In 1998, there was this game developing company called Riverhillsoft, that produced such timeless classics like... uh... Overblood...? Anyway, in 1998 it disbanded, and one of its members, Akihiro Hino, went on to produce his own game developing company, being particularly supported by Sony Computer Entertainment, and went to produce some respectably good sellers for the then-newborn Play Station 2, especially the Dark Cloud series. That company's name is Level-5, and they only got bigger.
A few years later the company would get its two next big-titles, the first being unexpectedly ordered by Square Enix: Dragon Quest VIII, which also sold like crazy, and solidified their relationship (Level 5 would be later hired to produce Dragon Quest IX). The other title was an action-RPG ordered by Sony again, Rogue Galaxy. In just four short years, Level-5 went from small startup studio to one of the premier RPG developers in Japan, and have enjoyed immense critical and commercial success. Soon it started publishing its own titles in Japan (notably their best-selling Professor Layton and Inazuma Eleven series), while still being chums with Sony (Jeanne D Arc, White Knight Chronicles).
Future projects include (besides more sequels for some of the beforementioned games):
- An RPG called Ni no Kuni, developed alongside that mildly popular animation studio, Studio Ghibli. And before you ask, yes. And before the next question, it has been confirmed for localization in N.A. and Europe
- A PSP horror-RPG called Ushiro, which, after months of silence and removal from the official website, may or may not be canceled.
- A new title for the 3DS, PSP and the PlayStaion Vita called Time Travelers.
- Fantasy Life, another 3DS game.
- Youkai Watch, their newest unveiling, for an unannounced platform is shaping up to be a multimedia franchise like Layton and Inazuna Eleven.
- Guild01: Crimson Shroud
- Girls RPG: Cinderelife, a 3DS renewal of a hostess sim originally made for mobile phones. Currently set for a February 2012 release in Japan.
The company will also be opening an American publisher branch soon. Maybe this means their titles will start avoiding Schedule Slip. Only time will tell.
Level-5: making something for everybody.
Level-5 produced the following games:
- Dark Cloud, soon followed by a sequel called Dark Chronicle (or Dark Cloud 2 if you live in America).
- Dragon Quest VIII
- Rogue Galaxy
- Jeanne D Arc
- The Inazuma Eleven series.
- The Professor Layton series.
- White Knight Chronicles (plus sequel)
- Ni no Kuni (one version for the DS, one for the PlayStation 3).
- The Little Battlers
- Dragon Quest IX
- Time Travelers
- Fantasy Life
- A bunch of cellphone games that never saw the light of day in the West.
- Two titles were planned but cancelled: Ushiro, for the PSP; and True Fantasy Live Online, for the Xbox. Work on the former may or may not be resumed.
Tropes associated with Level-5.
- Cel Shading: Dark Chronicle is considered one of the pioneers in the use of cel-shading in video games, and Dragon Quest VIII was widely praised for being one of the most gorgeous cel-shaded titles on the Play Station 2. The trailer for the PlayStation 3 version of Ni no Kuni shows that they haven't lost their touch when it comes to this.
- Scenery Porn
- Schedule Slip: Their recent games are getting pretty bad about this, in regards to Western releasing. White Knight Chronicles took 14 months to be released in the US, while Professor Layton and the Unwound Future took 22. Inazuma Eleven takes the cake, though - it was released in Europe in January 2011, two and a half years after its Japanese release.
- Serious Business: Puzzles, football, and model kit are taken to new levels in their games.