It’s been a very long time since our first Company Profile, so here’s a long-overdue second. this time around, we’re taking a look at skip, who are, in my opinion, the most important developer to spring from the womb of Lovedelic.
It’s unknown exactly when skip was formed although an educated guess (somewhere between the release of Lack of Love and Giftpia) would place the formation somewhere around 2001/2002. The company was set up by Kenichi Nishi and Keita Eto (formerly of Squaresoft) and Hiroshi Suzuki (of Bullet Proof Software) and though it started small, it soon expanded into three offices across Shibuya, Tokyo.
Each of the three offices is named after a number based pun, as skip’s account manager Miki Tashiro explained to Eegra a few months ago. “We call this office First Division. Another office at Ebisu, we call Nishi Division, because Nishi was there. And another office, we call Hiro-o Division, because it’s in Hiro-o. So this office is ‘one’ , Ni-shi is ‘two four’ , and Hiro-o is ‘one six zero’ .”
Each of these offices comprises small, idiosyncratic, teams who have worked on various projects, all published by Nintendo. Many, if not all, of these games have been categorized by long delays and design revisions but each has also turned out to be rather brilliant, thankfully retaining many of the signature themes of Lovedelic’s three titles.
Here are the games, in order of release:
GIFTPIA [24 Division] (GameCube, 2003)
skip kicked off their career on familiar ground, with yet another RPG. This, like Moon, was anything other than generic though. The story centres around a boy who accidentally misses his coming of age ceremony and thus infuriates the mayor who had spent a lot of money on organising the party. The mayor then imprisons the boy and essentially charges him with community service as a punishment. Like Moon before it, the player must then travel around the game world, trying to please as many people as possible to make up for his ‘crime’.
Featuring cel-shaded graphics and skip/Lovedelic’s distinctive voice samples, Giftpia is a beautifully presented games with some typically quirky touches. When you first start the game, for example, the main character’s face will be pixellated out, as if to protect the ‘criminal’s’ identity. Clever stuff.
Sadly, Giftpia was only ever released in Japan, despite the fact that it was shown at E3 2003, in playable form, completely translated into English. Any western gamers who now want to play will have to rely on this online translation/guide… unless Gifpia is ever localised for Wii, which will probably never happen.
CHIBI-ROBO! [24 Division] (GameCube, 2005)
Without doubt, my favourite of all the Lovedelic games. Chibi-Robo! is a platform-adventure game where you take control of a tiny robot, who must explore a huge (from his perspective) house and help reunite a family who are beginning to break up due to financial woes and a broken marital relationship.
Like all Lovedelic games, Chibi-Robo! has a huge heart and features one of the most touching stories I’ve ever encountered in a videogame. It also happens to feature some great gameplay too, particularly the way in which Chibi’s abilities gradually allow him to explore more and more of the house. It’s very reminiscent of the Zelda games, which may not be a coincidence as Shigeru Miyamoto helped design the game when the publishing rights transferred from Bandai to Nintendo.
BIT GENERATIONS series [1st Division] (Game Boy Advance, 2006)
The bit Generations games are the brainchild of Nintendo; a series of experimental GBA games that were designed to feature minimal graphics with maximum gameplay. There were 7 games in all, 6 of which were developed by skip, while the other was made by Q-Games, the makers of PS3’s similar PixelJunk series. I’ll do a full rundown of the bit Generations games later in the year, for now however I recommend Soundvoyager. This is my favourite of the series and is a very basic game in which you must search for items that you can hear but not see. As you get closer to the object, its noise gets louder, which should help you to locate it. And every object that you find adds its own noise to a loop.. collect several more and the audio loop will develop into a beautifully cacophonous soundtrack.
CHIBI-ROBO: PARK PATROL [160 Division] (DS, 2007)
This was the first ever sequel from the Lovedelic crowd but it was no lazy rehash. Made for the Nintendo DS, this second Chibi adventure did away with the house, the family, the RPG gameplay and restyled itself as a gardening simulator. The story, like Lack Of Love, is very environmentally focused as you have to fight smog creatures and plant hundreds of flowers in order to brighten up a small town and please its citizens.
skip has been disturbingly quiet lately. Founding members Kenichi Nishi and Hikarin have recently left the company and there has been little activity since. skip did publish ArchimeDS (made by Nishi’s new company, Route24) but has not developed a game since Chibi-Robo Park Patrol. The developer definitely isn’t quitting though, as it recently recruited several new staff members into its 1st Division to work on a project which it claims will be similar to the bit Generations series. We also know that skip spent the last year working on a game that it was unable to find a publisher for. It is now assumed that the game has been abandoned, though we obviously hope that a willing publisher emerges in the future.