“Everyone dies in my stories” – Danganronpa creator talks ‘Master Detective Archive: RAIN CODE’

Photo: Spike Chunsoft

The unveiling of Master Detective Archives: RAIN CODE, a new puzzle game from Kazutaka Kodaka, creator of the Danganronpa series, was one of the biggest and most notable surprises during the September 13th of Nintendo Direct.

Set in a rainy city full of flashing lights, and embracing a fantasy style that is darker than the blood-soaked pink school halls of the previous Kodaka series, RAIN CODE marks Kodaka’s first foray into full 3D and reunites with Spike Chunsoft and the many team behind beloved mystery games.

After forming Too Kyo Games in 2017, Kodaka helped produce, publish, and assist other games — such as the FMV title Death Come True and World’s End Club — so RAIN CODE marks his return as lead screenwriter.

We had the opportunity to talk with Kodaka-san and Spike Chunsoft about this upcoming mystery game, ask about its effects, and how his previous work inspired him.

Nintendo Life: Master Detective Archives: RAIN CODE is described as a “lucid-noir adventure game”. Can you tell us a little bit about what that means, and what makes it different from any of your previous games?

Alex Flagg, translation producer: The “lucid-noir” part, in particular, is a play on the words of the idea that it’s a noir detective story, plus there are elements of the main character suffering from amnesia and thus not entirely clear. There is also another meaning of the word related to the light and lights of the city. Neon, in particular, is also a great element used in the world building of the game and the atmosphere of the game. So “lucid-noir” is a mixture of a few of those ideas that we thought looked kind of cool.

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

The game stars a team of friendly cop Yuma and Shinigami who come as a couple, while in most Danganronpa games you have a larger staff. Did you face any challenges focusing on a pair of characters?

Clay: They are a couple, but there are also other detectives who will appear with special abilities. There are a lot of interactions with the other characters so there isn’t much difference from the previous games.

I feel really lucky that everyone finds it [Danganronpa] Interesting… lets me work on a bigger project like RAIN CODE.

So, are there any moments when you might have to work with or pair up with one of the other detectives?

Clay: Yes, Yuma and other detectives work together, and they also have struggles with other detectives, which you will be able to see in the game as well.

With Master Labyrinths, it seems like a very flashy way to solve puzzles within RAIN CODE, but there are some similarities with Danganronpa’s Rebuttal Showdown mini-game. How did you change the solution of the interactive puzzle in this game?

Clay: It’s really hard to explain in words. * Laugh *

Something we have to try for ourselves, then!

Clay: With Danganronpa, decisions are always made in class trials. In mysterious labyrinths, these are the places where the puzzles are solved, and the closer you get to the truth, the scenery and setting will change as well, and that’s something we wanted to show.

In the Mystery Labyrinth, the general rules don’t apply, so there are a lot of things that can happen, like when you solve the puzzle, everything can change so you can see the different environments.

It looks like it is Alice in WonderlandThere is a mix of “I” and “Alice in Wonderland” that you can expect in this game.

I would actually ask about it! I’ve read interviews where you said you were inspired by Tim Burton’s work. Is his version of Alice in Wonderland one of those inspirations or are there other aspects of Burton’s work that influenced RAIN CODE?

Clay: There’s Gotham City, as well as the aesthetics that inspired me.

A bit more of a broader question for you: What do you think makes you fall back into the murder-mystery genre, and how do you come up with ideas to change the formula each time?

I thought a picture of wet raincoats would be really cool

Clay: Murder puzzle is very popular in Japan! I think police crime is interesting and has an interesting culture. I want to show the world different sides by using this kind of game.

Returning to Alice in Wonderland/Tim Burton’s inspiration, RAIN CODE (compared to Danganronpa and World’s End Club) is a much darker, urban fantasy. Does this genre shift give you more freedom, or do you find it more difficult?

Clay: It gives me more freedom, but fantasy elements like the ability of the shinigami to use special abilities helped by other characters when writing the script.

Do these special abilities play a role during investigations or are they only available in mystery labyrinths?

Clay: Shinigami, the person you saw in the trailer, in the world, their abilities are not really known to others, so no one believes their ability. In the world of RAIN CODE, principal investigators have the ability as you mentioned, and that’s a well-known thing.

Yuma, the main character, does not have the ability, but teaming up with Shinigami, becomes a detective trainee. When investigating, Yuma and other detectives with abilities will attempt, using their abilities, to work together to solve the murder or the mystery. Detective capabilities specialize in accident investigation.

Focusing on Yuma, who is a trained detective, he is at the beginning of his story or career in RAIN CODE. What do you think draws you to these seemingly very normal characters or like a vulnerable person who ends up?

Clay: I want to create a hero as simple as possible so that players can also empathize with that character. Yuma suffers from amnesia, so this is another way players can empathize (because they discover game-related events and characters at the same time).

This is similar to some of the other characters (Makoto Naegi, from Danganronpa Trigger Happy Havoc for example), so I think people will connect with Yuma as well.

Clay: I agree!

When you touch Danganronpa, RAIN CODE sees that you are meeting with some of the developers (artists, composers and writers) of the Danganronpa series. How did it feel to work with them again and did you change your approach to RAIN CODE?

It’s like Alice is in Wonderland and there is a mix of “I” and “Alice in Wonderland” that you can expect in this game.

Clay: This project started while 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 worked on casually related titles and oversaw 3D. This time, I was able to work with this team and in this way we were able to integrate the 3D part. It’s a great time.

It really is! It’s great to see you all together again. When working with the team, did you find any challenges working with 3D? You had 3D wallpapers in Dangranronpa, 3D character models in World’s End Club, FMV of Death Comes True, what different challenges did you face in full 3D?

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

Why did you want to write a game in a new city or place that doesn’t exist?

Clay: First of all, I wanted to create the concept with characters as investigators. And when I thought of detectives, I didn’t think of anywhere that was so bright or shiny! I thought of a city like London that was overcast and all that. I thought this would be better with the inquisitors.

You mentioned London, but I was only there once *laughs* I know Japan very well! But that’s why I wanted to create a new city, but still have different items from different countries.

Master Detective Archies Rain Code
The teaser of the game from 2018. – Photo: Spike Chunsoft

Then I thought of a city where people wear raincoats—not a symbol, overcoats *laughs*—and I thought a picture of wet raincoats would be really cool for a detective game. So we came up with the visual idea first for the whole city setup. So there’s a little bit of Asia, and a little bit of the influence of Japan in the city. There is also red brick, and this probably reminds you of London.

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

Clay: * Laugh *

Between Danganronpa and RAIN CODE, I’ve worked at Death Comes True and World’s End Club, both of which are very different from Danganronpa. Did either of these experiences help you develop RAIN CODE or did you take any ideas or inspiration from it?

But even if it’s a sub character, I think “Oh, what if this is the main character? Can I write a story for them?”

Clay: I didn’t write the scripts directly or give directions on those titles, so this is the first game since Danganronpa where I’m writing and directing the script. It has been a long time since I wrote all these words.

Since Danganronpa, I post a lot of video games. It’s been five years, so I had a lot of feelings to put into the project.

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

Photo of Kazutaka Kodaka submitted by Spike Chunsoft
Kazutaka Kodaka, Screenwriter of Master Detective Archives: RAIN CODE – Photo: Spike Chunsoft

Clay: When I was working on Dangnaronpa, there were no plans to release the game overseas, so I’m really happy. I actually don’t know why it was so well received or why everyone loves it! But I feel really lucky that everyone finds it interesting and she confirms that it allows me to work on a bigger project like RAIN CODE. I feel lucky about that.

I’m glad everyone around the world can play this game, but I’m not necessarily targeting fans abroad. I really appreciate the user experience, because I’m the gamer, so it’s something that I value a lot.

This is a really cool way to put it. There are some really outstanding personalities and extraordinary talents in Danganronpa. Do you have a favorite type of character that you enjoy writing about?

Clay: It changes based on where I am, or at what point I am when typing. But even if it’s a sub character, I think “Oh, what if this is the main character? Can I write a story for them?” This is something I think about when I write the plot.

When I work on a character profile, I think every character gets a main story, which is a main character. I write every character like that.

I think that’s why people really connect with them and enjoy the characters because they stay that way. This is a really cool way to put it. In the end, have you ever thought about writing something that doesn’t involve murder or crime, or do you have the perfect story that you’d like to write?

Clay: Oh yeah, everyone dies in my stories… *laughs*

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

We would like to thank Kodaka-san and Spike Chunsoft for taking the time to speak with us. Detective Chief Archives: RAIN CODE releases on Switch in Spring 2023.

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