Remembering Danganronpa Writer Kazutaka Kodaka Evangelizing the Vita at GDC

He's right and he should say it.

Now that Sony has made its plans to take down the PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, and PlayStation Portable digital stores down official, folks are getting nostalgic thinking about the long tail those systems had. Among them was Kazutaka Kodaka, the creative lead behind Spike Chunsoft’s Danganronpa franchise.

On his personal Twitter, Kodaka posted about a talk he gave at the Game Developer’s Conference back in 2015. The presentation was called My Ordinary Process for Crafting Extra-Ordinary Stories, and went through how he went about creating characters in the Danganronpa games. This included some talking points about how early design docs involved coming up with bullet points of archetypes they’d fill, and how they’d ultimately subvert them. The full talk was posted by YouTube user 80lv, which you can watch below. But the point of Kodaka’s tweet wasn’t to reflect on the presentation as a whole, it was to focus on one of its first slides.

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At the time, Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc and Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, were only available on the PlayStation Vita in the west. Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls was a few months away and also a Vita exclusive. But the system wasn’t selling, and Kodaka took a moment to lament that for himself, his games, and the collective industry.

“Oh yeah. I’m complaining. I’m whining here,” Kodaka said, as translated to English by the presentation’s interpreter. “No, but really. I feel like Vitas aren’t selling over here. And even after I’ve arrived in the city here in San Francisco, I’ve popped my head into a few games shops, and it just seems like I can barely find anything that maybe is Vita-related. I just feel like maybe games are on the floor and I got to go look for it. It just doesn’t seem like it’s been doing anything out here.

“And I’m not here as a Vita ambassador or- Sony hasn’t paid me, or I’m not paid to say these things. But I do believe that it’s a great hardware, it’s a great system, it’s possible to create a game with a very small team based on one very simple idea. And on a relatively small or smaller budget compared to some other big budget titles. So, it’s the ideal system to showcase a creator’s very unique, original side, and his or her personality. I love the hardware.

“So I would really like to encourage you all here, and your friends, and everyone in the development community to come up with some cool game designs and ideas for the Vita, and generate some noise and excitement for the system. The more they sell, the more my game, Danganronpa, will sell, hopefully. I really, again, highly encourage you guys to put out some great ideas. I know, I know. I’m still complaining. But, you know, you get my point.

The talking point was accompanied by a slide featuring Danganronpa mascots Monokuma and Monomi, laying lifelessly next to the handheld Kodaka was evangelizing, with the text “Why won’t people buy a VITA!” above them. The picture elicited some laughter from the crowd. And even as the system’s been long discontinued at this point, that sentiment still rings true.

Unfortunately, the games haven’t been re-added to the PlayStation Store for Vita in the west after Spike Chunsoft reclaimed the publishing rights for the franchise. Which is sad not only because that’s where the series got its start in most territories, but it’s also probably the ideal place to play the visual novels. All of the games were released as physical cartridges, but those will become more difficult to find for those who own the system as time goes on. This digital future sucks.

In the years since, all four Danganronpa games have been ported to PC and PlayStation 4, and the first two are available on mobile devicesDanganronpa V3: Killing Harmony was also announced for a mobile port alongside the first two games, but has yet to actually make its way to phones and tablets.

Kodaka is no longer at Spike Chunsoft, and founded Too Kyo Games in 2017. The studio has released one game so far, Death Come True, which was a pretty alright FMV adventure game for Switch, PS4, PC, and mobile devices. The company also produced a 12-episode anime called Akudama Drive, which I personally really dug. Too Kyo Games’ next project, World’s End Club, is set to launch on Switch and mobile devices in May.

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Kenneth Shepard

Kenneth is a Staff Writer at Fanbyte. He still periodically cries about the Mass Effect trilogy years after it concluded.

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