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Danganronpa and Zero Escape Creators Discuss New Studio, First Games, and More
by Giuseppe Nelva

Dualshockers: You left Spike Chunsoft to create your own studio. Was it because you wanted more freedom, or you were simply ready to make a new experience?

Kodaka: I wanted to challenge many different projects and work with many different people. That's why I decided to be independent.

Dualshockers: Why so many projects at the same time? Starting a new studio isn't certainly simple, so wouldn't it have been simpler to begin with a single game?

Kodaka: We don't have a big team. We only have the core members among designers, character designers, and a composer. We had many things that we wanted to make. Since we don't use our own internal programmers, it's possible to work on multiple things at the same time.

Dualshockers: You couldn't decide on what to tackle first?

(Everyone laughs)

Kodaka: As you know, Danganronpa is quite successful, so quite a few contacted us wanting to do something together. Four is the maximum number of projects that we can handle at one time, and that's why. In terms of scripts, we have four people in the team who can write them. They can write the plot of the games and then the rest of the team can do their part. That's one of the reasons why we can take on four projects at the same time.

Dualshockers: One of your projects is a "Death Game for Children." Does that mean that the game is actually a title with children as its intended audience, or the story involves children?

Uchikoshi: It's kind of like It. it's for adults, but it includes children characters. That being said, children may be able to enjoy it as well.

Dualshockers: Pretty much all of you seem to be very interested in depicting the theme of despair. What did inspire you to create games on this rather unique theme?

Kodaka: What we really like to do is something unusual and unconventional to begin with. There are a lot of titles like Spider-Man and Detroit: Become Human that everybody can get into, but we like do something different. Our publishers were also looking for something unique. So basically what we liked and the search for something different unconventional matched each other. Of course, you can't kill others in real life, but in games it's possible, so we tried to do something like that.

Dualshockers: Have you ever be worried that the media or society would react negatively to this kind of thing?

Kodaka: We do, but we believe that this is entertainment for mature people.

Uchikoshi: Isn't killing people the point of games? (Laughs)

Kodaka: It's not like I want to necessarily show people dying, but in these scenes, it means something for people to live or to die. In these situations, I want to say something.

Dualshockers: I wonder if the fact that you're in Japan is among the factors that allowed you to create games like this. In Japan, entertainment and fiction aren't judged harshly as in the west, where society appears to be much quicker to point fingers.

Kodaka: We actually aren't very aware of what's going on outside of Japan. We want to create something we think it's enjoyable. If I worried about how people reacted outside of Japan, I wouldn't be able to create the things I want to make.

Dualshockers: That's why I love Japanese games.

Uchikoshi: For the Japanese audience fiction is fiction and it's not reality. Maybe the western audience is more prone to connect fiction and reality, and they prefer something closer to reality even in fiction. I think this might be one of the differences between Japanese and western audiences.

Dualshockers: Do you already have platforms in mind for the game projects you already started?

Kodaka: We can't say anything about platforms, as only the publishers can make that announcement. We don't care much about what hardware we work on, and hopefully, we can create games for all consoles.

Dualshockers: Do you have a favorite platform personally?

Masafumi Takada: PS4.

Kodaka: PS4.

Uchikoshi: Switch!

(Everyone laughs)

Dualshockers: When you released the first video, it was NieR: Automata Producer Yosuke Saito. Did you play with it on purpose so that people would wonder if it was about Yoko Taro?

Kodaka: I think Saito-san said something that made people think that the company was created by Yoko Taro, but he already has his own company.

Dualshockers: Have you already started working on the games? What kind of stage of development are you in?

Kodaka: We already started. We already have something playable, but since we work with publishers, showing four titles at the same time, it's hard to say which one is more advanced.

Dualshockers: How long do you think we'll have to wait before we'll see the first gameplay?

Kodaka: That depends on the publishers (laughs). It's possible that the first one you'll see gameplay of is the Death Game for Children game that you mentioned before, within this year.

Dualshockers: At the very beginning, you said you'd like to make "crazy games for the whole world." Does this means that you want to release all of your games in the west?

Kodaka: Yes, that's correct. We're not sure exactly which regions, though, as it depends on the publishers as well.

Dualshockers: Are you looking for publishing partners outside of Japan for western releases, or maybe you've already found some?

Kodaka: It depends...

Dualshockers: Let's switch gears a bit. Outside of your own games, what are your favorites?

Uchikoshi: Now I'm playing Yoko-san's Nier: Automata and I think it's a lot of fun.

Kodaka: I've been watching Nier: Automata from the very start of the project, through every development stage, and that's why I'm very much into it.

Dualshockers: You created a very lean and compact group of developers, but if you could pick any other to join you, who would that be?

Kodaka: We collaborate with other developers, but we don't want others to join.

Dualshockers: Since you already have playable prototypes, I guess this has been going on since much before the announcement. How long has it been?

Kodaka: We started working together a year ago.

Dualshockers: How long ago did you start thinking about this? Maybe going out for drinks and saying "wouldn't it be nice if we started our own team?"

Kodaka: Actually, I've been thinking about these four projects since before Danganronpa.

Dualshockers: Have you ever brought these ideas to your previous employer?

Kodaka: I never did. That being said when I started thinking about leaving the company, I started showing those ideas to people I could trust. When I did that, they told me they were really good ideas, and we should make them happen.

Dualshockers: You're still working with Spike Chunsoft for one of your games. How did they react when you told them that you were all quitting?

Kodaka: After the latest Danganronpa I presented the ideas to the President of Spike Chunsoft, who immediately said they were good ideas and we should make them happen. Then I told him that I wanted to make them outside of Spike Chunsoft.

Dualshockers: And what did he say?

Kodaka: He was actually very encouraging.

Dualshockers: If Spike Chunsoft wanted to make a Danganronpa game without you now that you've left, would you give them your blessing, or maybe you'd ask them to wait for you so that you could do it yourself?

Kodaka: If they wanted to do it right now, it would be impossible for me because I have four projects going on. I would tell them to go ahead. I left the company, and they have their own financial and business reasons to use the IP, so I have nothing negative to say about it. If later on I have time and they want to do it with me, then maybe it would be possible for me to say.

Dualshockers: The Project Kodaka-san and Uchikoshi-san are writing together looks a lot like Danganronpa in some ways, but also very different in other ways... at least from what I can tell from one piece of artwork, which I'll admit isn't much. What sets it aside from your previous games?

Uchikoshi: Well, the main character is different (laughs)

Dualshockers: What about the main character?

Kodaka: No that was a joke. The reason why you probably thought that it may be similar is the character design. The game itself is totally different from Danganronpa. That being said, while some creators try to always do something different from previous games, I'm not like that. If my new name turns out to be similar to my previous ones, then it's fine.

Dualshockers: Is the genre the same as Danganronpa?

Kodaka: It's actually a different genre.

Dualshockers: What genre is it?

Kodaka: That's still a secret. That being said, any genre would be workable if we put our effort in adapting it to the scenario.

Dualshockers: If I was to guess, to me it seems like an action game with martial arts.

Kodaka: They look like ninja right?

Dualshockers: Did you set yourself a specific goal for these first four projects?

Kodaka: I would like them all to be big hits (laughs). We're putting 100% of our efforts into all four of these projects. Some may think that if we work on four games at the same time, maybe we can't give it our all for all of them. That isn't the case. The goal is creating games that are all interesting and fun to play.

Dualshockers: You mentioned that you'll work on games, anime, and other forms of entertainment. What are those?

Kodaka: Plays and manga.

Dualshockers: Do you already have ideas for those?

Kodaka: Yes, we do. The studio is called Too Kyo games, so it's a game company, but we also want to provide the IP for other forms of entertainment that audiences outside games can enjoy as well.

Dualshockers: Do you already have publishers for all of your projects?

Kodaka: Yes.

Dualshockers: I'm really looking forward to seeing your games.

Kodaka: The release shouldn't be too far. As soon as we have the idea, we like to start right away, you'll probably be able to see them in the relatively near future.

Dualshockers: Since the reveal was all in Japanese, most of your western fans couldn't understand a word of it. Is there anything you'd like to tell them?

Kodaka: Uchikoshi-san has made the Zero Escape series, and I have worked on Dangarnronpa, so those who liked those games, please buy our games! (laughs) Takada-san also composed Danganronpa's music and he is very talented, and we also have the character designer in our team. Each member of our team is talented. With everyone combined, it's going to be a powerful team, so please look forward to play our games.

Takada: I'll do my best to create great music!

Uchikoshi: By the way, since you played Devil May Cry today (Editor's note: I mentioned it earlier in the conversation while casually chatting), our Death Game for Kids already has a title, it's Death March Club. It's still "DMC."

Dualshockers: Is it some kind of school club?

Uchikoshi: Kids who don't go well at school are gathered in this club.

Dualshockers: Is it some kind of punishment?

Uchikoshi: Of course it's against their will, but the story explains why they're in the club.

Dualshockers: It kind of feels like Danganronpa... Are there any teddy bears?

Uchikoshi: No! (Laughs)


Danganronpa, Zero Escape Creators Team Up For A New Murder Game
by Chris Kohler

The writer-directors behind Zero Escape and Danganronpa have formed their own studio and are teaming up to create another game about school kids and murders. Fans of both series will likely want to check out Death March Club—especially since the developers don't think their former employer will continue their old series without them.

Danganronpa's Kazutaka Kodaka and Zero Escape's Kotaro Uchikoshi announced last month that they had departed publisher Spike Chunsoft and formed their own studio, Too Kyo Games. Today, the pair officially revealed their first game, Death March Club, which they plan to release in 2020. It follows a group of a dozen misfit school kids, each around 12 years old, who get into a car accident on a class trip, waking up to find themselves in an abandoned underwater amusement park where a clown forces them to play a Battle Royale-style murder game.

In an interview last month in Tokyo, Kodaka said that the split from Spike Chunsoft was about getting out of a rut. "It was like doing the same thing over and over again," he said through a translator. "I couldn't motivate myself through that. I wanted to do something new, with new people, a new setup."

While the studio has announced four projects that are in the early stages, including three games and one anime, Death March Club is the first one that they've given specific details about. So far, it's only been announced for PC, and will be published by Izanagi Games. Famitsu magazine reports that it's going to be the pair's final "death game."

"We thought about doing something completely different," Kodaka said. Ultimately, the two realized that fans would expect the creators of Danganronpa and Zero Escape to create the ultimate game about schoolchildren and murder. "We wanted to meet that expectation head-on, and work on something that will be the epitome of the death game."

Although the pair created similar games at Spike Chunsoft, they had never worked together before. "I always thought that Kodaka had things that I didn't have, in a way that could be very complementary," said Uchikoshi.

"I focus very much on building the characters," said Kodaka, "whereas Uchikoshi is very good at creating a story that has intricate tricks."

"Also, Danganronpa fans tend to be more stylish," said Uchikoshi, causing the room to break out in laughter.

Currently, seven people work at Too Kyo Games, many of whom left Spike Chunsoft with Kodaka and Uchikoshi. The company will do game writing, direction, music, and art, but will work with outside developers for the programming. Death March Club's engineering will be handled by the developer Grounding, under the supervision of Panzer Dragoon creator Yukio Futatsugi.

"We don't have engineers, we don't have coders," Kodaka says. "We want to focus on doing original IP… If we had a bigger organization, with more people on our payroll, we might have to work on things that we don't want to."

"I selected people who can maintain their livelihood even if the company goes bankrupt," he said. Other members of the company include those who created the graphics and music for Danganronpa. That's why Kodaka and Uchikoshi don't believe that Spike Chunsoft will continue with the series they started, because much of the talent behind it is now gone.

"It's not something that Spike Chunsoft can do anymore. It's not likely they'll work on it," said Uchikoshi. Leaving their former series behind hasn't been too difficult, he says. "For us, it's not like leaving it to somebody else."

"I typically forget the things I make," said Kodaka.


Death March Club is a new ‘death game’ from Danganronpa, Zero Escape creators
by Michael McWhertor

Two creators behind the Danganronpa and Zero Escape series of visual novel games have teamed up to create what they call "a death game that nobody has ever seen before." Their project is called Death March Club, and much like Kazutaka Kodaka and Kotaro Uchikoshi's previous works, it stars a group of kids thrust into a deadly Battle Royale-esque game.

This time, however, the game makers are skewing younger. Death March Club's cast of 12 school kids are all about 12 years old.

We spoke with the developers at Tokyo Game Show last month, and they gave us early details on their new type of death game.

After a bus accident, the preteens who star in Death March Club find themselves stuck in an underwater amusement park, where a murderous clown forces them to play a deadly game. Players will assume the role of Reycho, an unusual young boy who Uchikoshi says is easy to identify and empathize with. He'll be joined by Vanilla, a girl with an "innocent, light personality" who's also "quite dynamic and active," according to Uchikoshi. Players will interact with the game's other 11 characters, in episodes of treason and friendship, Uchikoshi said, while also solving puzzles in 2D action.

Yukio Futatsugi, whose studio Grounding is handling development of the game's action components, said the mechanics will "leverage the personalities of the characters." Kodaka explained that those characters are elementary school-aged because "they obviously have different ways of thinking" compared to high school students or adults, and that will inform how Death March Club will play.

"One of the strong themes [of Death March Club] is growth," Kodaka said. "Having all of these characters grow is part of the story, and that's why we have characters in elementary school. That growth is easier to express. If it's an adult, it's not going to be growth, it will be change."

Kodaka added that another design goal was to have "an extended contrast between the setting of a death game with elements of horror, but implementing children in the theme park. It's a way to create a big contrast."

Death March Club is the first of multiple projects in development at the recently formed Too Kyo Games. It's being developed in Unity and will come to PC sometime in the year 2020. Too Kyo itself is small, only about seven full-time employees and 10 external contractors. Too Kyo joined with Grounding, which developed Crimson Dragon, and Izanagi Games to bring Kodaka and Uchikoshi's project to life.

Kodaka and Uchikoshi teamed up and split from their previous company, Spike Chunsoft, because they wanted to work on something new and different, they said. Shinsuke Umeda, the game's producer at Izanagi Games, said that getting the two creators together along with Futatsugi (the creator of Sega's Panzer Dragoon series) was a miracle in terms of timing. Umeda added that the group is revealing Death March Club early, well over a year before it will be released, because they're following in the footsteps of other indie developers. They want to find an international publisher to partner with, he said, and that Too Kyo "wanted to really show more of the development phase to users, and try to incorporate users' reaction to the game."