Joystiq interview: NIS America talks PS2 love, Mana Khemia details

Jason Dobson
J. Dobson|12.24.07

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Joystiq interview: NIS America talks PS2 love, Mana Khemia details

With most of civilization abandoning the workplace in order to converge on local shopping malls for those last-minute gift ideas, the gaming world seems to have all but shut down. However, in between trips to Kohl's and Barnes & Noble we did manage to grapple with NIS America's marketing dynamic duo, namely Jack Niida and Nao Zook. While they kept eying the exit behind us, we asked them a number of questions, including the publisher's opinion on the aging PlayStation 2, as well as some specifics on NIS America's latest PS2 RPG, Mana Khemia ~Alchemists of Al-Revis~, which they both go into after the jump.

Hi to both of you, and thanks again for putting your busy holiday schedules on hold and talking with us briefly. You recently announced plans to bring yet another RPG to the PS2 in March with Gust's Mana Khemia. Does this mean that NIS will continue to support the console for some time to come, at least until Disgaea 3's release for the PS3?

It may surprise you, but we will continue to support various consoles as long as there is a need and we could fulfill that need with fun, quality titles. Therefore, you may or may not see more PS2 titles beyond Disgaea 3's release for the PS3. Hopefully, this comes as good news for some of our fans.

Speaking of the PS3, as a smaller publisher, are you finding it difficult to warm up to the current crop of consoles?

If we say "No, it's not difficult," then it would be a lie. We would like to think of ourselves as a turtle that moves slow, but knows where it is going. I hope this answers your question.

Interesting. Looking at Mana Khemia specifically, when you first announced the game, you billed it as a "spiritual sequel" to Gust's Atelier Iris series, so is this not a straight on sequel?

When we referred to Mana Khemia as a "spiritual sequel" to the Atelier Iris series, we meant that Mana Khemia carries over the core elements that made the Atelier Iris series so popular amongst the hardcore RPG fans. This may sound like it's essentially an Atelier Iris game, but that is not the case. Mana Khemia explores new realms with features and systems never before seen in the Atelier Iris series.

One such feature is the upgraded battle system from the Atelier Iris series. Story-wise, it is a completely different story and has different characters. As you may already know, Mana Khemia takes place in a campus-like setting, which is very different from the past series. We believe that even those who have never played the Atelier Iris series can absolutely enjoy this game, while the fans of Gust games can indulge in this new title as well.

Gust's titles, like the aforementioned Atelier Iris and Ar tonelico, have always had a certain intangible style that's difficult to define. How does this game differentiate itself from other games developed by the studio?

Gust has been working on the Atelier series for almost a decade, and they have established themselves to be masters of "alchemy". So, the Atelier Iris series, Ar tonelico, and of course Mana Khemia are equipped with their knowledge and experience of Alchemy. But, what makes Mana Khemia different from other Gust titles is that its setting is based more around a real-world place, a Japanese high school; including many school events that a Japanese school actually has.

So, it might be interesting for US fans to see the similarities and differences between American and Japanese school life. We believe that the feeling of familiarity to the world setting is one of the most distinguished elements of Mana Khemia. And, we hope you will feel that, too!

In your original press release you described Mana Khemia as being "more elaborate" than Gust's other titles. Is this complexity more to do with the alchemy elements you mentioned, which as you say have become the norm in Gust's titles, or is there something else being taken into account?

Alchemy definitely plays a huge role in Mana Khemia. Unlike the spiritual predecessor, it has more intuitive systems with more features, as well. For instance, Mana Khemia no longer has a "level up" feature and instead uses alchemy to "power up". Every time you gather enough ability points, you can craft new skills and abilities for your characters.

The release also mentioned something about a "Grow Book." What is this?

The Grow Book is the method in which you improve your characters. Instead of character levels, you must use alchemy to create items listed in the Grow Book, which in turn will allow your characters to increase they're stats, learn new fighting moves, and other various effects. Since you'll be attending an alchemy school, you will have to use alchemy to improve your characters.

Thanks again for your time. Before we let you go, we've got to ask, with the holidays fast approaching, what are you hoping to find under your Christmas tree?

A Red Ryder BB gun with a compass in the stock, and this thing which tells time.
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