Head of PR. We are very grateful for his cooperation.
Chief of the development division. He supervises the games' production.
Development division. Served as director on the game.
—First of all, then, please tell us what led to you creating this game.
Kobayashi: It all began with Grandish Manor, a machine developed by our amusement division. That is just a thing where you experience fear by putting on headphones and hearing sound effects using 3D audio, however. It was quite well received. Development originated with us thinking about what would happen if we added images, since sound alone was already so scary. After a lot of trial and error, we came to the conclusion that it would probably be best suited to an adventure format.
—What was your reasoning behind having the world be set around a school?
Kobayashi: My generation was the same, but a school always has some sort of ghost story about it, whether they be many or few. That, and the scariness of a school at night. It's perfectly fine during the day, but that fear that comes when no one's around. I thought that this sort of feeling would be a concept shared by everyone, especially due to the differences between generations. It was wanting to arrange this in a Human-style manner within a game that led to it being set in such a location.
—It did have the old-fashioned image of "scary stories about a school", but there are modern, life-sized girls in the game. I think you paid quite a lot of attention to this, but what sort of personalities do the three main characters have?
Mika's speech is easy-going and fun.
Kobayashi: In terms of personality, they're all completely different. I think that's maybe symbolic of the youth of today. The game would be boring if they were all Mika, and it wouldn't be interesting if they were Chisato, either. You see lots of mismatched companions like these three in TV shows and anime protagonists as well. Rather than simply imitating them, we chose to have different characters as a choice to make the game more interesting. One of the selling points is the enjoyment of their conversations, after all.
Kobayashi: About what we struggled with... is it alright for me to bring this up out of nowhere?
—Sure, go ahead.
Kobayashi: We used actual high school students as models for the three high school girls who are the main characters, and we shot them at a studio against a blue screen. At first we'd only planned for it to last for one day, but we ended up doing a second. We still weren't done, so we added another. Then, we recorded videos of their performances and turned them into game characters one frame at a time... We made their faces ambiguous on purpose. If we did a bad job with their faces it'd take away the players' imaginations, right? We were careful about that sort of thing. Same with their behaviour. Mika has her own little mannerisms. We did quite a bit of research on that.
—When you see them in the game, they're all totally different, like in the way they walk and so on.
Kumagai: Some of the filming scenes are on Memorize.
—Are the actual girls who were used as models for the main characters still...?
Kumagai: Yes, the girls you see in Memorize are still in high school. The girl who appears in Investigation's manual is actually Mika.
—That sounds like the kind of thing people will start rumours about. Mika's pretty popular, isn't she?
Kumagai: She does stand out quite a bit.
—Are they all talents?
Kobayashi: All three were professionals, at least back then.
Kumagai: I think one of them has already retired at this point, though. She said she had university entrance exams. But Yukari and Chisato have quite a lot of fans too. I hear things like, "I'm a fan of Yukari."
—Do they get fan letters or anything like that?
Kumagai: It hasn't gone that far... but it is quite charming to see people write things like, "Go for it, Chisato."
—How about presents?
Kumagai: They don't go as far as to send presents. A lot of people say that the yellow rucksack is cute, though.
—Due to my job, I often end up playing games through the eyes of an editor, but I thought that the delivery of the lines was really well done. How did the scenario writer put it all together?
Suda: Our go-between at a certain advertising company got together about three high school girls. We had them sit at a family restaurant for three, four - no, five - hours, making notes mostly of key things they said. That, and we listened in to the conversations of the three models we were shooting. We couldn't just use the exact same things we'd heard within the game, though, so we had an expert female member of staff check over the finished scenario. By the way, that staff member coincidentally ended up being called Mika, too (laughs).
Care was paid when creating the scenery visible through the windows.
Kobayashi: We call it "Mikalish". It generally feels sort of like something made up by the scenario writer.
—Was there a setting for the basis of the rumours in the game?
Suda: A setting for the basis? Well, the park in Chapter 1 is of course Inokashira Park (the Human head office is nearby). The others... the story about the station is loosely based on Musashi-Koganei. The school was a middle school in Yokohama where a member of staff had a family member teaching, and they let us go there for research. Necessary information for the map, like the atmosphere and structure of the campus, was basically gathered there and put into the game. Most of the rest is based on Kichijoji.
Kumagai: You might think you recognise places like the shopping district in The Otherside Town. Like, oh, that's Asahi Street in Musashino. The people who know it will really see it.
Tatara, who appears in the sixth chapter. This is a work that deals with very heavy themes.
—Please tell us the bits in the game you'd like people to keep an eye out for.
Kumagai: Hmm... The scenery visible from the windows of the school building differs between the first, second and third floors. We really paid attention to things like that while we were making the game.
Kobayashi: For me, it was creating an overall image of twilight that gave me trouble, not freely utilising technology.
Suda: Recording the sounds took quite a long time, especially for Investigation. It took a full two days. Things like Kikuko Inoue's narration. The children and Kikuko Inoue were special cases, and then the other voice actors. It was really tricky, because we just couldn't get our schedules to match up.
Kumagai: We even went to the trouble of bringing in a dummy head.
—You mean those dummy heads that are in the shape of a person's head and have microphones where the ears would go? When you record something you're supposed to hear from behind, do you actually have them stand and talk in that position?
Suda: Yes, that's right. You can't just record it from the front, so you have to do it from the left and right or behind. Sometimes you have the voice actor move around a bit as you record. You can also create a sense of distance, so we recorded a bunch of different versions from nearby and far away, then decided which fitted best when we were putting them into the game. With things like the sound of the teacher walking in Chapter 4, we actually had them walk around in a circle as we recorded.
Kobayashi: The staging in Investigation is quite a lot more refined than in the last game.
Suda: The programmers had to make effects that took loads of time to do individually for each event scene. For example, even with fade-ins, we had them create a few different versions of that. The thing I'd like people to see the most is a type of processing called overlap. It's pretty tricky to do on the PS, but I hope those who have a bit of interest in the staging check it out. I don't think it's something that others are making much use of. I hope people take a look at these sorts of extravagance in Investigation.
Kumagai: We really went all out on this one.
Suda: We did everything we felt like. I think most of the things we didn't manage to do in Search got put into Investigation.
—Did you start off with a fixed number of scenarios from the beginning and then split it into two? Or did you write scenarios as a continuation after making the first game?
Kobayashi: No, it wasn't like that. When we went to put them all on the CD, we found that they wouldn't fit on one disc.
Suda: Releasing it as a two-disc set meant that we had to rethink it all from scratch, so it ended up in this form. Half of Investigation is newly added stories.
—I think that a new genre has been established now that a game like Twilight has come out, and I'm sure the players want to see more come soon, even if it turns into a different sort of story.
Kumagai: Everyone says that when they try it out. I want everyone to feel that there's more of a message, or sort of a theme, in Investigation than there is in Search.
Suda: I want people to pay attention to Chapter 6. It's sort of, pretty... vulgar, I guess? I also think that in a way it's sort of experimental. I wonder what kind of response we'll get from the players after we give them that sort of message in the game. I'm kind of looking forward to that, too.
—The packaging for Search changed along with the announcement of Investigation, didn't it?
Kumagai: It's not what we were after, but some people ended up buying two copies. About one in ten... Most of them said that it was fine, though. I'm really sorry.
—What happened to the content?
Kumagai: It's the same. They're both the same on the inside.
—Personally speaking, which is your favourite chapter?
Suda: Chapter 2? The one with the music room.
—That's mine, too!
Kumagai: I wonder if you're all lovers of "Rainy"? (laughs)
Suda: Did you see the good ending, then?
—Yes, I saw it. It's quite symbolic of things like the modern day high school girl's philosophy of love.
Suda: I was pretty spooked, or got goosebumps, when debugging it, too. That bit at the end where the calendar falls from the wall... I wondered whether it was really a game.
—Was there anything you disliked about making it?
Suda: The debugging.
—No, that's not what I meant (laughs). Things like unexplained power cuts, scary stuff like that.
Kobayashi: I hear that lots of things happened, apparently.
Kumagai: That thing people were talking about recently, with the grandmas or grandpas...
Suda: Oh, three staff members' grandmas passed away. That might just have been due to age, however (laughs). But they all came at once. I lost my grandma last year, too.
Kobayashi: We were making Clock Tower at the same time, so it was all horror. It was sort of like anything could happen. I went to a purification ceremony, too. I did it again recently while making this one.
Suda: Unfortunately, there wasn't much of that - weird phenomena.
—What about the good ending data and things like that?
Suda: A hidden scenario appears. If you get the good ending for all scenarios and put the data for Search and Investigation all on one memory card... That's how it's set up.
—Finally, then, please tell us about what happens to the girls next.
Kumagai: There's more to come. All I can say is that there's more...
—So basically stay tuned, then?
Suda: There's a sort of preview in Investigation. The hidden scenario is sort of like a preview. Make sure you see it through to the end.
After concluding the interview, we took a commemorative photo with a Mika standee (for storefront promotion). There's a mysterious light coming from Mika's thighs...