How Cherrymochi crafted the point-and-click adventure thriller Tokyo Dark

How Cherrymochi crafted the point-and-click adventure thriller Tokyo Dark

0 comments 📅07 September 2017, 11:00

We’ve had our eye on Tokyo Dark for some time here at MyM Buzz. The anime-inspired, point-and-click adventure game thriller from Cherrymochi has enraptured us with a macabre story that sees Detective Ayami Itō investigate the disappearance of her partner in the gloomy parts of the Japanese capital and uncover some dark secrets in the process.

With the game released today, we spoke to Creative Director at Cherrymochi, Jon Williams, to find out the team’s intentions and inspirations behind Tokyo Dark

I first played a demo of Tokyo Dark back in 2016 and even just that brief slice of the game has stuck with me ever since. Was creating that oppressive, foreboding and sinister atmosphere an important part of the game for you?

Absolutely, Tokyo Dark could be described as an atmospheric horror. Rather than rely on too many jump scares we took influence from J-horror movies such as Ju-on and The Ring to try to slowly build up a sense of dread and oppression.

It definitely deals with some dark and grisly subject matter, so were you always targeting a more mature story for the game?

We wanted to make a game that could only be set in Tokyo. Many stories can be transplanted to any city around the world, but the issues we touch on in Tokyo Dark often have their roots firmly entrenched in the metropolis. For example the JK business (hiring of school girls for ‘company’) prevalent in areas such as Akihabara.

We are fans of animes like Satoshi Kon’s Perfect Blue, but this genre is often overlooked in Japanese ADV and VN / interactive narrative titles where dating sims or at least dating elements are standard. With Tokyo Dark, we wanted to play with the expectations and tropes that usually come from similar style titles.

On the other hand, I also remember the moments of levity with Ito’s cat Lady Flufflington in the demo. Was creating a balance of moods important for you too?

In Tokyo Dark, you’ll definitely find lighter moments. These times that will make you smile are a contrast, a break to the darker parts of the game, it’s intentionality quite schizophrenic. The happy moments in the game make the horror so much worse.

You’ve said games such as Heavy Rain, Shenmue and The Blackwell Legacy have served as inspiration for Tokyo Dark – what is it in particular about some of those games that have inspired you?

We’re passionate about interactive narrative. There is always a push and pull between narrative and gameplay and we think those titles have interesting approaches. More recently studios like Inkle (80 Days), Super Massive Game (Until Dawn) and Telltale (their many titles) have been innovating in areas in the genre.

With Tokyo Dark, we wanted to try mixing some of these innovations with the format of Japanese visual novels.

Could you talk a bit about the anime influences on Tokyo Dark too? Why did you decide to use that particular art style for the game?

We knew we wanted to blend western adventure game mechanics with systems from Visual Novels and create a horror title set in Tokyo. The anime art style helps us double down on the themes of the game using a visual language and tropes people are familiar with. Using any other art style simply wouldn’t suit the game.

Tokyo Dark is full of decisions that can affect Ito and lead towards multiple endings, how difficult was it to write a story that’s able to branch into so many different paths?

We structured the game around ‘choice and consequences’ and the decisions you make will come back to haunt you. Using this structure we could take the extremes some players might take to their logical conclusions for a few endings. Others will be completely unexpected. Unlocking all 11 endings is one of the main puzzles of the game.

As for difficulty in design, we’ve had challenges. We had a few that required substantial rewrites and changes to how both the narrative and systems play out. The extra time spent making these mistakes and learning from them has helped us craft a better experience.

Given the unique storytelling challenges of a video game, why did you decide this was the right way to tell the story of Tokyo Dark?

Tokyo Dark‘s theme of choice and consequences is uniquely suited to interactive narrative. Without giving too much away Tokyo Dark would be a very different story if told without this interactivity. It would be a unique challenge to tell Tokyo Dark in a linear media. Who knows if we’ll see this in the future?

How has the experience been seeking crowd funding and working with Square Enix Collective?

Crowdfunding from Japan was a challenge. Back when Tokyo Dark hit Kickstarter there was no way to run a campaign directly from Japan, so we had to use business connections in Canada. There are very few business start up opportunities in Japan and though we applied we found it impossible to secure start-up grants or loans for an indie studio, so getting Cherrymochi established was tough.

Great news for Japanese indie devs is that this month Kickstarter is launching in Japan. There is a thriving indie community here in Tokyo. Kickstarter becoming accessible will hopefully allow more indie projects secure workable budgets and see release.

Working with SEC has been great. They’ve shined a light on Tokyo Dark in ways that would not have been possible if we were releasing Tokyo Dark independently. Their contracts are very fair, we remain full IP owners of Tokyo Dark and they’ve required no creative changes in the development of the game – that’s a winning combination all indie devs want to hear!

The atmosphere of working with Square Enix Collective is very much like that of a small indie label, one that just happens to have the resources and network of the wider Square Enix at its fingertips.

I’m sure you’ll want to take some time to enjoy the launch of Tokyo Dark, but do you have any thoughts as to what’s next for Cherrymochi? Are you hoping to continue working in games?

Right now we’re hoping for a successful PC launch! If everything works out and the game proves popular we’d love to bring Tokyo Dark to other platforms.

Going forward, we have plans. The seeds of which are planted in Tokyo Dark, but might grow into a very different beast…

Tokyo Dark is released today on PC.

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