as well. This, of course, is quite natural for a game, but to describe all that, we needed a unified thought not just for the way the system works, but for the story and the character settings as well. This part was pretty hard.

Thanks to all that, we were able to avoid making you feel that some characters aren't needed, but rather, that everyone is absolutely needed. Therefore, you might have to make a lot of use of the characters' skills, or else it might be too hard...especially in Dragoneer mode.

"The game is going to be turn-based!" is what I said at first, but battles that can be won just by hitting the enemy aren't very fun, so we built in some strategic points that require smart use of character skills. Especially important is the timing of the characters' skills and the order you input commands when you're attacking. I'm sure everyone will enjoy it (or at least think hard) when playing this game.

Kiyoraka Minase
Writing Team, HitMaker

Hello! My name is Minase, member of the writing team. Dragoneer's Aria was the fastest work that I've ever done in my entire life as a story writer. It's a miracle, speaking both about the speed and my satisfaction with the content, too. This was one project where all the staff members had fun, starting from the planning to the plot-making, so I guess I owe it to being able to go with the flow there.

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

In the case of a published work, as long as I keep the requirements and limits of the pages in mind, I can write pretty freely, and depend more on the readers' thoughts. But for games, I have to think about the rules of logic and the gameplay issues to match with my composition and expressive thought, which means a lot of restrictions. Writing with that in mind was really fun.

My goal was to write a story with laughter and a few tears, and hopefully it worked this time. I do realize I may not be the best, technically, but I am both excited and dreadful about the responses I'll receive after the game goes on sale. Warning: I will ignore all complaints.

Event scenes in the game take up at least two hours of dialogue, so I really recommend it for fans of the voice actors. Please watch the battery life, connect your plug, and enjoy.

Itsuka Hazuki
Writing Team, HitMaker

Hi, I'm Hazuki of the writing team. A serious fantasy project! That's what this is, and I'm sure you will all enjoy the story, the grand world, and the people who live in it. Everyone, including of course the main character, every person you meet in the towns has their own story. I really suggest you talk to them all.

And for those of you who aren't satisfied with just that! In every corner of this serious story are scattered bits of a quartet comedy, played out by beautiful characters to create this strange gem. You can find out who is the fool and who is the sharp tongue when you play the game. I would be very happy if I'm able to provide that slight relaxing sensation of comedy when you're exhausted from the dramatic scenes and continuous battles.


Hello! My name is Mimika, and I sang the ending theme for Dragoneer's Aria. I was really impressed by this title. I can't stop feeling this grand power from it. And in the midst of all that, I was able to sing the song. I really hope to pass on the precious thoughts of each individual who produced the title to all my listeners.

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

I understood each and every lyric and its reasons, and I sang the best I could. During the recording, I sang, imagining the players who would complete the game, having that great feeling of accomplishment. Just looking at the pictures, seeing the title, listening to the music, hearing the stories... It makes me feel so excited!

Haru Akenaga
President, NIS America, Inc.

Hello everyone. Here I am, last up for the commentary section for Dragoneer's Aria.

I'm very happy to see that there is rising recognition and excitement for the game in our audience, both in North America and Japan. Of course, some of the comments I've received include questions like whether our main character, Valen, is really male. And character philosophies like, "a weak-looking man is not fit to be a hero," or comments about the gameplay system, including both pros and cons. But I take them all to be comments of anticipation, and am thankful when reading any of them.

So, the proof will be in the pudding! I hope you pick up a copy of the game and try it out. And when you finally get to the end and listen to Mimika's song, "Open the Gate," I believe that you will be able to feel the passion of the entire production staff, including everyone in this commentary series.

This project began with a proposal from NIS America, and it was a triple tag-team between us, Nippon Ichi Software, and HitMaker. This time, the NISA staff got to join in on exchanging opinions about the story from the beginning. But because of the fundamental difference between our cultures, even if an expression sounds completely natural or funny to a Japanese person, an American person may not agree, or not find it funny at all. (And, of course, vice versa.) In this case, the conversation may be about a completely different matter.

Usually, the North American version is translated after the Japanese version is complete, so there isn't as much freedom, and the game really only becomes a translation. But this time, I think we were able to go beyond this boundary and properly work it out in an English context. Of course, the game supports both Japanese and English voices in the North American version! Try listening to both versions of the voices and you will probably sense the difference between them.

At NISA, we hope to create more titles, even ones of Japanese origin, where our staff at NISA joins in on the planning before development to create games that can be better enjoyed by our North American audience. Please give it a try, and tell us what was good, what was bad, what was missing, or any opinions or advice. I would enjoy it very much. It will be a very precious source of information we can use to offer everyone even better titles.

Lastly, I would like to thank, from the bottom of my heart, everyone who was involved in the production and release of Dragoneer's Aria, and all of you who anticipate and support this game.

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