RPGFan Exclusive Interview #1: Akihiro Hino
Conducted and Translated by Chris Winkler
We start off this series of exclusive interviews with Level 5 president Akihiro Hino. Since the formation of Fukuoka-based Level 5 in October 1998, Hino has overseen the release of Dark Cloud and Dark Chronicle (Dark Cloud 2 in the US). The company's biggest success to date, however, was its selection as developer of Square Enix's Dragon Quest VIII: Sora to Umi to Daichi to Norowareshi Himegimi. The eighth installment of Square Enix's second flagship series behind Final Fantasy has become the best selling game released on the current hardware generation in Japan, and did so within a matter of days after its November 27th, 2004 release. Now, Level 5 is working on two new games for Sony Computer Entertainment: An original RPG for PlayStation Portable and a PlayStation 2 game, tentatively titled Next RPG.

Q: Mr. Hino, congratulations on the development and completion of Dragon Quest VIII: Sora to Umi to Daiichi to Norowareshi Himegimi. We have many questions for you, but first could you tell us about the impetus that made you enter the game industry?
A: I have been interested in personal computers since [I was] an elementary school student. I did some programming, but the impetus to make the creation of games my profession came after I had played Dragon Quest III. By the time I had played through Dragon Quest III and reached its ending, I was surprised and amazed by the fact that there were only two patterns of character animations. That made me realize the greatness of the medium that [is] games. Afterwards, I came to the conclusion that I wanted to create games.

Q: Dragon Quest VIII has not been released in North America and Europe yet; but generally speaking, Level 5's games are considered highly acclaimed pieces of software worldwide. What do you think is behind this acclaim?
A: The fact that we unconditionally do not cut any corners. Furthermore, because Level 5 games do feature a lot of "entertainment" and in that sense are like an amusement park, they are renowed for being enjoyable in this aspect.

Q: Let's talk about the cancelled Xbox title True Fantasy Live Online. What is the project's current status? Are there plans to release the game for the PC platform or PlayStation 2? Provided there are, when would the game be released?
A: At the present [time], I can't speak about this issue. [I would like to thank the many fans] for the opinions and suggestions we have received regarding the future development of True Fantasy Live Online. We plan to undertake the greatest efforts in responding to all these requests.

Q: Last year, Sony Computer Entertainment announced that Level 5 was working on an original RPG for its new PlayStation Portable handheld. Can you tell us any details regarding this new project?
A: We will announce details soon. It will be a Level 5-style original title. Please look forward to it.

Q: In addition to this PlayStation Portable title are there any games currently in development? Are you planning to announce a third PlayStation 2 title soon?
A: Of course. The "Next RPG", which has been announced on our official website and elsewhere will be a PlayStation 2 title. We plan to release information on this game in the near future.

Q: When looking at the game industry right now, one can observe a trend towards the continued spread of MMORPGs. Mr Hino, what are your thoughts on this issue? Also, how do you think, will the industry and in particular the RPG genre evolve from here on?
A: I believe MMO games will become a genre with a certain market share in the future. However, because there is also the possibility that those games producing masses of disabled players will become a problem, one has to be very careful when it comes to designing such games.

Q: Mr Hino, what works have influenced your work?
A: Of course, the Final Fantasy series has become a standard for creating visuals. Also, the pleasant feeling when touching a Nintendo-related game. When thinking about the user interface, there are many things I have to learn.

Q: Mr Hino, what games are you playing yourself?
A: I like Nintendo's Pikmin and Legend of Zelda. I also play all RPGs.

RPGFan would like to thank Akihiro Hino and Yukiko Harada for their cooperation and support in enabling us to present this exclusive interview to our readers.

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