Siliconera spoke with Zero Escape series creator Kotaro Uchikoshi for a Zero Time Dilemma debriefing. This interview contains heavy spoilers, if you have not finished playing the game you might want to skip this for now.
Warning: Spoilers ahead!
OK, on to the interview.
Akane is quite different from her appearance in Virtue’s Last Reward where she was almost Machiavellian. Why did you select her June personality 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors from in Zero Time Dilemma?
Kotaro Uchikoshi, Director: Personally, I think she always had a strong Machiavellian persona throughout the entire series. Although it wasn’t done by her own hand, In 999 she facilitated the deaths of Kubota, Nijisaki, and Musashidou to get revenge against Hongou and to create a new timeline where she didn’t die in the incinerator. In ZTD, she destroyed the nuclear reactor to SHIFT herself into a different timeline and didn’t hesitate when taking Junpei’s memory to execute Project AB in the Apocalypse End. As you can see, she will do whatever it takes to accomplish her goals.
When VLR takes place 45 years later, she has surpassed being "human." Countless SHIFTs allowed her to gain a few hundred to a few thousand years of life experience. She’s basically a philosopher who reached the stage of nirvana. I think this background helped her in becoming more Machiavellian in VLR.
What do you think post-marriage life is like for Akane and Junpei?
They might argue over things, but I think they’ll have a happy post-marriage life.
When we talked before you mentioned that all of the mysteries from Virtue’s Last Reward would be solved in Zero Time Dilemma, but who is ? from the Another Time ending in VLR? My guess was it was the player, but since there was the neat trick in Q’s route where you play as Delta could you shine some more light on the ? character mystery?
I feel the need to explain that there has been a misunderstanding before answering this question. "? END (Another Time End)" in VLR was an irregular bonus script, which is like a post script of a novel. It caused confusion because it progressed in the format of a conversation. It wasn’t made as a follow up for the main script. It’s actually metafiction written through the viewpoint of higher realities/dimensions, and has no connection to the chronology of the official storyline. The official story of VLR ended with young Sigma witnessing the explosion of the antimatter reactors from the Crash Keys base on April 13, 2029.
But the tragic 2011 Tohoku earthquake, which claimed 20,000 lives, occurred during voice recording, and we began to wonder “was it appropriate to end the story of VLR like this? Should we add a scenario which brought more hope?” This brought about the addition of "Another Time End." The Japanese version didn’t include voices in this scene because the script was written after the completion of voice recording. However, during the process of adding this scene, I made two regrettable errors which caused even more confusion. The first was adding voices to the English version “Another Time End.” The second was putting the “Another Time End” right below “Phi End” on the flowchart. I did not incorporate what happened in that ending when working on ZTD. The reason behind that was because there was no assurance that everybody saw this ending. Some players only finished the escape rooms on easy mode. I wanted to be sure that they too would enjoy the story of ZTD.
People will probably wonder if what happened in “Another Time End” was all fake and whether I was deceiving the players. This is far from the truth. You said “My guess was it was the player” and that is correct. I wrote the script for this part with “?” being the player, and put some fragment of the player’s involvement in ZTD. This is the reason I made it appear that the player is capable of using an ability similar to Delta’s mind hack. But please don’t consider this to be the ultimate answer. The reason I don’t want everyone to see this as the only answer is because I’ve come across a number of interesting theories in forums which I do not want to deny. Maybe the character who was making the decisions in the Decision Game was the one who was participating in the game, or perhaps it’s Delta, or even the player. There are many ways of interpreting it, and I hope each fan will decide which fits best for them personally.
I’d also like to discuss Kyle. As mentioned before, “Another Time End” is metafiction, meaning the comment made by old Akane where she is speaking to the player himself is also metafiction. During this scene she said, “He (Kyle) was thrown out when you entered. Right now – in a manner of speaking – he has arrived at December 25th, 2028. His consciousness has gone into a body from that time." The year we are currently in is 2016 and not 2028. That’s my answer towards Kyle.
Is this a connection to Ever 17’s ? Character?
There is no connection as Ever17 and the Zero Escape series are completely different series. It might be an interesting theme for the imaginative person in the future who’s crazy enough to conduct research on my work. But there is no need to play Ever17 to understand Zero Escape. They’re basically 2 separate portraits drawn on different canvases. It’s the fans’ and players’ prerogative to find any similarities between these series, but I would prefer they wait until I have died.
The Delta twist was cool. How did you plan the story to foreshadow this twist?
The main twist was already planned beforehand, once we decided to go with the 3rd person (cinematic) style of gameplay, since the theme of the trick in the Zero Escape series is the perspective.
Also, one thing I noticed in ZTD is if Q-Team is killed off there are more situations where chance affects story branches. Was this part of Delta’s scheming, to force other characters to SHIFT and affect the time line?
The answer for this question is yes and no. Since Delta was a mind hacker and not a SHIFTer, he was able to know the histories and alternative time lines by looking through the mind of SHIFTers. So the tree diagram of the time lines in ZTD already existed, and he simply followed the diagram. That’s leads to the questions of "Who then created the diagram?" which is a complicated subject and also a paradox.
Speaking of Delta, while he prevented a nuclear war catastrophe, he also directly caused a number of alternate, equally terrible futures. What can you tell us about the future if Delta didn’t act and cause all of these events? What would have happened that would be worse than the Radical-6 outbreak?
If Delta hadn’t taken action, 8 billion people would have lost their lives. Of course this is what he claims… We didn’t put any visuals of human extinction in ZTD. This was intentional, as we only wanted to show the events that took place inside the shelter. Was Delta’s comment about human extinction true? Or was he just lying? He’s not a SHIFTer and the only thing he did was look inside their minds. Was the scene witnessed during the mind hacking true? I hope fans can make interesting observations and theories about this.
What would your first choice be for the "final decision"? Would you SHIFT or not?
I think I would. However, this would mean that there’s a possibility that my life can suddenly be taken over by myself in a different timeline. If I thought about making the SHIFT, this would mean that my alternative timeline self will also decide to SHIFT as well. Imagine a different timeline where humankind is facing extinction and a machine that allowed people to SHIFT was created. This could mean they might take over their bodies in this timeline. Taking that into consideration, SHIFTing can potentially be something really terrifying.