Kotaro Uchikoshi is the mind behind the wild series of puzzle-adventure-mystery games known as Zero Escape (999, Virtue's Last Reward, and Zero Time Dilemma), and fans of his imaginative direction should keep an eye on his upcoming game AI: The Somnium Files. But Uchikoshi-san is doing things a little differently this time around. A character in the game, Iris Sagan, has become a virtual idol and streamer/influencer in the real world under the stage name A-set--and he's helping produce and promote her.
When the team at publisher/developer Spike Chunsoft reached out and offered an opportunity to interview Uchikoshi-san and Iris (or A-set), I wondered how this would fly with my managing editor Peter Brown. But me being a huge fan of virtual idols such as Hatsune Miku and the vocaloid family, Haruka Sawamura of Yakuza fame, and Rise Kujikawa of Persona, I couldn't say no and Pete knew this was a job that only I could do.
We tried to get more details on AI: The Somnium Files itself, which will have players taking on the role of detective Kaname Date to investigate a series of murders--but those efforts proved fruitless as some questions were declined. While we wish there were more talk about for the game, our interview doesn't disappoint. Well, we'll let you be the judge.
AI: The Somnium Files is set to release sometime this year on PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC. The following interview was conducted via email correspondence with translation from Spike Chunsoft.
What's your opinion on the Zero Escape games? Which is the best?
A-set: They're all good! I still remember beating each one, it was like, mind-blowing! My brain felt so fuzzy after that I had to disconnect from social media for a few days just to process them. I know people say that the second is the best one, but I honestly think they're all awesome! But as for which one is my favorite? It's too hard to pick one! It's like trying to pick my favorite Alien or Indiana Jones movie. Except those had more than three...never mind!
What are you doing to keep surprising Zero Escape / Danganronpa fans who've seen so many wild things happen already?
A-set: I don't have any surprises planned... But I'm up for any ideas! My fans mean everything to me, so if anyone has any requests, you can always find me on Twitter, @Lemniscate_Aset!
Uchikoshi: Hm, let me think. Isn't surprising yourself more important than surprising others? And to do that, every night before I go to sleep I down three gallons of tequila. Trust me, if you do that, you'll forget everything that happened that day. Which means that when you wake up the next morning, every idea you have, even if it's an old one, will seem fresh and exciting!
Is AI: The Somnium Files something you would stream?
A-set: That would be amazing, I'd love that! Will Spike Chunsoft let me? *laughs*
Best girl and best boy in the Danganronpa series?
A-set: Best girl: Junko. Best boy: Nagito.
Is a full-length record in the works?
A-set: Of course I'd like to make one, but I'm still new to the scene. Right now, I just want to focus on promoting [the song] "Invincible Rainbow Arrow."
Best Hatsune Miku song or vocaloid song?
A-set: "Sand Planet"!
Are there any idols that you look up to yourself?
A-set: When I was young, Rihanna and Ke$ha were big. Lady Gaga also brought this fun, art-pop style that I enjoyed. I wanted to put some of that influence into my music. Start with poppy, catchy tunes and maybe eventually grow into something else. Ariana Grande is also putting out great stuff right now, but her vocal style is pretty different than mine, so... As for personal idols? The Powerpuff Girls!
How is it working with Uchikoshi-san?
A-set: Intimidating, but kinda weird.
How is it working with A-set?
Uchikoshi: Intimidating, but kinda weird.
Why promote a virtual idol now? How is this leading into something bigger?
Uchikoshi: First of all, A-set is not a "virtual" idol. She's a real idol with a real flesh-and-blood body. She just seems "virtual" because her presence is mostly online. I'm an old friend of Mr. Okiura, the president of Lemniscate, A-set's agency. He introduced me to her. He was pushing A-set, saying, "This is our agency's hottest new net idol!" To be honest, I was totally mesmerized by her dancing. I told him, "Well then, how about I produce her?" That's how it went. "Something bigger?" I don't know exactly what you mean, but it would be amazing to see her become something bigger. So please, support A-set, everyone!
What do you say to those who are skeptical of virtual idols? How do you help open their minds to the idea?
A-set: Well, I wouldn't know much about that. I'm a real idol, not virtual. But anyway, I put my heart and soul into everything that I do. I know that, if you just give me a chance, I can make my way into your heart and soul! *laughs*
Uchikoshi: When you get home, fill your bathtub with hot water, sink in, and then chug three gallons of tequila. If you do, your neocortex will go numb and you'll be more willing to accept idols like A-set. If your pupils dilate, so will your heart. Please give it a try.