Meet the creators behind this unusual multi-genre adventure.
Hey y’all! We here at Idea Factory International are super excited for the North American PS4 launch on February 19 of Death end re;Quest, the glitched out JRPG! We got some exclusive, behind-the-scenes look with the President of Compile Heart and Producer, Norihisa Kochiwa, as well as the lead artist, Kei Nanameda, and their take on the creation of the world of Death end re;Quest. The game will be available next week, including an awesome digital Deluxe Bundle now available for preorder at PlayStation Store.
The Story So Far
Before our special talk with Kochiwa-san and Nanameda-san, let’s take a look at the story of Death end re;Quest. The story begins with one of the main protagonists, Shina Ninomiya, who is stricken with a bad case of amnesia. Unbeknownst to Shina, she is trapped in a virtual reality MMORPG designed by Enigma Games, a leading company known for creating a vast, multi-terrained gaming landscape, World’s Odyssey. Shina and the lead programmer, Arata Mizunashi, were in charge of developing World’s Odyssey, but the project was unfortunately halted after her disappearance.
One year later, Arata receives a mysterious email and realizes the email came from his long-lost friend. Scrambling through the lines of code, Arata realizes that Shina herself is trapped in World’s Odyssey and finds that the only way for Shina to escape is to complete the good ending of the game – a task that has a success rate of 1%. Arata slowly realizes that not only are these forces wreaking havoc in World’s Odyssey, but also on the other side of the computer screen. What a mystery wrapped in an enigma!
Now Entering… World’s Odyssey
The captivating story of Death end re;Quest is one thing, but the gameplay also explores exciting mechanics that JRPG fans will find familiar and unique! At will, players can switch between visual novel investigations with Arata in the real world and jumping into the World’s Odyssey where Shina and her friends duke it out against dastardly bugs. During the visual novel gameplay, players meet a myriad of game developers that assist Arata in figuring out these mysterious forces that caused Shina to disappear. Change the visual novel perspective as players jump into the World’s Odyssey, where players can control Shina and her band of friends in a JRPG-esque fashion.
Bask in the glory of the Godot Ruins
And while this game does deliver your classic Compile Heart JRPG battle systems, the game also turns everything you know about RPGs upside-down. Each character will need to punch in three attacks or skills known as the Triact System. Characters will also have the possibility of learning new skills, notified by a light bulb, depending on the combination players choose within the Triact System. This system is called Flash Drive. Once you set the Triact commands, characters will have the ability to launch enemies with the Knockback System, allowing players to strategically angle and combo attacks toward other enemies, walls, and even other party members for more devastating damage!
Choose from 3 attacks and/or skills in the Triact System
Another system feature players will need to keep a watchful eye for are Field Bugs! Field Bugs are rampant in every battle field and players must be aware of the positive or negative effects it can have on your character. Each Field Bug also varies in the amount of Corruption it can place on a character, which brings us to our next system, Glitch Mode — a system that transform your party member into an unstoppable force. The Glitch Mode transformation can be reached as soon as a party member’s Corruption Level reaches 80%. Once in Glitch Mode, players can also access special attacks that can be extremely useful in any tough battle. However, players will need to keep a close eye on each character’s Corruption Level. If it is too high, it can have severe consequences!
Shina deploying her special Glitch Mode Attack
Need some extra power-ups and buffs during battle? Because Arata is unable to physically fight alongside with Shina, he uses his programming skills to strengthen the party and change the tide of battle! With Arata’s Battle Jack System, he can deploy three different skills to help out during Shina’s battle. As soon as players eliminate 50% of Field Bugs on the battle field, players can use the three available skills in the Battle Jack System: Code Jack, Summon, and Install Genre. Code Jack allows Arata to apply cheat codes during battle, which can buff party members or debuff enemies. The Summon features gives the ability to summon captured Entoma Queens, which are the bosses players will run across throughout World’s Odyssey. And lastly, we have Install Genre, which alters the game mechanics and turns the battle into a fighter, shooter, puzzle, billiards, and even slot!
Looks like a Jackpot to me!
And now that you know the story and gameplay, let’s talk with Norihisa Kochiwa and Kei Nanameda, and get some sweet tidbits in the creative process of Death end re;Quest! Below also shows some sketches done by Kei Nanameda!
What is your name and what was your involvement with Death end re;Quest?
Norihisa Kochiwa: I am Norihisa Kochiwa, President of Compile Heart and the producer for Death end re;Quest.
Kei Nanameda: I am Kei Nanameda, Lead Character Designer at Compile Heart. For Death end re;Quest, I was in charge of character-related areas, such as character designs, standing portraits, and event CGs.
Death end re;Quest is a refreshing take on JRPGs. When you were first introduced to Death end re;Quest, were you taken aback by the concept of the game? Any first thoughts when you were pitched the game?
Kochiwa: The project began as a dark fantasy-type RPG. As I gathered the team for it, we were able to combine the efforts of several talented creators like Kedouin-san for the scenario, Nanamedakei, and huke.
Nanameda: When I became involved with the project, the only thing they had were concepts, such as “dark world,” “bugs,” and a “game world setting,” so I thought, “Wow! This is really interesting!”
At the same time though, I had to think, “How am I going to reflect these themes in the characters?”
Is there a particular character in Death end re;Quest you really enjoyed and/or empathized with? Any characters that you completely despised?
Kochiwa: I like all of the characters, but I especially like Shina. I admire her positivity through the various harsh obstacles she has to overcome.
Nanameda: My favorite character is Shina. Even in design terms, all of my favorite things are packed into her appearance. In the actual game, her character undergoes several trials, so I hope people root for her! A character I despised? I can’t think of one. Whether they are allies or enemies, each one stands out to me, so from a creator’s standpoint, I am attached to all of them.
However, from the players’ perspectives, I may feel a certain distaste for a specific enemy character…
Nanameda’s early sketches of Shina
What kind of obstacles did you face when creating/writing? Did you find these obstacles much different on other Sony titles you’ve worked in the past?
Kochiwa: There were many story elements, so it was difficult to connect them all. Of all the titles we’ve worked on thus far, this one had the most bad endings.
As for the battle system, we had double the features than in our previous titles, which presented another challenge. One such feature is the Knockback feature, but we also included a Summon and Install Genre feature to make it more akin to an RPG. Thanks to the staff’s hard work, everything integrated together well, making for a deep, strategic system.
Round 1, FIGHT!
Nanameda: I touched on this briefly in the second question, but I struggled most with how to implement the “bug” theme in the character design. Because it pertained to the kind of bugs that exist in the game world, I wanted to include some digital details in their appearance.
Some of our titles have aspects of the game world inside of them, such as the Neptunia series, so I wanted to set it apart from those games. I wanted to honor what makes Death end unique, so it took some time for me to come up with a solid idea.
In the end, I overcame the obstacle by thinking of bugs not only as the computer bugs, but as literal insects. That set the tone for me. Whenever I do character designs, there is always a moment where everything comes together, which motivates me to think, “I can do it!” Until then, all I can do is keep pushing until the breakthrough comes.
Shina displays her wide range of attacks
Let’s say you were in Arata’s or Shina’s position. How would you have reacted (as Arata) in finding out that Shina, your best friend, is stuck in a defunct video game for over a year? And vice versa. How would you have reacted (as Shina) in finding out that you’re stuck in a video game?
Nanameda’s early sketches of Arata
Kochiwa: If I were Arata or Shina, trapped inside of a cancelled game I had been working on, I would likely ask a debug company to identify the source of the bug. Then I’d ask all of the programmers to fix the game to save her (laughs).
Nanameda: If I were Arata, then I am sure I would feel compelled to save her somehow, to try and explore all options, but I know sometime through the middle, I may get to the point of giving up. It’s a testament to how strong and heroic Arata is.
As for Shina, I think I would be so enthralled that I was inside of the world I had developed that I would never progress the story. I would be too interested in speaking with the NPCs.
Working as a game developer has gotten more complicated than ever…
As director/an artist, you are constantly influenced by the things around you (subconsciously or consciously) during the time of your work process. Were there any particular things (video games, art, music, etc.) that influenced your creation process?
Kochiwa: For Death end re;Quest, since there a central bug theme, I researched cheats and debug commands from older games (think ↑↑,↓↓, →←,→←, B, A, Select, Start). Older games employed those features more, which I took into consideration for this game.
Access Arata’s computer and investigate all the clues!
Nanameda: For Death end re;Quest, I was influenced by Huke, who was in charge of the Ludens’ character designs, and Kedouin, the scenario writer. Additionally, I visited the Art section at a bookstore, and also drew inspiration from characters and illustrations I see on Pixiv and Twitter.
Nanameda’s early sketches of Arata’s Avatar in World’s Odyssey
Deadlines can be intimidating for any creator. What did you do to keep yourself grounded when working?
Kochiwa: When producing games, you must always be mindful of deadlines. Especially when developing for the PS4. We have to be very specific, down to the minute detail, so that our staff can use all of their time to make the game happen. Part of that includes making hints to progress the game, and implementing bad endings that trigger when players reach certain locations or make certain choices. If we had no deadline to make this game, then we would have included more bad endings. However, more of those don’t necessarily make a better game, so I think what we ended up with had the best balance.
Nanameda: I try not to get worked up over one thing. It’s important, of course, to be persistent in your work, and I do spend time on things when I have to, but I make sure not to focus on little details so much as look at the bigger picture. I have to draw a line in myself.
Especially in the game production field, my job doesn’t end solely with character design. Beyond that, I have to consider the 3D-rendering, standing art motion creation, UI, and various assets. I have to take all of that into consideration.
Go Shina! It’s yo’ birthday!
Do you have any PlayStation releases (past or present) that you admire? Why are these games so close to your heart?
Kochiwa: Spider-Man. They replicated the true vastness of New York City, and Spider-Man’s movement is inspirational from a design standpoint. Playing it is so fun.
Nanameda: I love character designs for fighting games. I am especially influenced by the Guilty Gear series. The silhouettes and unique designs excite me. They’re absolutely wonderful. I also like the Disgaea and DanganRonpa series. It’s hard to explain, but they both have unique-looking characters who possess a certain venom. I appreciate works like that.
Lastly, do you have anything else to add with the upcoming launch of Death end re;Quest?
Kochiwa: Death end re;Quest is a fusion of cute characters that Compile Heart excels at, dark fantasy themes, and horror elements, all in one game. We put our hearts into this game. By making the bugs the central theme, we were able to tie in several twists and turns to excite our players, so please buy a copy and see for yourself!
Nanameda: For Death end, not only are the character designs influenced by the “bug” concept, but so are the scenario, system, monsters, and maps. The bug motif is everywhere, so I think people will find it distinctive and enjoyable.
Additionally, the story is enthralling. There are numerous bad endings, some are quite shocking, but I hope players stay determined to make it to the end.
It would make me happy for you to not only love the game, but love the characters too!
And there you have it everyone! A special thanks to Norihisa Kochiwa and Kei Nanameda for taking the time to talk with us! Death end re;Quest will be pluggin’ into your PS4 world this February 19 in physical and digital format. And remember, before the game launches next week, you can still preorder the Deluxe Bundle and save 10% if you are a PS+ member! Hope everyone can check it out!