AI: THE SOMNIUM FILES developer interview with Kotaro Uchikoshi & Yusuke Kozaki #AX2019
AI: THE SOMNIUM FILES is the latest video game from Kotaru Uchikoshi, who’s best known in west for his beloved Zero Escape trilogy, Ever 17: The Out of Infinity, and Punchline. Similar to his previous games, this new title is an adventure game with mystery elements, an eclectic cast, and a gripping plot. AI is a neo-noir detective adventure about a man named Date and his partner who conduct investigations in both dreams and reality. Gameplay is divided into distinct segments: advancing the story through detective work in “Investigations” and discovering clues in the dreams of key witnesses in their “Somnium.”
Veteran manga artist and character designer Yusuke Kozaki was brought on to create the characters in AI. Kozaki has designed iconic video game characters over the the span of his career, including Travis Touchdown (No More Heroes), Lucina (Fire Emblem Awakening), and even the Team Leaders in the popular Pokémon GO mobile app. For AI, Kozaki created a unique cast of supporting characters including Date’s artificial AI eye, the aptly named Aiba, and a school girl internet idol named Iris.
Both Uchikoshi and Kozaki were guests of honor at Anime Expo 2019 where they shared their latest character trailer for AI at their panel. Both were gracious enough to take time out of their busy schedule to speak with CFG during the event.
Interviewed by William Hong Translated by Toshi Beppu and David Kracker
Transcribed by Davies Green
AI: THE SOMNIUM FILES is a sci-fi themed adventure game. What separates it from your Zero Escape games?
Uchikoshi: One of the biggest differences is that Zero Escape had a more complex story, whereas AI: THE SOMNIUM FILES is a more welcoming story for more people because it’s not as complicated.
Is that intended to draw in a more mainstream audience?
Uchikoshi: Actually no, like when I worked on Zero Escape 3, I added a lot of cutscenes so it’d be more like a western drama. But we noticed that it turned out to be really long. So for AI: THE SOMNIUM FILES, we wanted to make a game that appeals to my fans and adventure game fans. That was my main focus. To create a game that are fans of the genre and myself.
Of all the characters revealed so far, which one is Kozaki’s favorite design?
Kozaki: It’s hard to choose just one. Normally on a title it’s pretty common to have your favorite character, but in this case I kind of like them all. But since you’re twisting my arm, I’ll say that Iris is my favorite character. That’s because, the overall look of the characters is more on the realistic side. And I added a lot of pop elements to that. The realism and the pop elements actually came together and blended very well. So I’m happy with the way she turned out. I think she’s a very iconic character.
To follow up on that, when you designed Iris, did you have any particular idols in mind?
Kozaki: There wasn’t anything from real life that I referenced when designing the characters. Just kind of like a collection of fragmented memories, like my different visions and idealized versions of a lot of women from my past memories.
Unlike the Zero Escape games, AI is designed for consoles. In what ways does the game benefit by having a more powerful engine and a bigger budget?
Uchikoshi: In the Zero Escape series, we could only have 9 main characters. For AI: Somnium files however, we could definitely create more characters. We also added a lot of motion into the game. That was really integral in telling this story versus the past Zero Escape games.
In terms of settings, the Zero Escape games took place in a very confined areas. Based on the initial footage, AI takes place in a more open carnival location. Is there a specific reason why you chose this particular place?
Uchikoshi: For the last 10 years with the Zero Escape games, everything was in a confined room. Because of that, I was never able to depict rain or the sky in my games. With the bigger budget that we have for AI: THE SOMNIUM FILES, connecting back to your previous question, I wanted to create something with more space, rain, and sky elements, that we couldn’t do in the past 10 years.
For Kozaki-san, how long does it take for him to create a character? Was there a character that was challenging to create in AI?
Kozaki: Overall, I think Date was the hardest to design. Especially his clothing. It took us a long time to get right. It took a lot of back and forth with Spike Chunsoft on deciding what was the best way to design the character. For me, I like to start with the character’s silhouette first. Because it’s like talking about general human nature. It’s like when you see somebody, the first thing that eyes catch is the shape, the form of a silhouette. So once I know how I want the silhouette to look like, I go on and fill in the details.
Which features are you most excited for players to experience in AI?
Uchikoshi: Obviously the story is something I want everybody to focus on. The game consists of two parts, the Investigation part and the Somnium part, which is like the dreaming part. In the Investigation parts, there will be parts of the game where players are going to laugh and enjoy it in that aspect. In the Somnium parts, the dream parts, there’s like multiple branching points in the game that players could really enjoy and see how things happen when they choose a certain branch versus another.
Bonus question: Kozaki-san, who’s your favorite Pokémon GO team leader?
Kozaki: Candela of Team Valor!
Special thanks to Arianne Advincula for arranging the interview.
Spike Chunsoft will publish AI: THE SOMNIUM FILESthis September in North America for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch. You can find additional information on the official AI: THE SOMNIUM FILES website.