1UP: I see. So you plan to continue to make something in the line of Zettai Zetsumei Toshi (Disaster Report)?
Kujo: Yes. We don't own the IP to that title but we will continue to make earthquake disaster games.
1UP: Right. Would you be willing to talk more about that topic?
Kujo: It depends on the question.
1UP: I understand. I will try to be sensitive about the situation. We've been talking to developers about the earthquake and tsunami, how it has had an impact on the Japanese development, and how Japanese developers are responding to it and changing the way they approach their games. I feel that of all the people we have talked to it has affected your team the most; given the nature of the topic of the games you were working on.
Kujo: Yes, well the theme is directly related. Other games may have visual relevance, like broken buildings, but for us the fundamental theme was earthquake and tsunami. This may sound imprudent, but we were trying to simulate in our game what happened in reality on March 11. So, we can't say the effect on our game was small.
1UP: Can you talk about the cancellation of Zettai Zetsumei Toshi 4?
Kujo: Well, one thing was that the development of the game was behind schedule. This is something that the business side of Irem and I both agreed and I have no problems with this decision, but there was no way we could have released the title after that event in March. So, we discussed, well, can we release it three months from now? Six months? There was no way we could decide on something like that after the earthquake. We also couldn't continue to tell the press and public that we were working on a title that we couldn't set a release date to. So, our only option was to cancel the title. That's what was discussed and decided between management at Irem and myself. After seeing the effects of the earthquake and tsunami, it just became impossible to set a release date for that title.
1UP: Did you hear from the public about the nature of the game? Was there support for it? Did people find it distasteful?
Kujo: Yes, of course. The earthquake happened on March 11th. And, we announced the cancellation of the game on the 14th, three days after the disaster hit. During that time, we received about 20 letters criticizing us for being insensitive in creating a game about earthquake disasters. Twenty letters from the public. Then, after the 14th when we announced the cancellation of the game, we received 500 letters asking us to withdraw the announcement. And, we (Nishiyama and I) read all 500 letters.
1UP: How did those 500 letters make you feel?
Kujo: Well, they all said basically to withdraw the announcement. And, about a week after the earthquake we even received a letter from the earthquake and tsunami victim. There was a government employee who wrote saying that they were writing from a disaster struck area but not to cancel the game. And that's when I felt that we shouldn't cancel the game. But, could I have released the game then? Probably not. I was scared to release the game.
Irem can no longer release that game. But, not me. When I read that letter, I strongly felt that someday I have to release that game.
1UP: Is that one of the main reasons why you left the company?
Kujo: Hmm. That's not the only reason. Toward the beginning of the year, Irem really limited what I could say to the public. One thing I can say is that the earthquake did have an effect on the cancellation of the game, but in the announcement of the cancellation of the game, it doesn't say anywhere that we cancelled the game due to the earthquake. Other companies said in their announcements, "Due to the earthquake, we have delayed the game." But, it doesn't say that anywhere in Irem's announcement. Even without the earthquake, it was becoming difficult to do a lot of things at Irem. It just happened to coincide with the earthquake, so if the game had been finished, they may have released the game.
1UP: Can you speak more to the development troubles of the game or is that off the record?
Kujo: Well, ultimately the reason why the game was cancelled was because of the earthquake. But, we were already making a game about earthquake disasters when it happene. So, it's nonsense that because it actually happened suddenly it's taboo to make a game about the topic. And, the games included information that is helpful in surviving an earthquake. But, after seeing the extent of the disaster, it just became impossible to release that game.
1UP: Disaster Report was released in America about the time that I moved to San Francisco, which is a city with a history of earthquakes. I actually found that game very enlightening, because it made me aware of what would happen if I were to experience an earthquake.
Kujo: Actually, the majority of the 500 letters we received said just that. And also how the previous ZZT games were useful to the current victims. I originally made the game for entertainment purposes. But, about the time we made ZZT3, I started becoming aware about how the fans were finding the information helpful and tried to incorporate those types of information into the game. And, when I saw the effects of what happened on March 11, I thought that I could make a game that is even more informative than in the past. And, when I make the next earthquake/disaster game I want to make it a lot more informative than in the past games.