Hot off the heels of NIS America‘s western release announcement for Disgaea 7: Vows of the Virtueless, which first launched on January 26 in Japan, Gematsu had the chance to sit down and chat with director Shunsuke Minowa on the creation of the latest mainline Disgaea game.
Get the full interview below.
This time around, the game is based around a cluster of Japan-esque Netherworlds. Why did you choose this theme for the series’ seventh numbered instalment?
Shunsuke Minowa, Director: “Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance was the story of a meeting of demon kings from several Netherworlds doing battle with an evil demon emperor. Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny was a story that brought together the inhabitants of various worlds to fight the ultimate god of destruction. Since the stories were starting to form a pattern of focusing on beings from different worlds coming together to fight, we wanted to go back to our roots and make a single world the main setting for this game.
“As I began to really think about the setting, I wondered, ‘What is the meaning of ‘bushido’ that samurai are always referring to?’ This led me to, ‘Would it be contradictory for a demon to follow bushido?’ And that’s when I came up with the idea of creating a Japanese-style demon world with ‘bushido’ in it.”
Our protagonists are lone warrior Fuji and otaku girl Pirilika. Can you tell us a little more about them and how they come to encounter each other?
Minowa: “It’s not so much that Fuji and Pirilika are protagonists or heroes in this story, but more that both of them are actually aware that they are main characters. This is the first time in a Disgaea game that we’ve had two main characters. The two meet when Pirilika runs into trouble during a trip to Hinomoto, and Fuji comes to her rescue. Eventually they wind up traveling together.”
Can you tell us a little bit more about the overarching story and what our heroes are set out to do on this new adventure?
Minowa: “In order to change Hinomoto, which has been transformed by the arrival of Demmodore Opener’s army, they will collect all seven legendary weapons, known as the Seven Founding Weapons, and confront the rampant corruption of the shogunate.”
One of the main points of the story focuses on gathering the Seven Founding Weapons in order to stand against the corrupt shogunate. Who are the possessors of these weapons, and how will Fuji and company even stand a chance against them given their supposed strength?
Minowa: “The Seven Founding Weapons are in the possession of Yeyasu, the shogun, and Suisen, the Foreseeing Magistrate, who are members of the Ewwdo Shogunate, the principal enemy force in the game.
“However, a bit later in the story, Fuji manages to acquire a demonic sword that happens to be one of the Seven Founding Weapons, and he and his party try to steal more of the Seven Founding Weapons from the enemy forces.
“The growth that occurs while the characters persevere in the struggle for the Seven Founding Weapons is also a fun part of the story, and I hope fans will enjoy it.”
Jumbification is one of the big new features of Disgaea 7: Vows of the Virtueless. What is the criteria for Jumbification? And how is it being deployed in a way that doesn’t break battles?
Minowa: “In order to execute a ‘Jumbify,’ it is necessary to fill up your Hell Gauge. This happens when players take damage, an ally dies, or when the enemy executes their own Jumbification!
“Considering the above requirements and the turn restriction (three turns by default), the balance is such that at the appropriate level, Jumbification serves particularly well as ‘a useful element that could turn things around in a pinch,’ and at a state well beyond the appropriate level, it functions as a ‘destroyer of all things.'”
Another new feature in Disgaea 7: Vows of the Virtueless is Item Reincarnation—turning pancakes into swords, creating swords with spear skills, and so on. Can you talk about how this changes the game?
Minowa: “The Disgaea series has the Item World as a means of strengthening items. This is great for adding replayability after the main story has been cleared. Item Reincarnation is a feature that enhances both of those things, and one that will also prove useful in battles against strong enemies after the main story has been cleared, or in ranked battles against other players.”
Ranked battles are another new element of the game, which utilize player-set Demonic Intelligence to compete against rivals all over the world. How was this system decided? And will there ever be a day where Disgaea players can fight in real-time online battles?
Minowa: “The current ranked battle system was never developed to be a substitute for online battles.
“The ‘Demonic Intelligence’ system, along with the autoplay feature, was a controversial system, but I thought ‘Demonic Intelligence’ itself had some interesting potential applications. In the previous iteration, there was little room for user creativity when using the default setting, as the process was automated and mostly just a matter of time, so when we thought about how to improve upon that, we decided to try two new things this time around.
“One was, in order to optimize Demonic Intelligence for the shortest possible clearing times, we introduced a cost. The other, was ranked battles against actual opponents, which was introduced under the pretense that everyone could fully enjoy the functionality of Demonic Intelligence, which allows for more control.
“As for real-time battles, we think it would be difficult to make them interesting within the Disgaea battle system framework as it is now, but if any good ideas do come along, we would be open to exploring them.”
The last big new element of Disgaea 7: Vows of the Virtueless (that we know of) is the ability to go sightseeing in the game’s cluster of Netherworlds after restoring the peace. What was the thought process in introducing this feature? To me it feels as if this is a means of introducing more traditional RPG-style roaming / NPC interaction to the world of Disgaea. Was that part of the idea behind it?
Minowa: “I’d say so. As I mentioned earlier, one of the main ideas this time around was to focus on and delve into one Netherworld, the world of Hinomoto, so this was thought of as a way to share more of the world and setting without involving combat. I think we were able to bring more depth to the Netherworld of Hinomoto through NPC conversations and the quests they offer.”
You’re also introducing two mini games alongside the sightseeing feature: shogi and a martial arts tournament. Why shogi (as opposed to, say, another board game)? And how will the martial arts tournament differ from standard battles?
Minowa: “Both shogi and the tournament originated from places that appear in the story. Demon Shogi is meant to serve as a place to practice using Demonic Intelligence. The tournament battles themselves are actually fairly standard, but there are some tough enemies so it will take skill to win.”
With 45 generic character classes plans, Disgaea 7: Vows of the Virtueless will offer the most generic classes in the history of the series. What went into deciding which classes made the cut, and were there any that you didn’t want to include?
Minowa: “The idea was to have both male and female versions of all humanoid characters up to the generic classes, loads of returning characters from past titles, and at least two completely new humanoid characters plus two completely new monster classes. I think part of [the Disgaea series]’s charm comes from the fact that there are male and female versions of the humanoid characters, so I definitely wanted to bring that back. Many fans of the Disgaea series have strong feelings about the generic characters, so we wanted to make it possible for them to play as the characters they have feelings for.
“That said, we also wanted to add new characters, so we decided to have four [new classes]. Of the new characters, I particularly like the Big Eyes because they’re so cute.”
While you were previously a programmer on Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance, this is the first time you’re directing an entry in the series. How was the shift going from programmer to director? Was there anything from being a programmer that you brought into your role as director?
Minowa: “When I was a programmer, I was basically only involved with the specific system or mechanic that I was working on at a given time, so it’s been both difficult and interesting to now be a director who must think about the game as a whole. My experience as a programmer has helped me to make more concrete assumptions when thinking about gameplay systems, and it’s also made it easier to communicate with our programmers.”
Can you share a few final words for our readers?
Minowa: “I can confidently say that with this addition to the series, we’ve really got something that is sure to satisfy fans—so please look forward to it!”
Thank you for your time, Minowa-san!