Granzella founder discusses Disaster Report acquisition, PlayStation Home shutdown

Another PS Vita game and a separate action adventure game in the works at Granzella, too.

Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories

Last week, leakers published a handful of quips from a Famitsu interview with Disaster Report creator and Granzella studio founder Kazuma Kujo about the development philosophies of the newly revived Disaster Report 4 and the prospect of other Irem properties being acquired by the studio. Famitsu has now run the interview in full on its website, providing further clarification on these points, as well as how Granzella gained the rights and hints at other games Granzella has in development. You can find our translation of the full text below.

It seems like the announcement that your company has acquired the IP and selling rights to the Disaster Report series has been met with a lot of fanfare.

Kujo: It has. The response we got was more than we were personally expecting. In fact, we were really surprised to see so many people happy about the announcement. It’s been about four years since development was cancelled for Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories, making it six years since the series has had a proper game come out with Zettai Zetsumei Toshi 3 [the Japan-only PSP installment]. On a personal level, we were just glad to have the rights as a matter of principle, but knowing that we still have so many patient fans waiting for us is something that feels really great. At the same time, I hate that things have been drawn out for so long, so my feelings on this are all a little complicated.

From what I gather, the reception to the announcement has been largely positive.

Kujo: There were some people that expressed displeasure at seeing the series leave Irem, but most people have been really encouraging, for which we’re grateful. I know we’re not the most dependable bunch considering the circumstances, but the fact that we have people out there rooting for us and keeping tabs on how we’ve been doing is really heartwarming.

I imagine the positivity is due in large part to the fact that Irem’s roots run deep in many of the people who work at Granzella now.

Kujo: I’d agree with that. A lot of us have close ties to the series.

Could you talk a little about how you ended up with these rights?

Kujo: Sure. So one of the original goals we had when we founded Granzella was to put out another disaster game. That sort of subject matter makes for a risky proposition, so we set out to make a company where we could assume that risk and the administrative responsibilities that come with it ourselves. Knowing that, if it was at all possible, we wanted to realize that vision with Disaster Report specifically. When we approached Irem about it, they were really understanding and things progressed well from there. And then last year, our talks wrapped up and we made our announcement at the end of last year in the midst of the usual holiday chaos.

Personally, I was really surprised by it. The announcement just came out of nowhere.

Kujo: That’s the impression I get from most everybody, yeah. Even within the company, only a select group of people knew what was happening up until the announcement, so we had our fair share of staffers that were caught off guard, too. (Laughs.)

And now all eyes are on where the Disaster Report series goes from here. How are you thinking things are going to proceed from here?

Kujo: At the outset, right now we want to revive interest in the series again, so by the time this interview is published, we should have the first two games, Disaster Report and Raw Danger for the PS2, available for download as PS2 Classics [on the Japanese PlayStation Store]. And then from there, we’re working on getting out Zettai Zetsumei Toshi 3 out again as a downloadable PSP game, too.

I’m impressed how fast you guys are making moves after the announcement.

Kujo: Well, with those previous games, we’re not altering anything internally; they’re going to be the exact same as the original retail versions when we release them for download. It took a lot of people helping us out to make these re-releases happen so quickly. Officially, we’re obviously the publisher of those games, but internally when you boot the game, it’ll still have the Irem logo in it and whatnot.

Wow, you’re not even changing that part?

Kujo: That’s correct. So for those of you who already own those games or are expecting changes to be implemented, I apologize, but you probably shouldn’t buy these re-releases. (Laughs.) On the other hand, if you just want to reminisce or you missed out on playing these when they first came out, these are for you. Actually, I ended up replaying the games again to check everything was working and while there were definitely things I found lacking in them by modern standards, they still felt fresh in their own way, so I kept playing them. It’s funny, even though I was responsible for more than half of the design work on those games, it’d been so long that there were times that I’d forgotten where to go, so that was nice to have them feel new again in parts. It also made me remember just how passionately I wanted to make disaster games back then, too; I came away from them feeling like I have a lot to live up to, even just on a personal level.

Tells us a little about the state of Disaster Report 4 because it was well into development and the standard media blitz when it was cancelled. Will the game you guys put out just be a continuation of what you worked on previously or will it be something completely new?

Kujo: What we accomplished with Disaster Report 4 originally is still something I want the world to see, so it’s not like we plan on scrapping everything and rebuilding it from square one. Things like the basic themes, the summertime setting, the situations that the protagonist finds themselves [the original version allowed for selectable gender] in, I figure those will more or less remain intact. But a lot of time has also passed since we first worked on the game and the industry is in a different place now; the ways games express themselves, the technology they use, we have to incorporate those things now to make it all work.

And to be quite frank, I just don’t think we could release the game quite as it was when we had to abandon it. The reality is that if we hadn’t had trouble finishing the original version to begin with, if development had gone more smoothly, we would have been able to put the game out in a more timely fashion. I’ve done a lot of thinking these last four years about what happened. I’m glad we’ve got the rights to the series, but there’s a lot of self-introspection going on right now as to whether I’m now capable of really making that game what it should be. All of that is going to inform how we develop Disaster Report 4 so that hopefully we don’t get too big for our britches this time and can make something we’re genuinely able to put out.

So essentially, the core of the game will remain the same, but if things merit reexamining, they’ll be reexamined.

Kujo: Yep.

Up until now, Granzella has been really involved in making lounges for PlayStation Home. Will that experience go into making online components for Disaster Report 4, by any chance?

Kujo: That’s the hope, yeah. There are systems I’d like to put in where, for example, players can leave behind hints for one another as to how to survive a given area, messages of pending danger, and even crucial items for them to use.

If you don’t mind me changing the subject a bit, how are you all feeling about PlayStation Home shutting down soon?

Kujo: Personally, I suspect there’s no developer that owes more to Home’s existence than Granzella because when we had started the company, we had to start completely from scratch. We had no IPs of our own nor the knowledge of how to take on subcontracting work ourselves. Literally, we had nothing to work with. But three months into the business, we got a lounge up on the service and started connecting with our customers. And then from there, we wound up doing business in 37 different countries through Home. Obviously getting money from all those sources helped us out, but more importantly, having so many fans from around the world helped up keep going, too. The fact that we were able to continue doing that work, I think, contributed to us being able to get those rights for the Disaster Report series. If we didn’t have PlayStation Home this whole time, Granzella may well have had a hard time staying afloat, so we’re deeply grateful to the service and its users for everything they’ve provided.

It’s unfortunate it all has to come to an end for sure. If I can ask, have you decided what platforms Disaster Report 4 will come out on yet?

Kujo: We’re not quite ready to talk about that yet. Check back in during the fall later this year and we’ll be ready to talk about that.

Just so we’re clear, fall isn’t when you’re actually going to release the game. It’s when we’re getting more information.

Kujo: Yes. Don’t put too much stock into that time frame. (Laughs.)

How are you going to be involved in the game’s development now?

Kujo: Well, it’s going to be pretty much the same as it’s been with the other games. I’ll be putting on a lot of hats: designer, director, planner, the works. I also intend to handle the scenario writing and producer work, as well.

Is there anybody else on the development team who’s worked on the previous games, too?

Kujo: Yeah, naturally. There have been other Irem expats since the founding of this company and more have come from there since then. It’s interesting that you bring this question up because within the company itself, it was actually the people who hadn’t previously worked on the other games that were most excited we landed the rights. (Laughs.) There are people who came to work for us because they were originally Irem fans, so it makes sense, in a way. I mean that’s not to say that the series veterans weren’t pleased with the news. It’s just that they understand better than anyone else the blood, sweat, and tears that goes into making them. (Laughs.)

Disaster Report aside, do you have word on any other Irem properties like R-Type and Steambot Chronicles?

Kujo: We’ve definitely had people asking us in the wake of the Disaster Report acquisition whether there would be more stuff coming from R-Type and the return of Steambot Chronicles II. Believe me, I have a great deal of love for those series, too, but right now I can only guarantee that we’ve got Disaster Report.

Finally, do you have any parting words for Disaster Report fans that will be reading this interview?

Kujo: First off, I just want to thank everyone, whether you’re a fan who’s been waiting for this time to arrive or someone who worked with us more directly in making this happening. Disaster Report 4 won’t be undergoing anything in the way of drastic renovations, but we’ve all grown a little since we last got to work on the game and hopefully the final product will display the fruits of that to some extent. We’ve all been really floored at all the support we’ve gotten since we made the announcement and it’s made for a vivid reminder that both as a company and as individual creators, we owe a great debt to our players.

Aside from work on the Disaster Report series and our manga-making software Let’s Manga for PS Vita, we’ve got one more title in the pipeline this year for Vita, plus a brand new action adventure game, among a bunch of other things we’ve got in the works. We hope you’ll stick around and see where things go from here.

Oh, actually, one more thing. Do you plan on still doing something special for April Fool’s Day this year?

Kujo: Yes, of course! We’ve been hashing those details out since May last year! (Laughs) So look forward to that, too.

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