Anime Trending had the opportunity to interview Kazutaka Kodaka as a guest of honor at Anime Expo 2023. Kodaka is the Representative Director and CEO of Too Kyo Games, and is best known for his creative and writing leads in video games and anime such as the Danganronpa series, as well as Akudama Drive, which won the 2020 Anime Trending Award for Anime of the Year.
Kazutaka Kodaka was here at Anime Expo 2023 to discuss his newest game release, Master Detective Archives: RAIN CODE, which is now available on Nintendo Switch. Kodaka is the main scenario writer for the adventure game. He is joined by Spike Chunsoft who published Master Detective Archives: RAIN CODE.
Master Detective Archives: RAIN CODE is an adventure game set in the Kanai Ward, a gloomy and cyberpunk city filled with secrets. The detective Yuma forms a pact with Shinigami, a supernatural being linked with death, to solve the mysteries within the Kanai Ward and the fantastical and ever-changing realm known as The Mystery Labyrinth. Along the way, the duo work alongside other Master Detectives, who each are equipped with a unique Forensic Forte, to gather clues and solve mysteries using their supernatural abilities.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
Anime Trending: Master Detective Archives: RAIN CODE takes place in a fully explorable, 3D world which is quite a departure from Danganronpa‘s linear 2.5D environments. What creative and technical challenges did you encounter while making the leap to 3D?
Kazutaka Kodaka: I wanted to create a game where the detectives walk around, roam around the city, and I really like the cyberpunk taste so I liked to put that into the setting. When RAIN CODE was created, I was also creating the Akudama Drive anime at the same time, so that’s why they both have the cyberpunk [aesthetic] and Akudama Drive has the Osaka cyberpunk and RAIN CODE has the raining cyberpunk.
AT: In one of the pre-promotion videos, you mentioned combining Tim Burton’s aesthetic with a cyberpunk world. What was the inspiration behind that? What were the other challenges with combining both halves of that?
K: So for the Kanai ward, it has a cyberpunk taste. But for the Tim Burton inspirations, I put that more into Shinigami and The Mystery Labyrinth, more of the non-existing, unnatural stuff.
AT: We want to talk more about the character dynamic in RAIN CODE. Yuma and Shinigami are a partner dynamic — we wanted to have some insight on what makes their dynamic different compared to the Danganronpa series. There is a lot of teamwork in some of the games where the characters work together to solve the mysteries, and how would that work in this game as a pair?
K: For Danganronpa, the main element is that they have teamwork, but they somewhat don’t believe in each other. The difference for RAIN CODE is that I want players to have an adventure in the game.
Instead of having a very large team — which I believe you really don’t need in an adventure — I wanted to team up Yuma and Shinigami and also the other Master Detectives, and [have them] work together in small groups to go through the game.
AT: What were the challenges involved with incorporating the supernatural elements with the mystery writing? Because one of the things is that the supernatural is unexplainable by nature, and the fact that all the Master Detectives have their own supernatural powers to apply to their detective work to explain the unexplainable?
K: It wasn’t that difficult because if I know a certain rule for a certain case, then I don’t really have to think how the supernatural doesn’t go wrong. It goes backwards — I first think about how the supernatural power goes, and from there I think about how the case will blend into their supernatural powers.
AT: We also wanted to ask a question about character design. It’s really interesting to see how all the Master Detectives have different designs, different Forte’s, as well as really creative names too. The names are really fun!
K: “Halara Nightmare”
AT: Yes! So we were wondering to see some insight in the design process. Do you come up with a Forte first, or do you come up with a name first, or the design first?
K: So, the first thing I think about will be their Forte, and from there, I think about the character’s attitudes and behaviors. It’s not really complete, but I somewhat think about it and give that to the illustrator Rui Komatsuzaki.
As I create the scenario writing, Komatsuzaki-san will read that, and then from there, he tries to complete the character designs and the different facial expressions you see right next to the text-boxes in the game.
At first, when he creates the scenario and art, he first thinks of their nicknames. And when Komatsuzaki-san finds out their dialogue and stuff like that, then he would create their names, try to create unique names that don’t really exist in the world, and also try to find the names with good sounding syllables.
AT: Is there an inherent challenge in having to design the Forte’s to make a power relevant and apply them to a detective mystery show? What specific Forte’s were you really inspired by and were like “I have to have this power in my writing?”
K: So, I first thought about how the user will have fun with the investigation using the Forte’s. I created the Forte’s by thinking how fun it is to work with those Master Detectives, like “Disguise” and “Postcognition,” and how that would go into the investigation.
AT: We wanted to ask about the Amaterasu Corporation, the supercorporation that controls all of the Kanai Ward. RAIN CODE was inspired by cyberpunk work and that kind of style where you see a lot of dystopia and it’s one company that controls everything. We were wondering what kind of inspiration you got from real or fictional work for the Amaterasu Corporation? Do you have a favorite character in the corporation?
K: In creating the Amaterasu Corporation, I wanted to create a bad guy. But then, instead of having the kings or the lords or something like that ruling, I thought maybe like Microsoft if they conquered the world, it might be very fun.
AT: At first glance, from what we’ve seen with the promo material, the Amaterasu Corporation seems to be just incredibly merciless because they have a tight grip on the Kanai Ward. But it also feels like there is a huge challenge in trying to overthrow them because they run so much of the Kanai Ward’s essential functions. What is that relationship like with the city and the corporation, as well as the Master Detective Organization?
K: I believe that having a government and police force for the Kanai Ward would have users wondering about how [that government] goes into the story. Instead of having a government interfering, I just thought about not writing anything about it.
AT: We have heard about the partner dynamic between Yuma and Shinigami, and on Twitter, you mentioned that a real shinigami also helped you write for Shinigami forming a contract. What is your dynamic like with the shinigami? Is it here? Are we safe in this interview room right now? We just want to know for our own peace of mind.
K: (laughs) The Shinigami wants to conquer each one of us, so we are not safe.
Kodaka's last wish… https://t.co/iftVocJRtA— Kazutaka kodaka/小高和剛 (@kazkodaka) June 30, 2023
AT: That’s what we thought, it’s probably looking right at us! Maybe we’re the outsiders, so we could be the most suspicious ones in this room right now, so maybe we don’t get axed by the shinigami. We’re not safe because you could gang up on us first (Kodaka + several representatives from Spike Chunsoft outnumbering two Anime Trending writers).
AT: Do you have any other closing thoughts for players going into RAIN CODE?
K: I think it’s a very great game, a very big game. Compared to Zelda or Final Fantasy, Master Detective Archives: RAIN CODE is a game where you could find new features. You could have new experiences, so I wish for users to play it! I think users who buy this game have a very good sense!
AT: Thank you so much. This has been a huge pleasure for us at Anime Trending!
Master Detective Archives: RAIN CODE is now available on Nintendo Switch.