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How Root Letter Was Made From The Exciting Feeling You Get From “Meeting Someone”



You may have had a pen pal in the past, or maybe you still do but in a more digital fashion, but you’ve surely experienced the exciting feeling of wanting to meet someone for the first time. Siliconera spoke with Root Letter producer Jin Hasegawa of Kadokawa Games, who talked about how the feeling and experience that comes with the expectation of meeting someone was put into the game.


Visual novels like Root Letter are character driven stories. How do you create characters that players love? Do you start with a character sketch or with personality traits?

Jin Hasegawa, Producer: For this game, Mino Taro, who did the character design decided to do the game together. It started naturally. We started the idea together and developed the idea together. It was a parallel process happening at the same time.


What inspired the idea for the main plot where you receive a letter from a missing pen pal?

First, we wanted nostalgia to be a theme and targeting people who are 30 or 40 years old. Also, a secret from the past and memories was something we wanted to put in the game. And then we thought of a tool and letters may be the best because a letter can be misleading especially in a story.


Yeah, I had a pen pal. In the past, there were magazines where you could search for pen pals and I had one. I think now with Facebook and chat messengers, it is almost the same. You have the same feeling of talking with someone, especially with a person of the opposite sex, and the expectation of meeting this person really grows in you. This is a person you’ve talked with, but never met and then one day you may meet them and think he or she will meet my expectations.


Did your experiences of having a pen pal come into Root Letter?

[Laughs] More than the pen pal itself, it was the feeling and experience that happened to be in the game that is the expectation of meeting someone. I had been interacting with people online and then I would think I would want to meet this person I had been playing online with, but I think maybe it is better not to meet them because rarely the expectation I had in mind is met.


Today, with Facebook you have so much information about the other person already, but with a letter you need to find a way to know more about the person you’re talking to. That is a tricky part that I put into the game.


Root Letter has an investigation system similar to Phoenix Wright or Danganronpa. How did you create these puzzles to avoid pitfalls like huge logic jumps and pixel hunting? Can you tell us about the process of how you create puzzles?

Instead of talking about the gameplay, the main thing is people lie. Since you have lies and people lie when they were young and continued to build on their lies, starting with this idea and how to debunk a lie is how we developed the system.



Why did you pick Shimane Prefecture as Root Letter’s setting and how did you go about recreating this location for the game?

First, we wanted a place that wasn’t a city center. We wanted it to be in a suburb, a scenic place with mountains and there are only a few places like that in Japan and this is one of the places. Since we made a story about the past and future, a suburban community is a place where people are connected forever, from when you are young to when you are grown up. It is also the place where our president was born.


When I had this idea we met with the Shimane Prefecture government and they were very enthusiastic about the game. We had their full support and then we started location scouting. When we were scouting, we asked local people and shop owners if they wanted to be in the game and they wanted to! You will find real businesses, real places, and most of all real people.


What was the process when you were scouting places for the game?

Our development team is based in Tokyo and then we traveled to Shimane Prefecture. When we were in Shimane we interviewed people about local places and listened to their stories. We asked them, where do you go? What is your favorite bar? Then we selected people to be in the game and when we were back in Tokyo we started putting everything in the game.


We put what they actually said in the game. If they said they went to this bar, we recreated that bar for the game. We even put in the local Matsue dialect and changed the story for the way that they would speak. We didn’t get money from the government or any one, this was all done for free. We asked for money, but they didn’t give it to us. [Laughs].


Root Letter is the first game in the Kadokawa Game Mystery brand. What kind of mystery game would you like to create next?

We have no plans at the moment, but there are a few points that are clear. The location is important. It might be suburban again, we would like to have a place with history in it. And this is the most important thing, we would like to have a place that wants to collaborate with us like Shimane Prefecture did. I think that would be the start.


Root Letter releases in North America and Europe for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita.

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