“In my stories, it happens that everyone dies,” says the creator of Danganronpa “Main Detective Archive: RAIN CODE”

Image: Spike Chunsoft

Over the holidays, we’re re-released some select features from the last 12 months. A mixture of talking points, interviews, opinions and more from NL staff and contributors, you’ll find our usual combination of thoughtfulness, experience, light-mindedness, retro nostalgia and of course enthusiasm for all things Nintendo. Happy Holidays!

One of the biggest surprises and standouts at Nintendo Direct on September 13th was the opening of Master Detective Archives: RAIN CODE, a brand new detective game from Kazutaka Kodaka, creator of the Danganronpa series.

The action takes place in a rainy city full of bright lights and in a darker fantasy style compared to the pink-blooded school halls from the previous Kodaka series. RAIN CODE marks Kodaka’s first foray into full 3D and reunites him with Spike Chunsoft and many of the team behind beloved mystery games.

Since creating Too Kyo Games in 2017, Kodaka has helped produce, publish and assist with other games such as the FMV title Death Come True and World’s End Club, so RAIN CODE marks his return as a main writer.

We had the opportunity to talk to Kodaka-san and Spike Chunsoft about this upcoming mystery game, ask about his influence and how his past work has inspired him.

Nintendo Life: Master Detective Archives: RAIN CODE is described as a “clear noir adventure game”. Could you tell us a little about what this means and how it differs from any of your previous games?

Alex Flagg, localization producer: In particular, the “conscious noir” part is a pun on the idea that it is a noir-styled detective story, and also has elements of an amnesiac protagonist and therefore not fully lucid. And there is another meaning of the word associated with the light and lights of the city. Neon in particular is also an important element that is used in building the game world and game atmosphere. So “lucid-noir” is a little combination of what we thought sounded cool.

Kazutaka Kodaka Screenwriter What makes RAIN CODE different is that my previous work had 2D graphics, but this time it’s 3D. With this version, we hope to reach a wider audience so that more people can play this game.

The game features a sort of team of buddy cops in the form of Yuma and Shinigami who come in pairs, while in most Danganronpa games you have a larger squad. Did you face any difficulties focusing on a couple of characters?

Kodak: They are a couple, but there are other detectives who will appear with special powers. There are a lot of interactions with other characters, so it’s not a huge difference from previous games.

I’m very lucky that everyone finds [Danganronpa] interesting… it allows me to work on a big project like RAIN CODE.

So, are there times when you might need to work or team up with one of the other detectives?

Kodak: Yes, Yuma and other detectives work together and also have conflicts with other detectives that you can also see in the game.

Master mazes seem like a very effective way to solve mysteries in RAIN CODE, but there are some similarities to the Rebuttal Showdown minigame from Danganronpa. How did you change the interactive mystery solving in this game?

Kodak: It’s really hard to put into words. *laughs*

Something we must experience for ourselves then!

Kodak: In Danganronpa, the decision is always made in the Class Trials. In Mysterious Labyrinths, these are places where you solve mysteries, and as you get closer to the truth, the scenery and setting will also change, and this is what we wanted to show.

In the Mysterious Labyrinth, the general rules do not apply, so many things can happen, such as when you solve the mystery, things can change so that you can see different environments.

Like it’s Alice in Wonderlandand this game has a mixture of “me” and Alice in Wonderland.

I was going to ask this for real! I’ve read interviews where you said you were inspired by Tim Burton’s work. Is his version of Alice in Wonderland one of the inspirations, or are there other aspects of Burton’s work that influenced RAIN CODE?

Kodak: Gotham City is there, as well as the aesthetic that inspires me.

A slightly broader question for you: what do you think keeps you coming back to the homicide genre, and how do you come up with ideas to change the formula each time?

I thought that the image of wet raincoats would be very cool

Kodak: Murder Mystery is quite popular in Japan! I think the crime detective is interesting and has an interesting culture. I want to show the world different aspects using this type of game.

Returning to the inspirations of Alice in Wonderland and Tim Burton, RAIN CODE (compared to Danganronpa and World’s End Club) feels like a darker, more urban fantasy. Does this shift in genre give you more freedom, or does it seem more difficult to you?

Kodak: It gives me more freedom, but the fantasy elements, such as the Shinigami’s ability to use special abilities, helped other characters when writing the script.

So do these special abilities come into play during investigations or are they only available in Mysterious Labyrinths?

Kodak: Shinigami, the one you saw in the trailer, in the world their abilities are not really known to other people, so no one believes in her ability. In the world of RAIN CODE, experienced detectives have the ability, as you mentioned, and this is a known thing.

Yuma, the protagonist, has no powers, but teaming up with a Shinigami, he becomes a detective’s apprentice. When investigating, Yuma and other experienced detectives with abilities will use their abilities to try to work together to solve a murder or mystery. The detective’s abilities are specialized in investigating incidents.

Focusing on Yuma, who is a trainee detective, he is at the beginning of his story or his career in RAIN CODE. What do you think draws you to these characters who seem very normal at first glance or look like misfits who end up rebelling?

Kodak: I want to keep the main character as simple as possible so that players can also empathize with that character. Yuma has memory loss, so that’s another way players can sympathize (because they learn events about the game and characters at the same time he does).

It’s similar to some of the other characters (like Makoto Naegi from Danganronpa Trigger Happy Havoc), so I think people will connect with Yuma as well.

Kodak: I agree!

With respect to Danganronpa, RAIN CODE brings you a reunion with some of the developers (artists, composers, writers) from the Danganronpa series. What was it like working with them again, and has your approach to RAIN CODE changed?

It’s like it’s Alice in Wonderland and this game has a mixture of “me” and Alice in Wonderland.

Kodak: This project started when I was still at Spike Chunsoft about five years ago. Spike Chunsoft helped develop RAIN CODE and while I was working on Danganronpa I didn’t use 3D while Spike Chunsoft’s development team was working on tangentially related games and they controlled the 3D. This time I got to work with this team and that’s how we were able to include the 3D part. This is a great time.

It really is! It’s great to see you all together again. Did you have any difficulties in working with 3D when working with a team? You had 3D backgrounds in Dangranronpa, 3D character models in World’s End Club and FMV for Death Comes True. What other challenges did you experience in full 3D?

Kodak: This time I did not set the city to the country that exists. We had to create a new city from scratch, so it was an experience for me! But I found it very interesting.

Why did you want to write a game in a non-existent city or a new place?

Kodak: To begin with, I wanted to create a concept with characters as detectives. And when I thought of detectives, I didn’t think of anything bright or shiny! I was thinking about a city like London that was cloudy and all that. I thought detectives would be better.

I mentioned London, but I’ve only been there once *laughs* I know Japan very well! But that’s why I wanted to create a new city, but still with elements from different countries.

Chief Detective Archie the Rain Code
Teaser art for the game from 2018. — Image: Spike Chunsoft

Then I thought about a city where people wear raincoats – not a code, but a coat *laughs* – and I thought that the image of wet raincoats would be very cool for a detective game. So first we came up with a visual idea for the entire city setting. So there is a bit of Asia in the city, a bit of Japanese influence. There are also red bricks, and this probably reminds you of London.

Definitely! And the rain as well. It rains a lot in England.

Kodak: *laughs*

Between Danganronpa and RAIN CODE you worked on Death Comes True and World’s End Club, which are very different from Danganronpa. Did any of these experiences help in the development of RAIN CODE or did you draw any ideas or inspiration from them?

But even if it’s a side character, I think, “Oh, what if it’s the main character? May I write a story for him?”

Kodak: I didn’t write the scripts directly or give directions for these games, so this is really the first game since Danganronpa that I’m writing and directing. So, it’s been a long time since I wrote all these words.

Since Danganronpa, I have published many video games. Five years have passed, so I had a lot of emotions to put into the project.

I can imagine! Why do you think Danganronpa has resonated with so many people not only in Japan but around the world, and what do you hope people will get from RAIN CODE?

Photograph of Kazutaka Kodaka courtesy of Spike Chunsoft.
Kazutaka Kodaka, writer of Master Detective Archives: RAIN CODE — Image: Spike Chunsoft

Kodak: When I was working on Dangnaronpa, I had no plans to release the game overseas, so I’m very happy. Actually I don’t know why it was well received or why everyone likes it! But I’m very lucky that everyone finds it interesting and confirms that it allows me to work on a bigger project like RAIN CODE. I’m lucky in this.

I’m glad everyone around the world can play this game, but I’m not necessarily targeting overseas audiences. I really value user experience as a gamer so that’s what I value the most.

This is a really good way to express it. Danganronpa has some really outstanding characters and extraordinary talents. Do you have a favorite character that you enjoy writing about?

Kodak: It changes depending on where I am or at what moment I am writing. But even if it’s a side character, I think, “Oh, what if it’s the main character? May I write a story for him?” This is what I think about when I write a story.

When I’m working on a character profile, I think that each character has a main story and is the main character. This is how I write every character.

I think that’s why people really get attached to them and enjoy the characters because they just stand out. It’s really a fantastic way to put it. In closing, have you ever thought about writing something that doesn’t involve murder or crime, or do you have an ideal story that you would like to write?

Kodak: Oh yeah, in my stories it just so happens that everyone dies… *laughs*

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

We want to thank Kodaka-san and Spike Chunsoft for taking the time to speak with us. Master Detective Archives: RAIN CODE is coming to Switch in Spring 2023.

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