It’s widely known that western visual novel fans adore the Zero Escape series. Over the course of the trilogy’s development the fans have not only saved the the entire series, but they’ve also made it so the games could find their way onto current generation hardware. It’s truly a story that will be remembered throughout video game history, where the voices of fans were heard.
DualShockers had the opportunity to interview Zero Escape series director Kotaro Uchikoshi to talk to him about developing the series. In addition, we discuss his approach to character development and what he has in store for the future.
Azario Lopez: Looking back at the Zero Escape trilogy, what would be your most fond memory while working on any of the series?
Kotaro Uchikoshi: I have so many! I remember during production for 999 how two team members broke down crying in the middle of a meeting. (Not my fault!) During crunch time on VLR we were camping in the office; I fell asleep at my desk and I must have had a nightmare because I suddenly leapt to my feet screaming. Once the game was released someone above me at the company told me that my career was washed up and I would never, ever get to make a sequel, so I should quit while I was ahead. But look who turned out right in the end! Of course, we were able to make ZTD because of support from the fans. Thank you for sticking with us!
AL: In The Nonary Games, 999 went through some audio and visual upgrades, is this something that you’ve wanted to add to the game since the beginning and do they reflect your artistic vision?
KU: We pushed 999 to the limit given the considerable limitations of the DS hardware. So at the time, I wasn’t thinking of ways to refine it in the future.
AL: Do you miss any of the characters from the Zero Escape series?
KU: I would have to say… the player. Have you ever considered the role the user plays in the Zero Escape series? The player is the key person at the heart of the series. Without the player, the story wouldn’t work.
AL: What can you tell us about the image that you shared with Project Psync’s announcement?
KU: All I can say right now, is that “eye” is the major theme of my upcoming title. I should also mention that in Japanese, “eye” is a homonym for “love.”
AL: What are your thoughts on the Nintendo Switch and could you see any of your titles on the new console?
KU: I think it’s a very interesting piece of hardware. If the opportunity presents itself, I’d love to put out something on the Switch.
AL: Is “character development” important to you when you’re creating a cast for a story? How have you approached this in the past, such as in the Zero Escape series?
KU: Character development is extremely important. A story without characters is like a game of baseball without the teams.
I design characters using a binary system. I start with a series of opposing traits– positive or negative, conservative or liberal, emotional or logical and so on—and distribute them to balance the cast.
AL: Do you feel that you stick to your own personal style of story telling or do you change according to industry trends?
KU: I’ll include items in the popular discourse, like Michael J. Sandel’s Communitarianism, but that probably doesn’t qualify as trendy… I tend use whatever elements I find particularly interesting at the time, regardless of their timeliness. For example, recently I’ve been looking into the Bohemian Grove.
AL: Are there any video games that have stood out as amazing or interesting to you recently that you’ve been playing? What is it about the game that you enjoy?
KU: It’s not so recent but I really enjoyed Life Is Strange. It captures the sublime emotions of adolescence, the frailty, the heartache and heartthrob. I’d be happy to make a game like that.
AL: I feel like every time we talk I have to ask, what’s the chances of Punch Line getting localized in the west? It’s 2017 now so maybe a PC port could be added to the question?
KU: I’m sorry that I can’t give a straight answer but personally I’m with you—I also want to see it localized.