Gematsu recently spoke with Amaria Larchet, a producer of the upcoming Art Co.-developed Kotodama: The 7 Mysteries of Fujisawa, in an e-mail interview where Larchet shared all sorts of new details about the upcoming visual novel.
Get the full interview below.
PQube has long been a publisher—and only a publisher. What made you finally take the leap into developing an original IP?
Amaria Larchet: “We celebrated our ten year anniversary a few weeks ago—and its something we’ve been conscious of for a while. Thinking about our future, thinking about what parts of gaming we’ve liked the most. Developing our own IP seemed like a good way forward—to be even more involved with game development.
“We already have experience working closely with some of our partners. We often provide the localisation of the titles we are working on, but also some studios are also open to our feedback in term of content or gameplay mechanics.”
Art, Co. is not a name that many may be familiar with outside of Unchained Blades. Nor a company that PQube has worked with in the past, if I’m not mistaken. What made you choose them as your partner for this project?
Larchet: “We have met several Japanese studios while we’ve been working in Japan. We spend a lot of time there as you can imagine. Art happens to be a studio we have become very friendly with over the years. We’ve been hanging out and talking about games for a while and so it seemed natural to work together once we started to conceptualize Kotodama: The 7 Mysteries of Fujisawa. There was a bit of going back and forth to define the structure and the scope of the game but ultimately we shared the same vision.”
The story sees a transfer student make a pact with a demon fox to coerce the truth behind the sinister happenings at a seemingly normal academy. Can you share more insight into what’s going on at the academy?
Larchet: “From the outside, Fujisawa Academy is just like any typical academy with its star students and clubs. One of them is the Occult Research Club. Its members are all interested in paranormal phenomena and the least we can say, there are a lot of odd and mysterious rumors at Fujisawa.
“They will explain to the main character who just recently transferred that the purpose of their club is to investigate these rumors. While some are rather light-hearted, with for instance students claiming that no one has ever seen the face of the principal – some are a bit darker. A first-year student who committed suicide two years ago is, for instance, rumored to have left a curse on the campus.”
Can you tell us a bit more about the protagonist and the characters around him?
Larchet: “The name and the gender of the character will be chosen by the player in the prologue of the game. Having newly enrolled, the story will start on his first day at Fujisawa Academy. He is introduced to Nanami, an energetic and passionate member of the Occult Research Club who will be in charge of showing him around the campus.
“He will meet the other members of the club which he will quickly join and who will investigate together with him or her the seven mysteries of Fujisawa.
“Ultimately, it’s a story about uncovering secrets, not just about the characters in the game, but of the academy itself.”
Kotodama is seven chapters long, but how long can we expect the overall game to be in terms of hours?
Larchet: “The first run is expected to last around five hours long but that doesn’t take in all of the chapters. Without giving too much away—the structure of the game means that it will take much longer to reach the final ending and shed light on all seven mysteries. It’s going to take a lot longer than that to get to the true ending!”
Will there be multiple endings and different story paths? If so, how early on do your choices begin to play into the new path or different ending?
Larchet: “There will be different endings. The player will have to play the game a first time to get insight about the reality behind some of the characters. You’ll then need to replay at least second time and make the right decisions to learn the whole truth.”
Can you say how many original CGs are planned?
“There will be a total of 15 CGs, all of them being unlockable and accessible from the gallery in game.”
Can you explain how the Kotodama system (battling characters using the power of words) plays out?
Larchet: “The main character has made a pact with a demon that grants him the power of Kotodama, or power of words. Specifically, the player will need to uncover facts and clues from characters in order to be able to confront anyone who’s hiding something. Once you confront someone, your job will be to use your power to force them into telling you the truth.”
How does interrogation lead to stripping your target naked? Will you be interrogating both girls and guys?
Larchet: “The main character will summon the character in a separate dimension, where he or she will see a visual representation of him or her. It’s an abstract way for the player to uncover the truth. You’re effectively breaking down the enemy’s resolve—manifested by stripping your opponent. Both male and female characters will be hiding the truth from you so there will be indeed some man undressing action!”
Can you give us an example of how the game plays on classic tropes and clichés?
Larchet: “There is a general playful atmosphere around the academy, with some familiar archetypes—students are friendly even if they all have their own quirks. Everything seems fine on the surface, but the player will quickly realize that some of the students have been acting in inappropriate ways. Basically, there’s nothing ‘normal’ about Fujisawa Academy.”
What kind of puzzles can we expect?
Larchet: “The puzzle screen is divided in two parts. On the left side, there’s the puzzle zone where the player will try to dish out combos to raise their opponents Happy gauge. You have to fill this in under a certain number of moves or its game over.
“On the right side, the target character who is hiding something from you can be seen. Whenever the player deals enough combos, the target character will lose a layer of clothes.
“If the player weakens the character by choosing elements they’re weak against, the player will earn points that will let them interact with the target character, for a chance to earn additional moves. It can be a risky process though, as it can result in attacks from your opponent which will make it harder for you to strip them completely. You’ll need to balance the need to spend moves on combos, with the need to get moves back by interacting with your opponent.”
What is Fantasize Mode?
Larchet: “The Fantasize Mode can be started in the main character’s room or directly from the title screen once unlocked. It lets you play the puzzles against the characters you’ve already interrogated and confronted in the main story. They can be played in normal or in a harder difficulty and is one of the means of getting unlockables in the game.”
Is this the first of PQube-owned properties to come? If so, what genre would you be interested in tackling next? And any partners in mind?
Larchet: “Yes, very much so. This is something we’ve wanted for a long time. We’re a relatively small publisher, but we’re really passionate about the games we like and want to work on. If we can get the support of our fans on Kotodama, we can then look to new, more ambitious projects.
“This is the start of a new journey for us, so we hope people enjoy this first game and we certainly hope it won’t be the last. We’ve learned so much from this project already and we’re now thinking about what we can do next, and how we can improve.
“We have already approached Japanese game studios to discuss the possibility of developing new projects already but the discussion are still on a very early stage.”
Any last message you would like to share with the Gematsu community?
Larchet: “As always, we want to give a big thanks to everyone who supports us. I think many appreciate we are not a huge publisher, but we really love bringing games to our fans which we personally like—from Visual Novels, to more fun, lewder titles, to interesting indies.
“We really appreciate everyone who takes time to tweet to us, every day—to give us feedback, good or bad, to come and hang out with us at Expos. Likewise, we always read the comments section on Gematsu for every piece of news we release, it’s super important to us to know what you think.
“Basically, we really hope we can keep doing what we’re doing for another ten years, and hope that the community will continue to be as awesome and understanding towards us as they have been so far!”
Kotodama: The 7 Mysteries of Fujisawa is due out for PlayStation 4, Switch, and PC on May 31 in Europe and June 4 in North America.