In this second of two interviews from the recent NIS America press event, Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc producer Yoshinori Terasawa from Spike Chunsoft talks a bit about the state of visual novels in Japan and about what makes Danganronpa popular.
Jennifer Griffith: How popular are VNs in Japan compared to other types of games?
Yoshinori Terasawa: First of all, the reason why visual novels are really popular in Japan is because ever since we’re little kids, we’re really used to reading. I’m sure the Western culture reads a lot, too. But having that in-game, when we’re really used to looking at text-heavy material, is probably why they became popular. But unfortunately, visual novels are also going down in popularity right now.
So that’s why we decided to add Danganronpa’s special features—a lot of action, high paced stuff—to add to Mr. Kodaka’s scenario writing to make the game even better.
JG: That actually leads into my next question! It seems like Western publishers tend to be hesitant to take visual novels that don’t have those other mechanics. Have those extra mechanics actually helped increase the game’s popularity in Japan?
YT: They’ve definitely increased its popularity. If Danganronpa just had visual novel text, it probably wouldn’t have been as popular as it is now.
JG: Speaking of popularity, did the Danganronpa anime influence the game’s popularity in Japan?
YT: It definitely increased the number of fans for the game!
JG: The non-reading mechanics remind me a lot of games like Ace Attorney. Did any games like that inspire Danganronpa at all?
YT: The actual staff had never played the Phoenix Wright series before! I knew about it personally, but it’s really interesting how that all turned out.
JG: Before Danganronpa was localized, did English-speaking fans request that it be brought over a lot?
YT: We didn’t personally receive the requests, but we did hear through various websites that a certain group of people were really interested.
JG: Is there anything you would have changed or included in Danganronpa if you’d known a western release would happen?
YT: That’s a great question! [Pauses to think.] If we’d known beforehand, we would have definitely wanted to add more American pop culture references. In the Japanese version, we incorporated a lot of anime, drama, and movie references so people would relate to it more. If we knew it would come to the US, we would have added references for a US audience too.
JG: The characters is Danganronpa have really well-developed personalities. Are any of them based on real people?
YT: There weren’t any real-life models for the characters. They were all actually created straight out of Mr. Kodaka’s head!
JG: Are there any plans to bring over Zettai Zetsubou Shoujo?
YT: NISA currently provides the best offer… [Laughs and trails off.]