We’re just a little under a month away from the unexpected murder mystery, AI: The Somnium Files – nirvanA Initiative. This sequel to Spike Chunsoft’s 2019 original, AI: The Somnium Files, sees the return of everyone’s favourite pipe-wielding badass Mizuki, now an ABIS special agent trying to find out the truth behind the Half Body murders.
The upcoming game features a bunch of returning characters from the original, like idol and Mizuki’s best friend A-set, but we’ll also be meeting some new faces this time around, including Ryuki, another ABIS agent; Tama, his AI ball sidekick; Komeji, a comedian; and Kizuna, a school student.
With the beloved original cast meeting with a bunch of new characters, we wanted to find out more about from scenario writer, creator of the Zero Escape series, and director of the first AI, Kotaro Uchikoshi. We previously picked his brains about the new game earlier in the year, but we wanted to know more about the new protagonists, the challenges of bringing in a brand new set of faces, and what the two time periods allowed the writer to accomplish differently compared to his previous games…
Nintendo Life: The characters are probably the most beloved aspect of the first game. What do you think makes this cast stand out compared to other adventure games?
Kotaro Uchikoshi: Mystery novels can be appreciated to some extent if they have outstanding tricks, science fiction novels can be called masterpieces if they are rich in scientific knowledge and encompass philosophical issues. An action movie can be said to have succeeded if it captivates its audience with thrilling action, and a social human drama can be said to have succeeded if it incorporates emotionally moving elements.
However, that is not enough for adventure games. To satisfy the adventure game player, all the elements just mentioned must be fulfilled. Outstanding tricks, scientific insights, philosophical questions, thrilling action, emotionally moving human drama…
And if these elements are not complemented by compelling characters, it cannot be a great adventure game. (In addition, of course, it is important that the game be interesting.)
If AI’s characters are exceptional, it’s because our staff was focused on bringing out the best in them, in addition to the elements above. If you like them, we couldn’t be happier. At the same time, I am mildly jealous of AI’s characters. Even I myself want to be a character in AI.
Were you worried about introducing new characters into the mix in AI2? Did you face any challenges integrating them into the story naturally?
Come to think of it, I’ve been making games for almost a quarter of a century now, and this may be the first time I’ve created something that continues the characters’ stories from the previous game in almost the same style but weaves new characters into the mix. I’ve lost my virginity.
this may be the first time I’ve created something that continues the characters’ stories from the previous game in almost the same style but weaves new characters into the mix. I’ve lost my virginity.
But unlike losing my virginity in my youth, I wasn’t too worried about this first experience. Rather, I was able to build a story with stability because the characters from the first game were solidified and provided a strong foundation.
To begin with, the people that Ryuki and Tama meet (the key reference people in the case) are all newcomers as well… The characters from the previous game are supporting them from the periphery. This is a consideration for new players who have never played AI1. This was intended to make it easier for new players to get into the story.
On the other hand, Mizuki’s side is similar to a “Poirot, Maigret, Holmes, or Detective Conan taking on a new case” Also, the new characters had already been established in the Ryuki side, so I don’t think that integrating them was difficult.
Did you always intend for the sequel to have two playable protagonists?
First, “two is one” and “two opposites” are the main themes of the entire game. For example, yin and yang, man and woman, double helix… Love and hate could also be one of them. The fact that the main case in the game is the “Half Body serial killings” is also related to this. This naturally led me to the conclusion that the main characters should be two people. It would have been nice if I could have had two wives at the same time, but alas, such an opportunity will never come.
Mizuki has stepped up into the role of one of the protagonists. What was your thought process behind having her take the lead over the previous protagonist?
It was decided in the early stages of planning that one of the main protagonists would be Mizuki. She was the most popular character from the first game, and I myself wanted to write about her growth… However, this doesn’t mean that Mizuki has surpassed Date, the protagonist from the first game. It’s just that Date solved the case in the first game, and Mizuki and Ryuki have to solve the case in this work.
In the AI series, Date, Mizuki, and Ryuki (as well as Aiba and Tama) all have equal priority. If you are familiar with the anime “Durarara!!” or more recently, “Odd Taxi”… It is similar to those types of ensemble drama.
How did you want the new duo — Ryuki and Tama — to stand out compared to Date and Aiba (or Mizuki/Aiba)?
Ryuki is a rookie investigator with a strong sense of justice. However, he’s not the hot-blooded type, but rather reserved and calm. His partner Tama is like a “dommy mommy”, consisting of 90% strictness and 10% gentleness, and literally slaps Ryuki’s butt to inspire (excite) him.
The interaction between the two is interesting and different from that between Date and Aiba in the previous game (or Mizuki/Aiba). I hope you will pay attention to the relationship between these two…
Have any characters’ relationships changed between the two games? Are there any new ones you can talk about?
I am not aware of any significant changes, but maybe some players will think that the relationships between these characters have changed a bit. I hope you will discover that as you play…
Also, not quite the same as relationships, but a certain character from the previous game will appear in a certain person’s Somnium in a way that is not quite like them. Please stay tuned
Are there any returning characters who get more time in the limelight in the sequel?
You mean other than Mizuki and Aiba, right? If so, that would mean Date.
As you can probably tell from the trailer, Date is a character who plays a very important role in this game. Although he is not a playable character, I hope you will enjoy Date’s coolness (or dorkiness) from a third-person perspective. Also, there’s one secret about Date that will be revealed, so keep a look out for that as well.
Did the two time periods in the game give you any flexibility in writing and developing the cast a bit more?
The two scenarios are chronologically connected as serial. In this sense, the two scenarios were not so much flexible as they were rigidly fixed, and I felt as if they were in danger of collapsing no matter where I poked at them. It was as if I was writing the scenarios while being bound in tortoise shell bondage by a dominatrix. I remember that while I was writing, the director, Okada-kun, would hit me with a whip. I still cannot forget the melting pleasure I felt at that time.
Do you think the protagonist you’re playing as and the time period you’re in will affect the player’s feelings about the other protagonist?
Of course so. Please play the game and see exactly how it affects you.
Do you have a favourite new character, and can you share any amusing or unusual anecdotes about the cast?
As for my favorite new character, I believe it probably hasn’t been announced yet, so I’m naïve. Let’s just say that it’s a person wearing sunglasses. I probably shouldn’t tell you any anecdotes about the characters yet either. If you ask me again after the release of the game, I’ll be able to share some interesting anecdotes.
First, please enjoy the story of AI2 purely and without any preconceived notions. I promise you will be satisfied.
Thank you to Mr. Uchikoshi for once again speaking to us about AI The Somnium Files – nirvanA Initiative! The game releases on 24th June on Switch in North America, and 8th July in Europe and Oceania.