If you pick up games from Aksys or NIS America, odds are you’ve encountered an Idea Factory game. While most Idea Factory games, specifically the visual novels and dating sims, don’t leave Japan, the strategic and turn-based RPGs have been gradually finding their ways overseas on the DS, PSP, PS2, PS3 and even Xbox 360. The company’s developed quite a reputation among gamers, good and bad.
So this week, Important Importables, we’re taking a closer look at the incredibly prolific and notorious Idea Factory.
What’s Idea Factory?
Idea Factory is a relatively new video game developer and publisher, as it was only just founded in 1994. It’s name is also fairly synonymous with fanservice. The RPGs are notoriously difficult, with lots of sidequests and ways to level grind characters to create battle machines. The dating sims have gorgeous character art and emotional stories. Not to mention the company is willing to use whatever’s popular at the time, like moe characters, to get people to pick up its product. It also has no qualms about porting its games to multiple platforms. The result is, they’re quite prolific. Check the !F website, you’ll find references to over 190 games that are either immediately available or coming soon.
Part of what is so notable about Idea Factory is all of its subsidiaries. It has tons of little companies that help make up the whole, and each tends to take care of certain kidns of games. For example, the Otomate and Otomate Forte lines cater to games for girls and women, whether they’re straightforward otome dating sims or just games with incredibly attractive (and sometimes feminine) heroes. Compile Heart is known for some of the company’s more questionable games, which sometimes have standard dating sim elements. If you played Hyperdimension Neptunia or Record of Agarest War, then you’re familiar with Compile Heart. Neverland is not to be confused with the company that created Lufia and works on Rune Factory games. The !F Neverland branch works on Spectral Souls, Generations of Chaos and Spectral Genesis games.
Idea Factory games tend to receive a lot of criticism. This is because they all have certain hallmarks. First, there is often an unforgiving difficulty level in this company’s RPGs. The games will be complicated, there will be no hand holding and all the enemies will humiliate you if you aren’t on guard. Also, IF and its subsidiaries have a nasty habit of reusing game assets. If you’ve played Hyperdimension Neptunia, Cross Edge and/or Trinity Universe, you’ve likely seen this firsthand.
That doesn’t mean all the company’s games are bad. There are a few definitely worth trying out. Plus, the Otomate line of visual novels and girl’s dating sims and RPGs are usually delightful. Here are a few you might want to see.
- Hyperdimension Neptunia (PS3): A standard RPG filled with anthromorphized versions of video game consoles and companies. It’s filled with humor, some innuendo and lots of gaming references.
- Hiiro no Kakera (PS2, PSP, DS): An otome (girl’s dating sim) visual novel about a high school girl who discovers she’s from a chosen family destined to seal a certain sword to save the world. She has six guardians to help and protect her. It’s so popular that it spawned a series.
- Hakuoki (PS2, PS3, PSP, DS): A series of otome visual novels inspired by the Shinsengumi, that adds demons and pseudo-vampires to the mix.
- Blazing Souls Accelate (PS2, PSP): Remember what I said about unforgiving? Blazing Souls Accelate is a perfect example. But, it’s also quite satisfying if you play and manage to succeed. So there you go. Typical save the world fare, when it comes to the plot.
- Jikandia: The Timeless Land (PSP): It’s similar to Half-Minute Hero, since it has players focusing on getting things done within a certain amount of time, only as a side-scroller with a few RPG elements. It’s quite cute.
- Record of Agarest War (PS3, Xbox 360): This is a strategic RPG, that’s somewhat perverted, but also quite challenging. You actually have to be careful who you woo, because you spawn generations of heroes and you want to make sure you have the strongest ones.
- Octomania (Wii): This is a fun little matching, puzzle game with octopi. It’s really quite cute, but can get difficult the more you play.
- Chaos Wars (PS2): This was a cross-over, strategic RPG with characters from Growlanser, Blazing Souls, Shadow Hearts, Spectral Souls and Gungrave. It’s interesting, but the voice acting is horrible.
- Will O’Wisp (PS2, PSP, DS): An otome visual novel about a young female dollmaker. There are human sized, almost cyborg-like dolls, and the heroine may fall in love with some special ones that are elemental dolls and last forever. If one falls in love though, it may become human.
- Wand of Fortune (PS2, PSP): An otome game with simulation elements that has players helping a wannabe witch named Lulu brave a school for magicians and settle on an element.
Look at it this way – if you’re a visual novel and simulation game fan, then odds are you love Idea Factory. If you’re an gamer who picks up lots of RPGs, then there’s a better chance you enjoy a love-hate relationship with the company. While it is true that some of the games are of dubious quality, there are still quite a few !F games worth playing. Your best bet, if possible, is to rent before you buy a game from !F or one of its subsidiaries.
COMING NEXT WEEK: Important Importables talks about Image Epoch.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Last week reviewed Coropata for DS.