At BitSummit 7 Spirits in Kyoto last weekend, we sat down with Too Kyo Games writers and co-founders Kazutaka Kodaka and Kotaro Uchikoshi, known for the respective creations of the Danganronpa and Zero Escape series, to discuss the studio’s recent founding and current progress.
Get our full interview below.
Gematsu: What made everyone decide to leave Spike Chunsoft and start a new company?
Kazutaka Kodaka: “Well there were two reasons for this. One, we wanted to use our own money to make indie games and own the rights to our titles. And two, we wanted to team up with other companies and create titles that we wouldn’t have been able to make at Spike Chunsoft.”
Was Spike Chunsoft not giving you the creative freedom to tackle the kinds of projects you wanted to work on?
Kodaka: “Well, Spike Chunsoft is not a big company, so resources are limited. And there are companies that are good in a specific genre of games. We wanted to, for instance, team up with a company that’s good at making action games, or a company that’s good at making RPGs to expand what we can do. In that regard, there is a project that we are teaming up with Spike Chunsoft on as well.”
Oh yeah. The fourth project teased by Too Kyo Games was a Spike Chunsoft collaboration project. How did that start?
Kodaka: “I left the company when the idea got green lit, and told Spike Chunsoft that I wanted to work on it from the outside.”
Are you able to say anything about the “Limit x Despair” title you two are working on together?
Kodaka: “That’s actually the theme so it might not become the title. As for that game, its still in the early stages. We haven’t decided upon whether to release it through a publisher or go indie with that.”
Ah, right. I know you’re already working with Izanagi Games on Death March Club, who judging by your comments isn’t the publisher of the “Limit x Despair” title. As of now, do you think that title should be an indie game or find a publisher for it?
Kodaka: “Well, if we we’re to release it as our own, it’s probably going to be a visual novel. Though if we decide its better to have, for instance, 3D graphics or other mechanics, then we might have to find a publisher. It’s still in the early stages and we’ll probably have to decide that after the story is finalized.”
What other genres are you interested in working on?
Kodaka: “We can’t say in detail yet, but genres that we haven’t done yet.”
Well I’m not so much asking what you’re currently working on, more so if there are there any genres that you’re personally interested in?
Kodaka: “Well, that’s the genre we’re working on right now. (Laughs.) Although action, or RPG, whatever the genre might be, what we want to keep in mind that is our games will always be a story-driven experience. So we aren’t thinking about games that are heavy on the online components. It might sound that we’re going against trends, but we’re certain that there are people out there wanting a narrative driven game.”
—Concept artwork of the “Limit x Despair” title from Too Kyo Games.
You guys are also working on an anime from Studio Pierrot. Can you explain influences that films like Pulp Fiction and The Professional had on it?
Kodaka: “When the plans started for the anime, there was an influx of ‘moe anime’ or anime that have too much fan service. So me and the producer were discussing that we should make something that goes against that trend. It also includes cyberpunk influences, from Ghost in the Shell and such. I also wanted to make a story in which most characters will die at some point. (Laughs.)”
So far, the only game that we know with a release window is Death March Club in 2020. The premise sounds similar to Danganronpa, but how is it different?
Kotaro Uchikoshi: “There’s going to be a lot of twists and turns in the story so we can’t tell you yet. It’s filled with surprises.”
Kodaka: “If you’re thinking that it’s a Danganronpa clone, we’ve already got you in our hands. (Laughs.)”
Hmm, I see. So you want people to think its similar to Danganronpa?
Uchikoshi: “Well, yeah… but we don’t want to say too much. (Laughs.)”
Kodaka: “I like to think that the game already started the moment we announced the title.”
What’s it coming out on?
Kodaka: “PC is confirmed, but other platforms are still in negotiation.”
Is this going to be a worldwide release?
Kodaka: “That’s right.”
What platforms do you play games on the most?
Uchikoshi: “I think I play on PlayStation 4 the most at work, although since I have a daughter, when I play at home I play Switch the most.”
Kodaka: “I play on PlayStation 4 the most as well. The Switch is probably the least played.”
What was the intention behind announcing not one, but four titles so early in development, alongside the announcement of a newly formed company?
Kodaka: “Why did we do that? (Laughs.)”
Uchikoshi: “Don’t ask me! (Laughs.)”
Kodaka: “Well at first, we didn’t tell everyone that we formed a new company. And when we were to reveal Too Kyo Games, we thought, ‘who would be interested in a bunch of old guys making a company?’ So we decided on actually having some titles with that news to get everyone’s attention.”
Four is quite a high number, How many titles did you think you needed for people to take notice?!
Kodaka: “We thought two wasn’t enough. (Laughs.)”
I’d say even one title is enough! (Laughs.)
Kodaka: “Since we’re working with many companies, if we reveal one title, all the other companies will be worried about them not having publicity. So we had to reveal four to make it fair. Since we’re a very small company, we’re sailing between some huge waves. I can’t say everything now, but maybe in ten or so years I’d love to share those stories. There’s a lot of things happening.”
—Concept artwork of Death March Club.
Can you give us an idea of how far along each title is?
Kodaka: “Death March Club is probably the furthest in development. And except for the ‘Limit x Despair’ title, I’d say everything is more than halfway done. The main story and character designs are nearly finished for all of them, and we’re cooperating with other companies to further develop them.”
Uchikoshi-san, you’re currently developing AI: The Somnium Files at Spike Chunsoft in addition to working for Too Kyo Games. How has that affected your work at the new company?
Uchikoshi: “Well, hmm… how should I put it…”
Kodaka: “Are you busy?”
Uchikoshi: “Well, yeah. (Laughs.)”
Have you brought ideas from AI: The Somnium Files to your other projects, or something similar to that?
Uchikoshi: “Not really. I have two different roles in development. For AI, I came to Too Kyo after the game’s story was finished, so I’m currently working as the director. As for the games for Too Kyo, I’m a writer.”
Did you find it hard to leave your past franchises behind at Spike Chunsoft? How does it feel to start something new?
Kodaka: “Hmm… Well I always wanted to do something other than Danganronpa, so I’m really enjoying what I’m doing right now.”
Uchikoshi: “I’m still working with the AI team, including team members from Zero Escape, so it doesn’t really feel as if I left quite yet.”
How much do you think your past titles at Spike Chunsoft influence your current projects?
Kodaka: “I think one of the reasons I’m able to even make my own company is because Spike Chunsoft let me make Danganronpa, and I’m extremely grateful for that. It also kind of honed in my style of game. So explaining things to staff
I just met is easier if they played my past titles. I love Danganronpa, so yeah it definitely has its influences.”
Uchikoshi: “Since the Zero Escape series really caught on overseas, it really opened my eyes to visualize a wider audience for my games. Without that, I think I’d still only be focusing on the domestic market.”
How much do you think works from overseas influenced your projects?
Kodaka: “Of course I play games, and watch movies and series from overseas, but I’m not actively distinguishing ‘western content’ or ‘Japanese content,’ so probably everything I watch or play obviously influences me. Although I have to say that I love Tarantino films, so they surely have influenced my works.”
Kodaka: “What about Detroit: Become Human?”
Uchikoshi: “Ah, yeah. When we played Detroit, we were always talking about how we would have made it. As a Japanese developer and as someone who has been making many adventure games.”
Kodaka: “Yeah, we also talked about, ‘what if we had the same funding as Detroit.’ (Laughs.)”
As a big fan of the Dangonronpa series, I’m curious about why you choose that ending in Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony…
Kodaka: “Well, we didn’t think Danganronpa would succeed to this level when we started it. The first Danganronpa was made because we wanted to make something different and challenge ourselves. The second game was focused more on each character, and they became popular somewhat similar to the characters of the Persona series. Also the anime started around that time too. And when we started development on V3 around that time, there were talks about fleshing out the characters even more and taking Danganronpa on the same path as Persona. Although looking back I started Danganronpa as something ‘different’ from other games, so I wrote down the plot that would become V3, and a lot of the staff said, ‘that’s what we need to do.’ So yeah, that is kind of how it came to fruition.”
It looks like our time is up. Thank you for the chat, Kodaka-san and Uchikoshi-san!