Interview: Danganronpa Power Duo Yoshinori Terasawa and Takayuki Sugawara on Zanki Zero

by Kalai Chik,

Danganronpa duo Yoshinori Terasawa and Takayuki Sugawara attended this year's Anime Expo to talk about their latest game, Zanki Zero, at the Spike Chunsoft panel. Spike Chunsoft had announced at Anime Expo that their US subsidiary will release the Zanki Zero: Last Beginning overseas for PlayStation 4 and PC in Spring 2019, pushing back the original release date for this year.

Speaking with Anime News Network, the two legends shared their process for working on Zanki Zero, insight into the characters, and reflecting on the 8 years since the original Danganronpa was first released.

ANN: It's been 8 years since the first Danganronpa game was released; how do you feel? Do you see the characters living happily after the final ending?

Yoshinori Terasawa: Speaking about the 3rd game... I think they all had a happy ending.

Were you both surprised how well received Danganronpa was overseas?

Yoshinori Terasawa: We had no idea of much fans would like the game, so we were taken back.

Your new game is now slated to be released next year, but how long has it been since your team first started developing Zanki Zero?

Yoshinori Terasawa: It's been about 8 years since the rough idea came about, around the time of the first Danganronpa game.

Takayuki Sugawara: Actual conception and work on the game started about 3 years ago.

Interestingly, all of the characters are protagonists in a dungeon crawler survival game. Why did you create a game where there's multiple main characters?

Takayuki Sugawara: This time around we wanted to show characters and situations from different perspectives. We think this will be better for the player to understand the emotions and thought processes of the characters.

As the producer, what's the most challenging part of creating this game? Going from your experience in Danganronpa, is there anything that's different or is it the same?

Yoshinori Terasawa: Actually, since we were originally making this side by side during Danganronpa, managing the two was the hardest part. All of our staff was working on two games at once. That wasn't an easy task.

What did you enjoy about making the game as opposed to Danganronpa?

Takayuki Sugawara: The first idea for Zanki Zero came to me after I finished working on the first Danganronpa and I've always wanted to make an RPG. Once the project was proposed, it was on hold for five years. The project was green-lit when we were making V3 . It's not that I got tired of making Danganronpa; I wanted to keep challenging myself by working on a different genre.

In both Danganronpa and Zanki Zero, the two series have cute mascot: Monokuma and Mirai. How did you develop these mascot characters?

Takayuki Sugawara: To be honest, in regards to Mirai and Sho Terashima, they're from Extend TV and at first it started off with just Sho Terashima and an old professor. As we were making it, we thought it wasn't as fun as it could be. We thought it could use a lamb mascot.

Yoshinori Terasawa: Rather than having an actual direct reason, they came about as a result of developing the game. We just happened to put in a lamb mascot. These characters are in a cruel, harsh environment. The story is heavy as well, and it's important to have comic relief as a break from the seriousness.

As the director, there's a lot you have to take into account of in a game such as this one. What's the most important aspect for you to keep in mind to make sure the story isn't lost?

Takayuki Sugawara: This ties into the genre of the game, but there are three things I wanted to emphasize: non-stop action, survival, and clones. The non-stop aspect relates to real time action, survival refers to keeping the characters alive while managing resources, and cloning pertains to the biggest part of this story.

What does “cloning” mean in this game? Is it about what it mean to be human?

Takayuki Sugawara: Not exactly. The emphasis here is a bit different, but similar. It's less introspective, so not like, “What is it to be a human?” or about being a clone. Rather, the emphasis is on what it means to be alive and what it means to live with others.

The storyline of Zanki Zero is quite cruel, where the last remaining 8 humans have to find a way to survive for the sake of the species. What was the inspiration for this kind of story?

Takayuki Sugawara: One of the inspirations for the scenario itself is an overseas drama called Lost, and the game takes a lot from the survival aspect there. There's this looming question of, “What is going on?” and that was one of the themes that ties into Zanki Zero.

Yoshinori Terasawa: In regards to clones, that came from the idea in games where if you die in a game it's a simple process of coming back to life. Just a couple of magical words, and you're walking around again. I wanted to put more emphasis and importance on a life coming back from the dead.

From the preview video, these characters are all based off of Sins rather than Virtues. Why are the last remaining humans representing the worst of humanity rather than the best?

Takayuki Sugawara: Unfortunately, I can't go into details or we might reveals some spoilers for the game. The reason why they're represented by Sins is that the Sins are actually tied into their past and the trauma that each character carries.

Even though these characters are clones, they all had lives before this story began. Will we get to see more of that backstory?

Takayuki Sugawara: Of course. You'll discover the tragedies and traumas of each character.

Is there a message that you'd like the players to take away when they're playing this game?

Takayuki Sugawara: Yes, the theme of Zanki Zero is to emphasize that people can't live on their own; we need others to live on. There's also the importance of connecting with other people.

Yoshinori Terasawa: Especially in a situation where there's only 8 people left in the world. We hope that players will draw that message from the game as they play.

Do you have a message for your overseas fans?

Takayuki Sugawara: Zanki Zero just released on July 5th, but international fans may need to wait a bit longer before they can play. Reception has been positive in Japan and we hope that you'll all enjoy the game when it comes out. We appreciate your support.

Yoshinori Terasawa: We hope that everybody enjoys this game, which was made by a very talented developer: Takayuki Sugawara. Nothing for me; Sugawara is really the brains behind it and developed the whole system.

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