Once there was this game developing company called Riverhillsoft, who began with the Adventure Game J.B. Harold Murder Club and went on to produce such timeless classics like... uh... Over Blood...? Anyway, in 1998, two years before Riverhillsoft disbanded, one of its members, Akihiro Hino, left 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 PlayStation 2, especially the Dark Cloud series. That company's name is Level-5 Inc. 『株式会社レベルファイブ』 , 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 (like Inazuma Eleven series), while still being chums with Sony (Jeanne D Arc, White Knight Chronicles), and working with Nintendo too (Professor Layton).
Non-sequel future projects include:
- A PSP horror-RPG called Ushiro, which, after months of silence and removal from the official website, may or may not be canceled.
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
- Dragon Quest IX
- 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 which was released only in Japan, one for the PS3).
- The Little Battlers
- Time Travelers
- Fantasy Life
- Girls RPG: Cinderelife
- Attack of the Friday Monsters: A Tokyo Tale
- The Starship Damrey
- Bugs vs. Tanks
- Yokai Watch
- 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 PlayStation 2. The trailer for the PS3 version of Ni no Kuni shows that they haven't lost their touch when it comes to this.
- Cross Over: Level-5 seems to be getting rather fond of this these days. First there was Professor Layton VS Ace Attorney, then Inazuma Eleven GO vs Danball Senki and the many TV commercials featuring the protagonists from those two series. Both Professor Layton and Danball Senki characters have featured as secret characters in the Inazuma Eleven series, and a puzzle from Professor Layton and the Azran Legacies features the characters of Inazuma Eleven GO.
- 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. And North America had to wait until February 2014, 5 and a half years after Japan.
- Serious Business: Puzzles, soccer/football, and model kit are taken to new levels in their games.