During Anime Expo we had the chance to sit down with Spike Chunsoft's own Kotaro Uchikoshi to discuss his recently revealed title, AI: The Somnium Files. Kotaro Uchikoshi is well known for his prior work on the Zero Escape franchise, including titles such as 999 and Virtue's Last Reward - so finally learning what Project Psync is all about was a highlight of the expo. We took the time during our interview to discuss what drives The Somnium Files' adventure, and what fans of his previous titles can expect from this new one.
RPG Site: Good Afternoon, so you announced AI: The Somnium Files yesterday, which is Uchikoshi-san's newest Adventure title - if possible, can you give a brief explanation for those who missed the livestream, about what the game is?
Kotaro Uchikoshi: So, AI: The Somnium Files is a mystery adventure in which the main protagonist, Date, is a detective following a series of murders that occur in Tokyo. The setting is the near future, where technology has progressed further than where it is now. Our protagonist finds a body with its left eye missing, and that's the start of a series of murders in which all the bodies are found with that eye missing. You're trying to find out the mystery behind these serial killings.
RPG Site: Your previous series - Zero Escape, Remember11, Ever 17 - is there anything particular to AI: The Somnium Files that you want to point out to fans of your previous works, that might stand out to them as especially interesting?
Kotaro Uchikoshi: Much like our previous titles, The Somnium Files features different branching paths and multiple endings that work with each other for one. As opposed to the previous games where for the most part characters were trapped in an enclosed, confined space - and you were to play the game through there - this time it's set on a greater stage of all of Tokyo. Not only that, but there are many more characters this time. So I think people will be interested in that change.
RPG Site: Will players be able to expect the same sort of puzzle elements from, say, Zero Escape to play a part in AI: The Somnium Files as well? If so, then to what degree?
Kotaro Uchikoshi: One of the unique mechanics of the game, which is where the subtitle "The Somnium Files" comes from. There's an investigation part of the game called the "Somnium" parts, and "Somnium" stands for "Dream" in Latin. These are parts where you look for clues by entering the dreams of suspects, and they might not want to co-operate, but you'll still search for the truth by investigating them. In a sense that's like a puzzle? That's how you'll be solving mysteries, and I think fans will enjoy that.
RPG Site: One of the things that stood out to me while watching the reveal, was that the overall presentation seems to be a notch above what was present in the Zero Escape franchise. Has there been anything you hope to express with these higher production values?
Kotaro Uchikoshi: Definitely! We have "leveled up" since those previous titles, and there's a higher budget for The Somnium Files... and with that comes higher quality. It definitely helps with expressing the title in the way that I want to express it, in ways I couldn't before.
RPG Site: Yesterday you announced the platforms that the game was coming too - but unless I missed it, whether the game was going to be digital-only or come with a physical release wasn't announced at that time. What formats should we expect the title to release as?
Spike Chunsoft: It will be both physical and digital.
RPG Site: That was simple! Earlier you mentioned that the Somnium sections of the game are puzzles in the sense that you're investigating for clues - is that something more like the investigation sections in, say, Ace Attorney - or is it more like a middle ground between Remember11/Ever17 and Zero Escape?
Kotaro Uchikoshi: I wouldn't really compare it to the Ace Attorney series. I'm not sure if you're familiar with it, but it's more like a game from Hideo Kojima in the 90s, that was an adventure game...
RPG Site: Oh... Policenauts?
Kotaro Uchikoshi: *laughs* Yes! So it's like a modern, higher quality version of that - err, not to say higher quality but a more modern version of it!
RPG Site: *laughs* You had that video with the character Iris, introducing herself at the panel - that was fully voiced. Most of Zero Time Dilemma was voice acted, can we expect the same with AI: The Somnium Files?
Kotaro Uchikoshi: It'll be fully voiced. Zero Time Dilemma's escape portion won't be voiced, but this time the entire game will be voiced.
RPG Site: With that, is there anything specific you'd like to say to your fans with The Somnium Files?
Kotaro Uchikoshi: I'm very confident in this title, I'm looking forward to it myself. There'll be more info to come in the coming weeks and months. I hope everyone will follow it and look forward to the game's release.
RPG Site: Thank you, and I hope you have a great expo!