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This is an archive of interviews with the creative team behind Zanki Zero: Last Beginning to help with sourcing information in the future.

Operation RainfallEdit

GDC 2018 Interview – Zanki Zero: Last Beginning (Yoshinori Terasawa) by Quentin H.

OR: Just briefly, what is Zanki Zero: Last Beginning?

Terasawa: We call it a 'non-stop survival RPG', and it's in real-time. It's basically a survival RPG, but the emphasis is that everything is done in real time.

OR: The focus on the game is on eight clones, each one is named after a 'deadly sin'. Why did you choose that particular motif in this game?

Terasawa: That's kind of a difficult question. *laughs* These protagonists of the game, all eight of them – there is some sort of trauma that they are carrying that they need to confirm. And the way to characterize it, they chose the seven deadly sins.

OR: The eighth sin is named after 'Original Sin'. Is that based off of the Christian faith['s interpretation]?

Terasawa: Not necessarily, but we want you to think of it like another character that's similar to the other characters but different in her own way. And there's different mysteries around her as well.

OR: The clones each only live for thirteen days. How is each day determined?

Terasawa: In game, time passes as they explore through dungeons. But mechanically, the day changes whenever they change floors. You can also manually change the date by going to sleep.

OR: So even though it's a real time game, it doesn't literally progress thirteen days in real time?

Terasawa: It's strictly thirteen days within the game.

OR: When a character dies, you have to go to the 'Extend Machine' using points to [revive]. How do you gain points within the game, and why did you choose to this method [of revival] instead of using a pick-me-up item like a Revive or a Phoenix Down like in some other JRPG-type games?

Terasawa: That question actually ties into the main story of the game, so [I] can't say too much about it. But one of the underlying themes of the game – like the shooting arcade game. So [we] wanted to use that motif in the revival system. So similar to how in the old-school arcade shooting games when you defeat enemies, you get scores. So we are using that kind of system.

OR: How does combat work in [Zanki Zero: Last Beginning]?

Terasawa: Again, it is in real time. So it is [an] action-focused kind of combat system. You'll maneuver and attack in the same way. Everything's done at the same time.

OR: It was mentioned earlier during the demo that the characters would be voiced. Will they be voiced in both Japanese and English?

Terasawa: The Japanese version is in Japanese, the English version will be in English. It hasn't been determined if you'll be able to choose. But if it's something that the fans want, then maybe it will be implemented.

Would you want it personally?

OR: Yes, I would. I think a lot of people would appreciate that opportunity.

Now, you're best known for producing the Danganronpa series. What is the experience like moving from a visual novel series such as Danganronpa to a dungeon-RPG series?

Terasawa: So this project started because the director, [Takayuki] Sugawara, really wanted to make an RPG, he wanted to make that happen. And that's where the whole thing started. at OR: About how long would you expect it take players to finish the main storyline [of Zanki Zero]?

Terasawa: Maybe thirty to forty hours, on average.

OR: It's a very dark storyline, with humanity nearly ending [and] having to have clones die in order to level up. Yet it is set against a world that is so cheery and bright. Why did you choose to make this contact between what you see and the undercurrent of the story itself?

Terasawa: That's a deliberate design decision we made. Basically, we wanted to show the contrast between these two extremes. And that's pretty prevalent in a lot of this team's games, Danganropa as well. And we wanted to use these themes in contrast to help the players feel more emotion.

OR: Are there multiple endings to [Zanki Zero: Last Beginning]?

Terasawa: There's one ending to this game.

OR: Do you have a favorite clone?

Terasawa: The artist, Envy.

OR: Why is that?

Terasawa: [I] have a lot of traits in my personality that is similar to [Envy]. It's kind of like an easy-going personality as well, a positive one.

OR: Is there anyone you'd like to say to people who may want to pick up this game?

Terasawa: I think there's something for everyone out there. For the RPG fans, there is a well-made RPG as well as characters that will probable draw a lot of people. The storyline is made well as well. [I] hope people will try it out and enjoy it.

OR: Thank you.

RPGSiteEdit

Zanki Zero: Last Beginning Interview - Get to know the creators behind this upcoming survival RPG by Zack Reese.

RPG Site: So Zanki Zero was released only yesterday in Japan (as of the recording of the interview). How has the reception to the game been so far?

Spike Chunsoft: Actually better than we expected.

RPG Site: It's something different than what fans are used to. It's also clear you both like to make games that get players emotionally invested. Did you start designing a game like Zanki Zero based on that concept or did that come later?

Spike Chunsoft: DanganRonpa was definitely a game that puts people's expectations in check and keeps them on their toes by bringing out those emotions. That is definitely something we want to bring back again with Zanki Zero.

RPG Site: And Zanki Zero features characters that do not have superhuman powers like in DanganRonpa. Instead, you rely on the seven deadly sins to tell their individual stories. I was hoping you guys can talk about how you came up with that concept.

Spike Chunsoft: So the characters are, like you said, ordinary people. But this time around, these titles, these seven deadly sins represent the characters. They are also representative of these traumas and things from their past that they carry over. And so that's why their professions, like Doctor of Greed, are a part of each character.

Once again, these people aren't superhuman, and these traumas from their past are things that can really happen to people. So it feels like they're more relatable, and what we got from Japan is that it's actually more directly relatable from the player because it's like, "Oh, look, this could happen to me."

RPG Site: It seems like with DanganRonpa, a lot of the focus was that the protagonist was the one you were supposed to relate to the most. But by having the whole cast that you can relate to, it goes back into making players potentially more emotionally invested.

Spike Chunsoft: Yes, it does.

RPG Site: Moving on, please talk a little bit about the concept of aging and how that was developed in this game.

Spike Chunsoft: The main characters of this game are actually clones, and so that's why they come with the aging process. What we mean by clones in the context of this game is that they're not just similar to whomever the original person is, but they also naturally come with this phenomenon that they died 13 days before. They start as a child, and then they grow into an adult, middle-aged, senior, and then they die of old age.

RPG Site: So just an aside, how did the character artist feel about drawing old people fanservice?

Spike Chunsoft: I don't really know how they're feeling but the artist is actually a girl, so I wonder how she felt about that.

RPG Site: I see these conversations online about whether she accurately represented how their bodies look as they get older.

Spike Chunsoft: The older people are a little saggier.

RPG Site: People talked so much about it that I quickly had to change threads! So, moving on - age clearly plays a big role in Zanki Zero, as does the concept of cloning through the Extend Machine. Tell me more about how this mechanic works.

Spike Chunsoft: The Extend Machine is basically a machine you find within the game that you use by earning points by defeating enemies such as an animal - for example, those goats (from the gameplay footage). You use those scores basically as a currency to revive your characters through an arcade-looking machine, which is the Extend Machine.

RPG Site: So this most likely goes into spoiler territory, but does the existence of the Extend Machine mean that humanity will never go extinct?

Spike Chunsoft: The way "Game Over" works in this game is that if all eight protagonists die at once, that's it - humanity is extinct.

RPG Site: I guess they can't make clones, so that makes sense!

Spike Chunsoft: So in order to revive the characters, each of them has an X on their belly button that you may have seen in the trailers, and that is called the X key. In order to bring them back to life, you need to take that key out and stick it in the Extend Machine. So if there's no one around to do that, then everyone is dead.

RPG Site: Another feature of Zanki Zero is the ability for players to build up bonds and affection. With DanganRonpa, fans were naturally drawn to certain people. Please explain a bit about how important this bond mechanic is to this game.

Spike Chunsoft: So it isn't vital to clear the game or anything like that. It's mostly extra scenarios for players to enjoy when they match certain characters together when they go to sleep. The more characters spend time with, the more familiar they become with each other. It does tie into game mechanics, but it's not absolutely vital in order to clear the game.

RPG Site: I was going to ask about the sleeping/eating/going to the bathroom mechanics, but I think you guys kind of talked about it during the (Anime Expo) panel about what that's all about.

Spike Chunsoft: Zanki Zero is a survival game, a survival RPG. So there are various parameters that you have to manage as you're exploring and playing the game. Some of those are vitality, stamina, stress levels, and as you mentioned, the bladder levels.

They all kind of tie into each other because if you eat, you know you're going to have to go to the bathroom. If you don't go to the bathroom, it's going to make you more stressed out. That's going to affect how you play the game as well. So those are some of the things you have to manage as you're playing through the game.

RPG Site: So one of the best things I noticed is that Sho Terashima and Mirai, who are on Extend TV, are voiced by the Japanese voice actors for Goku and Frieza from Dragon Ball Z. This looks completely intentional, and I wanted to know about that!

Spike Chunsoft: So those voice actors are very well known - veteran voice actors who are very good at what they do. I think it's interesting to have these people because you expect them to act a certain way. So to throw out those expectations and show these extremes is really interesting.

RPG Site: They seem very friendly to each other. "Are they going to fight? No?" And this is kind of a follow-up - is Sho Terashima inspired by Chargeman Ken (a popular series from the 70s)?

Spike Chunsoft: No comment. (laughs)

RPG Site: Hah, just a familiar style. So what was the hardest part of this game to make?

Spike Chunsoft: There's a lot of various things that work in this game. From the stress management and the survival aspects to combat and exploration, including puzzles. So the hardest part I would say is the balance because people have different levels in which they can play through these games. Because of that, they don't want to make it too hard or make it too easy. So, that was actually one of the harder points.

RPG Site: I found from a lot of Spike Chunsoft games that there's always multiple layers and multiple mechanics that you have to balance, and I always assumed that was the biggest challenge.

Spike Chunsoft: We always have a hard time with it.

RPG Site: Do you feel with the critical and commercial success of DanganRonpa, you'll be able to continue branching out with new ideas like you are with Zanki Zero? And is there any genre you'd be interested in tackling next?

Spike Chunsoft: Yeah, we like to definitely keep challenging ourselves with RPGs, adventure games, and the shooting genre. So if we are able to, then we definitely want to expand.

RPG Site: I would say that it's nice that you guys don't funnel yourselves into a single genre. Games like Zanki Zero are multiple genres, so you don't want really box yourselves in.

Spike Chunsoft: We think it helps.

RPG Site: That's all I've got, so I wanted to thank you both. We very much appreciate it and I'm sure people will be very excited about what you guys have to say. Is there anything you both would like to share with the people who are looking forward to Zanki Zero?

Spike Chunsoft: Zanki Zero: Last Beginning just released in Japan and it will be a little while before it comes out to the west. However, we really believe it's going to be a really fun game and we want everyone to look forward to it, so please play it!

SiliconeraEdit

Zanki Zero Producer On Danganronpa Comparisons And The Idea Behind Character Aging by Sato

Siliconera: Both Danganronpa and Zanki Zero: Last Beginning take place in a post-apocalyptic world. What makes that setting interesting?

Yoshinori Terasawa, Producer: Hmm… it’s probably because I like the emotions and psychology involved in those desperate situations humans go through. I like to portray that in my games. It’s not just me it’s [Kazutaka] Kodaka and [Takayuki] Sugawara too, they like these kinds of situations too.

Siliconera: Danganronpa and Zanki Zero also have characters players grow to love and they watch them die.

Yoshinori Terasawa: We like making games that move players emotionally. Players get emotionally invested and they are emotionally affected as they play through the game.

Siliconera: But, there is some humor in the story too!

Yoshinori Terasawa: Yes, the story is a bit dark, but we have a balance with these bits of humor too. We don’t make the atmosphere overly gloomy. The characters joke around with each other and laugh too. Compared to Danganronpa, the dark theme is more apparent in this game.

Siliconera: Why did you use the seven deadly sins as a theme for the characters?

Yoshinori Terasawa: Unlike Danganronpa, which had characters with almost superhuman abilities and very distinctive characteristics, this time the characters are normal people. They don’t have superhuman powers, but we wanted to make each of them distinctive in their own way by giving them these characteristics. It’s not just to give them iconic traits, but it ties into who they are too.

Siliconera: Which character is your favorite in the group?

Yoshinori Terasawa: Ryo [Mikajiime], the artist. I guess there are some parts in him that I see in myself.

Siliconera: The battle system is unique where age plays a factor. Younger characters can attack more often while older characters can use charge attacks.

Yoshinori Terasawa: As children, they are physically weaker. They are not able to hold as much and cannot equip weapons. They have those disadvantages, but they can attack more often so it’s kind of a tradeoff. They also have special abilities too like recovering from damage over time while other age groups cannot do this. Young adult characters are the strongest physically and, as you mentioned, they can do charged attacks more frequently when they are older. Charged attacks are strong, but these use stamina. It’s one of the elements you have to manage. Each age group has their own advantages and disadvantages.

One of the reoccurring themes is the more you die, the stronger you get since you unlock skills. Depending on how you die, if you get killed by a goat, you’ll get resistance to goats and blunt attacks. Skills you unlock when you level up are also passed down to the next clone when you die.

Siliconera: Seeing characters age is interesting, it’s rare to see in a game.

Yoshinori Terasawa: Because it isn’t often seen, I think it’s something interesting to show. When I first saw the proposal [from Sugawara-san], it was a new idea and I really wanted to do it.

Siliconera: What kind of enemies will players find in this ruined world?

Yoshinori Terasawa: We have strange creatures, monsters, and zombie-like creatures.

Siliconera: How can characters interact with each other?

Yoshinori Terasawa: Each character has affection levels for each other. When the characters go to sleep, you can choose two characters to sleep together and their affection will go up. You can raise bonds between characters that way.