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How Sherlock Holmes, slick 3D graphics, and Switch exclusivity sets the ambitious Rain Code apart

We speak to writer Kazutaka Kodaka on his detective inspirations, releasing close to FF 16, and more at GDC!

Torrential rain hammered down on the Moscone Centre throughout the first few days of this year’s GDC. Just when I thought I was free from the downpour I found it again in a Spike Chunsoft interview room on the subterranean expo floor. There Kazutaka Kodaka (formerly the lead writer on the Danganronpa series), a translator, and a handful of staff would take me through his latest project: Master Detectives Archive: Rain Code.

Set in a “neon noir” city constantly hammered by rainfall, you play as a detective tasked with solving a variety of peculiar murders with aid from a cast of other Master Detectives, each with their own distinct look, quirks, and special abilities. It’s your job to wash away the mystery and soak in clues, all while drenched in that distinct style longtime fans will recognise from the Danganronpa series.

Check out the latest trailer for Rain Code here!

Kodaka, via a translator, told me he has been reading detective novels since he was a child, explaining his interest in the kind of detective fiction present in Rain Code. He points to Nine Lives, the Detective Conan manga series, Sherlock Holmes, and the Japanese novelist Ranpa Edogawa as particular favourites of his, dripping elements from those sources into the variety of cases throughout the game.

Rain Code is the first game Kodaka has worked directly on since leaving Spike Chunsoft and forming Too Kyo games with fellow prominent ex-Spike Chunsoft employees. According to Kodaka, working on Rain Code is different from his prior work on Danganronpa as there are more staff and influences they could put into Rain Code. In spite of the seemingly high stakes with Rain Code being the biggest game from Too Kyo games yet, Kodaka doesn’t feel much pressure.

“He just wants to create what he wants to create. So instead of worrying about sales and stuff like that, when it does not go well, it's like he thinks [it can’t be helped].” This lines up with prior interviews where he states the purpose of Too Kyo Games is to create new IP. In fact, this is a large part of his vision for the future of the studio: “He wants to make more games in a shorter time, like two to three years, and then work together with the development team to create more games.”

Rain Code's main character and their Shinigami companion
The main character (left), of course an amnesiac, with their partner: Shinigami.

Perhaps the most enticing aspect of Rain Code from my limited time seeing the game was the visuals, rain-slicked city with some excellent looking 3D environments and characters, especially for a Switch-exclusive game. In the demo I was shown, you can walk to vastly different areas each with their own look and feel. According to Kodaka, it’s this drastic aesthetic improvement from his prior work that he’s most proud of.

“So compared to Danganronpa where you just read the text and the pictures may seem boring as there's not that much to see. In Rain Code, you can just see it, and have fun [exploring and interacting with it]. He likes mystery games, so showing it this way is better for visualising solving mysteries.”

The game is by all accounts an ambitious project from staff at both Spike Chunsoft and Too Kyo games, but it has some serious competition in its launch month. With Final Fantasy 16 releasing just eight days before Rain Code, and Kodaka’s own comments online about the game being “buried” by the JRPG giant, I wanted to ask about his feelings coming towards launch. As it turns out, he’s not worried, and his tweet was a joke in hopes of getting people to buy the game out of sympathy.

Kazutaka Kodaka jumping for joy at Rain Code Taiwan event.
Kodaka jumping for joy at a recent event in Taiwan. His secret to reaching suck heights? Running on the weekend.

“Final Fantasy is so big that it really doesn't make him anxious. Also Rain Code is on the Switch while Final Fantasy is on the PS5. Even the visual differences make him feel they’re not much of a competitor. Compared to Final Fantasy 16, Rain Code is more like an ‘animation style’. So it's a very different style, which makes them feel like it's a very different game.”

Overall, it’s Kodaka’s hope that his work can continue to satisfy players as he has done in the past with the Danganronpa series, and while he can’t say how he intends to do this time around due to spoilers, he’s confident Rain Code will do the same.

Master Detective Archive: Rain Code will launch on Nintendo Switch, June 30.

(This interview was conducted via a translator from Spike Chunsoft. Quotes used have been minimally edited for clarity)

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