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Nihon Falcom’s 40 Years of RPG Glory


Based in March 1981, Nihon Falcom is without doubt one of the oldest lively online game studios. Celebrating its fortieth anniversary this 12 months, the corporate helped pioneer the action-RPG style, shaping each the JRPG trade and PC gaming scene in Japan. Nowadays, Falcom is greatest identified for its iconic Ys and Trails franchises. Whereas solely not too long ago attracting extra consideration within the West, the studio has retained a powerful popularity in Japan, typically cited alongside juggernaut Sq. Enix as one of the vital influential and distinguished RPG builders. To honor 4 a long time within the enterprise, we chatted with Nihon Falcom president Toshihiro Kondo to reminisce in regards to the firm’s historical past.

Nihon Falcom’s roots are very a lot within the PC scene; the Falcom identify even nods to it. For the moniker, founder Masayuki Kato was impressed by Star Wars’ Millennium Falcon, however he modified ‘con’ to ‘com’ to signify the corporate’s concentrate on pc gaming. The studio’s first recreation, Panorama Toh, hit in 1983, with Yoshio Kiya on the helm. Kiya would later go on to create Falcom’s standard and influential Dragon Slayer and Brandish franchises.

When requested in regards to the firm’s most excellent achievements, Kondo recollects the primary Dragon Slayer recreation, which debuted in 1984. The highest-down journey is credited for pioneering the action-RPG style, that includes real-time fight, an in-game map, and useful resource administration. It additionally launched item-based puzzles, serving as an inspiration for The Legend of Zelda sequence. “Dragon Slayer has been referred to as our first actual hit,” Kondo says. “That’s nonetheless thought of an important achievement for the trade in Japan, and I imagine that was the title that decided the route of Falcom, which now excels at creating fantasy and RPG titles.” Its sequel, Dragon Slayer II: Xanadu, continued the fanfare, setting data for PC recreation gross sales in Japan on the time, promoting 400,000 copies.


Simply a few years later, in 1987, Falcom would launch Ys I: Historic Ys Vanished. The sequence turned a flagship franchise for the corporate and continues to be going as we speak with 9 mainline entries and several other remakes. Falcom’s different key sequence, The Legend of Heroes, adopted in 1989, and debuted as a part of the Dragon Slayer sequence. It donned the Dragon Slayer identify for 2 entries earlier than the Gagharv Trilogy hit in 1994. In flip, that franchise finally advanced into the Trails subseries in 2004, culminating within the large interconnected sequence that we all know as we speak.

Kondo mentioned a lot of the workers, together with himself, had respect for Falcom’s video games earlier than becoming a member of the corporate however says engaged on them lent a brand new appreciation for what made them particular. “Within the case of Ys, it was the action-packed gameplay that was addictive as popping bubble wrap, in addition to artwork which contributed to the epic really feel of the setting. And within the case of The Legend of Heroes, it was the idea of making a correct story,” he says.

As a result of these flagship sequence have been operating for many years, the group has strived to take care of their legacy whereas additionally modernizing them. Kondo mentioned he’ll all the time have a particular place in his coronary heart for 2004’s Trails within the Sky, for that reason, calling it a “seminal title” for him and different workers members, because it was one of many first to signify Falcom in a brand new period. “Within the case of our [work on the] sequence, we will likely be cautious to not stray from these issues [I mentioned earlier] and add new challenges which might be acceptable to the instances,” Kondo says. “If nothing new is dropped at the desk, then I don’t suppose we’d have the ability to stand out as a lot as we have now.”

Kondo did simply that when he took over as president in 2007 and determined to faucet into the console market. “For me, switching focus from PC gaming to consoles shortly after I turned president was a serious occasion,” he says. “In contrast with the instances earlier than that, I really feel like the corporate’s thought course of relating to video games has turn out to be extra versatile.”

With an organization so rooted in PC recreation growth, it was an enormous change, however Kondo says it was crucial. “That shift happened as a result of at the moment, ground area for PC video games in shops was starting to shrink, and we had been being instructed by distributors that they may not take orders as that they had prior to now,” Kondo explains. “Since obtain gross sales weren’t as viable as they’re as we speak, one possibility we had was to go to consoles.”

This transfer allowed Nihon Falcom to increase its viewers and redefine its method to video games. “I feel within the shift to console avid gamers, recreation mechanics and visuals had been modified to be extra versatile and simpler to know for as many individuals as doable,” Kondo says. “It was The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero that decided this route. Through the PC period, titles had been doubtless being made particularly for Nihon Falcom followers.”

Falcom began as a small firm and stays that method as we speak. Kondo believes its success comes right down to the core values established in Falcom’s beginnings. “I imagine it is because of the truth that we have now persistently launched video games which have met the expectations of our gamers,” he says. “Our video games are usually not essentially essentially the most superior technologically, however their content material is very regarded. ‘Do it proper’ and ‘don’t take too lengthy, do not reduce corners’ are phrases that got here from our founder and are nonetheless issues we imagine as we speak.”

These values have helped Falcom stand out; followers typically touch upon the additional element that goes into the studio’s RPGs, similar to enjoyable callbacks to its previous video games. The perfect instance is the Trails sequence’ NPCs, who don’t sputter the identical dialogue repeatedly and have their very own story arcs that unfold. “Right here at Falcom, we have now a saying: ‘Earlier than making an attempt to unravel one thing with cash, attempt fixing it with brainpower,’” Kondo says. “In different phrases, we extremely worth the method of concept creation and refinement.”

Trails of Chilly Metal IV

Falcom isn’t slowing down any time quickly, both – particularly relating to its beloved Trails sequence. The corporate’s personal fortieth celebration stream introduced 4 titles making their method Westward: Trails from Zero, Trails to Azure, Trails into Reverie, and The Legend of Nayuta: Boundless Trails.

Kondo says he’s excited in regards to the future and feels the studio has mix of artistic expertise to maintain issues thrilling. “Lots of the workers members who joined the corporate once I did, did so as a result of early Ys video games and The Gagharv Trilogy, and at the moment are engaged on the Ys and Trails video games,” he says. “Present younger workers joined because of Ys VIII and the Trails sequence. I’m trying ahead to the spin that they may place on their video games to make them Falcom-style and proceed the legacy as they develop of their craft. Naturally, I intend to proceed creating video games, so I need to compete with them and give you new concepts. I would like this optimistic interplay to proceed on into the long run as effectively.”

This text initially appeared in Subject 338 of Recreation Informer.

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