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).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
- Dragon Quest IX
- Rogue Galaxy
- Jeanne D Arc
- 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).
- Time Travelers
- Fantasy Life
- Girls RPG: Cinderelife
- 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.
Level-5 is also responsible for the following "cross-media" projects (large-scale multimedia franchises with video games at their core):
- Inazuma Eleven
- Danball Senki (LBX: Little Battlers eXperience outside Japan)
- Yo-Kai Watch
- The Snack World
Tropes associated with Level-5:
- Breakthrough Hit: Dark Cloud was where the company started making a name for themselves, but the Professor Layton series was what really put them on the map.
- 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.
- Cast of Snowflakes
- 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.
- Refuge in Audacity: This seems to be their modus operandi for their more recent games to the point where it seems the company is constantly trying to one-up itself on how ridiculous it can make the plot. A town that looks like a normal town with normal people but is actually nothing but robots? Aliens (both real and fake) determining the fate of a planet via soccer? A presidential assassination carried out with a kids' toy robot? A komainu, completely undisguised, getting a number of job promotions through a company and almost becoming company president entirely through a series of lucky coincidences? Why not?
- 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 Fantasy Life took 21 and 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 the US three more years after that.
- There's also Danball Senki, which wouldn't be released in America or Europe for four years, after which the game had already gotten an Updated Re-release and a port to another console.
- Generally speaking, their European department has now become more prolific than their North American department; Professor Layton VS Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney had a six month gap between Europe and North America, with the latter receiving nothing but a barely modified version of the European build complete with its alternate voice actors — thus making the schedule slip look almost entirely unnecessary. The Inazuma Eleven series, despite having five games released (with the sixth and last seemingly in the works) in Europe, had its first game released in America when Europe was on its fourth, and the North American branch has been giving infamously mixed signals about whether it's just a very long schedule slip or if it has no chance because its Twitter and Facebook keeps reporting on its release...in Europe only.
- Despite being Level-5's most successful franchise to date and having been constantly promoted by the company with the intent to expand internationally, the first Yo-Kai Watch game wouldn't leave its home country for over two years, by which time in Japan the game had already gotten a sequel, the sequel's Updated Re-release, the announcement for a third game, and a spinoff game.
- Serious Business: Puzzles, soccer/football, and model kit are taken to new levels in their games.