Nihon Falcom (日本ファルコム) is one of the oldest developers of Japanese role-playing games that is still in business, creating some of the first entries of its genre in Japan. Today they are most famous for their long-running Ys series of action-RPGs and their storied Legend of Heroes franchise, who's Trails sub-series is the company's most popular property in Japan.
Formed in March 1981 by Masayuki Kato, Nihon Falcom initially began as a brick and mortar store located in Tachikawa, Tokyo, called Computer Land Tachikawa. The store opened in July 1981 and sold Apple products and software, including the Apple II computer. Hobbyist programmers were quickly attracted to Computer Land with Falcom's future star programmer, Yoshio Kiya, being a regular customer at the shop. Kiya would sometimes barter software that he created to purchase computer hardware at the store which eventually lead to Masayuki Kato working with Kiya to publish a video game he had created in his spare time in 1982. The game was a sci-fi strategy game with semi-real time elements, called Galactic Wars 1, and would mark Nihon Falcom's debut into the video game industry.
Throughout the following decades Nihon Falcom would play a pioneering role in the growth of the early PC game industry in Japan, creating some of the most influential and best selling titles of the time including Dragon Slayer as well as Xanadu and would eventually create many classic franchises that are still continuing to this day such as Ys and The Legend of Heroes.
Unlike many game companies in the 1980's, Falcom refrained from moving fully into developing for Nintendo's Famicom or other home consoles of the era and instead continued to develop for personal computers, such as the NEC PC-88 and later Windows based PCs, almost exclusively till the mid-2000s. While a number of Falcom's past titles were ported to home consoles and portable devices, they were mostly handled by companies other than Falcom, such as Hudson, Bandai Namco and Konami. A few notable exceptions during the 90s were The Legend of Xanadu duology for the PC-Engine CD and Ys V as well as Popful Mail for the Super Famicom which were all developed by Falcom themselves. However, with the loss of their PC distributor in Japan during the early 2000s and the declining sales in the market, Falcom has since stopped all PC development and now only creates titles for console and handheld platforms.
Nihon Falcom is famous in Japan and in the West for a number of its franchises, including Ys, Brandish, Xanadu, and the Legend of Heroes. However, due to their once heavy emphasis on Japanese PC development, the company was largely unknown in the West until recently when localization companies such as XSEED, Aksys and NIS America began consistently publishing their games overseas.
- Nihon Falcom's name is actually a play off the name of Han Solo's space ship from the Star Wars films, the Millennium Falcon. The "com" was added to the end of "Falcon" since it was a popular ending suffix for Japanese computer companies at the time and "Nihon" (the Japanese word for "Japan") was added to make the title feel more complete . There is even a space ship featured on the cover of certain version's of Falcom's first game, Galactic Wars 1, that looks very similar to the Millennium Falcon.
- Falcom Official Corporate History Timeline
- Chronicles of Ys: A Series Retrospective by Tom Massey (Eurogamer, 2014).
- The Prehistory of Nihon Falcom by Kevin Gifford (1up.com, 2011).
- Ys Interview Collection translated by Shmuplations.
- Preserving Nihon Falcom’s First Game by Takeshi Kanazawa (Game Preservation Society, 2017).
- The Falcom Museum - Japanese fan site.
- Interview with Yoshio Kiya (4Gamer, 2006).