We previously talked about Zero Time Dilemma’s neat trick to block spoilers, and in Siliconera’s interview with director Kotaro Uchikoshi, I got a chance to talk about much more, including the randomized events, philosophies behind its inspiration, how graphic the game will be, and more on the mysteries behind the series.
The idea of randomizing events in Zero Time Dilemma is interesting. Why did you add this in?
Kotaro Uchikoshi, Director: To kind of spoiler proof the game. If you go onto a FAQ site you’ll learn how to do this and that and beat the game. That’s not very interesting. I thought adding a random element would add a sense of surprise.
Also, a major theme of the game is coincidence and how small coincidences can lead to big changes. By making these random elements a part of gameplay marries the idea with the story’s theme.
Ah, I remember in the demo Zero was talking about how a snail crossing the road spiraled up to six billion deaths. You’ve read a lot of philosophies from Rupert Sheldrake’s morphic resonance and plenty of science fiction. What philosophies about coincidences have inspired you?
This is a real tough question. Thinking about this I might be going in a different direction than thinking about coincidences, but I read a lot of Buddhist philosophy books in particular there is this one Zen Buddhist idea “shiki soku zeku” which can be explained as matter is void and form is emptiness. In particular, the ideas of good and evil. There is no absolute good and no absolute evil. I wanted to touch upon those ideas in the game.
In an earlier interview with Siliconera we talked about Akane and it’s interesting to see how the theme of no absolute good or evil fits into your character design.
Going back to theme that there is no absolute good or evil, when I design characters I try to give them their own sense of personal justice that they believe to be true. Because you have characters with different philosophies they play off each other. They are kind of like character foils.
Another thing Siliconera brought up last time was the sense of fear and level of gore in 999 compared to Virtue’s Last Reward. While it was toned down in Virtue’s Last Reward to make the game more appealing in Japan, Zero Time Dilemma seems much more violent. Why did you go this direction?
[Laughs] I spoke with the producer, Iizuka-san, and since this is the third and final entry in the series we should do all of the things that we’ve always wanted too. We were holding back before, but this is a chance to do everything. Since the game revolves around making absolute decisions life and death hangs in the balance. If we were to pull our punches, it would take away a lot of the narrative impact. By making the violence more extreme it makes the choices hit home.
How graphic does the game get? In 999 a lot of the details are written so your mind fills in the gaps, but since Zero Time Dilemma is cinematic how far did you push the limits?
I can’t go into too much detail since that would spoil the fun. I’ll leave that to your imagination! In terms of the level of violence originally we were going for a CERO D rating which is 17 and over. We realized that with those restrictions we wouldn’t get the same visual and emotional impact we wanted so at the end of the day we went with a CERO Z rating, which is the highest rating in Japan.
Can you tell us more about Zero’s new design and his plague mask?
Zero has always been a masked character. In the past, he’s worn a gas mask. This time he has a plague doctor mask from the Middle Ages where they had a long nose so you wouldn’t contact the Black Death. Since the story involves a mysterious virus I thought having him with the plague doctor motif would be appropriate.
This is probably in spoiler territory, but in Virtue’s Last Reward Junpei says he hasn’t seen Akane in a long time, but in Zero Time Dilemma both characters meet again and they’re on the same team.
Yeah, you guessed it this is a spoiler. [Laughs] It may appear this contradicts the previous game, but if you play this you’ll find a plausible explanation.
Are you going to address mysteries from 999 like All-Ice?
Zero Time Dilemma promises to solve all of the mysteries from Virtue’s Last Reward, but that doesn’t mean it will solve all of the mysteries from 999.
Now that Zero Escape series is coming to an end, what do you as a creator want to do next?
With Zero Time Dilemma we changed to a more cinematic method of storytelling and the honest reason is people don’t like reading. Cinematics are much more direct and it’s much easier to keep people invested in a story. While adventure game genre has a lot going for it, it also has a high barrier of entry. Hopefully, I can continue making adventure games with a more cinematic bent. We made this new engine for Zero Time Dilemma and I would like to use this engine to create further cinematic stories in the future.
Zero Time Dilemma will release in North America and Europe in summer 2016 for PlayStation Vita and Nintendo 3DS. The game is headed to PC later via Steam.