Level-5 is perhaps one of the more underrated Japanese video game developers and publishers out there, having been involved with many popular Japanese game series and properties of the past decade. Level 5 is perhaps best known for series such as Ni No Kuni, Yo-kai Watch, and Professor Layton.
Now, a recent interview with Level-5 CEO Akihiko Hino gives some insight into the company's early days and its eventual move to self-publishing. Professor Layton fans can also glean some interesting history on how the team at Level-5 created the Professor Layton series through this interview as well, including what inspirations the team took when creating the series fans have come to know and love.
The interview with Hino comes by way of Yahoo! Japan, which largely centers around Level-5's beginnings as both a video game developer and, eventually, as a publisher. Much of the conversation revolves around the Professor Layton series, as it is one of the earlier franchises that really put the studio on the map. Apparently, the series first began as a sort of experiment, with Hino saying, "At the time, it really felt like we were making Layton with a small number of people. There was a lot of risk involved with the project, but I wanted to keep staff morale high, so I repeatedly assured them that ultimately the project was just an experiment.
Of course, the series eventually grew into something much bigger than a simple experiment. Hino continues, explaining that a large part of Layton's inspiration came from a Japanese puzzle-solving book series called Atama no Taisou, which Hino was a big fan of. Hino goes on to cite the Sherlock Holmes series as another big inspiration for Professor Layton, which doesn't come as much of a surprise to fans of both properties. Though the full interview is entirely in Japanese, it's an interesting read that gives some great insight into Level-5 and Professor Layton's history.
On January 5, Nintendo announced it planned on acquiring Next Level Games, a Canadian-based developer that had been working closely alongside the company for the past decade. Next Level Games' most recent release, Luigi's Mansion 3, has been a huge sales success for Nintendo and earned a great deal of critical acclaim as well, so it makes sense for Nintendo to bring the studio into the fold in an official capacity.
Next Level Games was reportedly looking to sell, which is why Nintendo made the move. Next Level Game is a proven asset for Nintendo, and it wants the studio to keep producing high-selling, critically-acclaimed games as Nintendo Switch exclusives. However, there are many other studios that Nintendo works closely with that it has not acquired, and it may be in its best interest to do so at some point down the line.
Even some of the biggest Nintendo fans may be surprised to learn that the company doesn't actually own Game Freak, the studio that develops the main series Pokemon games. Nintendo has had a close relationship with Game Freak ever since the release of the original Pokemon games in the 90s, and so the vast majority of the studio's titles have been released as Nintendo exclusive games. However, Game Freak has occasionally branched out, securing publishing deals with other companies and making titles for non-Nintendo platforms.