Digimon Survive interview with producer Habu Kazumasa
Digimon survive has been a title that many Digimon fans have been waiting for. However, it stands out in the sea from other titles in the franchise with a focus on story and strategy RPG elements. We may never see another title like this, but it’s a game producer Habu Kazumasa wanted to make. So much so that he has stuck to the project due to several delays and even a new console launch.
To learn more about this game, we had the opportunity to sit down with Kazumasa-san during Anime Expo 2022 and discuss the game’s unique story elements.
Azario Lopez: So let’s start by asking, why bring the Digimon series to the strategy RPG genre with visual novel elements now?
Habu Kazumasa: The first concept came from the fact that I wanted to reflect on the setting for anime, where Digimon is considered a living partner for humans. This is something I’ve never done before. A good part of anime is when you see the Digimon digimon evolve into stronger Digimon, which is attached to the heart of the human character.
If the character is good, Digimon will develop into a good Digimon, but if the character is bad, they will be evil. I wanted to bring this to the video game, and all the different choices the characters could make that reflect the personality of Digimon. I think the visual romance of the game is where players can make choices that change the story and lives of their partners.
Another challenge I wanted to take on from my previous works is that I found that fans were interested in the original story aspect of these titles. So I took it to build a game that is heavily influenced by the story of a new genre that I think fans will like. I want players to be more emotionally invested in and feel this story than any Digimon game that has come before.
AL: Does the Karma system affect the human character and the Digimon character?
HK: You understand correctly. Going back to what I said about the anime Digimon Adventure, Digimon reflects to the human character their heart. Looked in Digimon surviveI want the characters to understand that bond.
AL: Consistent Digimon Survive’s development, there have been several delays. As the release date approaches, do you feel that the product is finally up to the standard of release?
HK: First of all, I would like to apologize for the delay in the project for so long. This started as a small project where I wanted to take the Digimon series into a new genre. We worked with a developer with a small team, but it did not work so well, which led to us working with a larger development team with a larger budget. At the time, delays were inevitable, but the current product made by this other team is what I wanted from the very beginning, and I think fans will like it as much as I do.
I started this project with the desire to keep it on an indie budget instead of the big budget that Digimon games usually have, but it did not end that way.
AL: Does this reflect your willingness to release this game where other studios may cancel the project altogether?
HK: There are some reasons why I joined this project. The first was that when the project was first announced, many were excited and I did not want to let them down. The other is that we could use a smaller team than usual on this project, which led to less risk. This allowed me to convince the stakeholders to give us time to complete the game. However, the smaller team also meant that the development was only slightly longer than usual.
AL: Were there any visual novels or role-playing games you used as inspiration?
HK: If we’re talking about a Bandai Namco title, I was influenced by Summons Knight series. As for other titles, is Utawarerumono series was something that influenced the project.
AL: I have to ask, am I going to cry during this fight?
HK: I’m not sure if I want to make everyone cry, but it’s a condition I had in mind during development. This game was created for a niche group of the larger Digimon fan base. When I designed the story, one thing I thought about was how the Digimon player base has its own idea of what Digimon is. Is it a monster, an animal, or maybe a virus? Digimon fans come to the Digimon world from different places and products, toys, games and anime, the settings for these products are different.
With this title I have tried to give everyone an answer to “what is a Digimon?” This new story is based on this, which gives players a chance to come to that conclusion. I had the opportunity to talk to the director of Digimon Adventure, Hiroyuki Kakudo, and we discussed why the word Digimon comes from the words Digital Monster.
Kakudo-san shared that the naming really does not matter right now since this series was created over 20 years ago at a time when the name was only meant to reflect the monsters that people see in the digital world. Fans now, who have access to laptops and mobile phones, understand the world “digitally” more than ever before, but when the series was created, we did not have that foresight. We now see that Digimon can be more of a being in this regard.
AL: After this title, what are your plans for the Digimon series? Want to go back to the Story or World series?
HK: We have several projects under development right now, one is in the Story series, which is considered a large project. Because of this, we need time to ensure that it is the quality level we need it to be before the disclosure. This is one of the reasons why I first wanted to complete this smaller project.
Digimon’s production team has grown to reflect the scope of these upcoming projects. We hope to reveal more of what we are working on soon.
AL: I could use another Rumble.
HK: I have heard this from many fans. So I’m curious as to which entry you’re talking about.
AL: I played it a lot on PlayStation, but All-Star Rumble was fun.
HK: I know it’s weird for me to ask questions during an interview; I’m just wondering what items Digimon fans are looking for. When I created Digimon survive, I wanted to focus on the story instead of the RPG elements, but I got feedback that the fans wanted more RPG elements and more Digimon. So in my mind I want to emphasize the story, but since you mention Rumble, which also does not include RPG elements, I fear that fans will continue to criticize the direction of the game series. What do you think of that?
AL: I think Rumble gives me an extra dose of nostalgia since I played it with other people growing up. But, Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth changed what I thought a Digimon game was in terms of history, style and gameplay. So when Digimon survive was announced, it happened to be what I personally wanted, and came out of the great story elements in Cyber Sleuth.
If I am going to make a game that many can enjoy at the same time, must it be a fighting or action game? Or would a game where players can interact with each other in the same world be enough?
AL: I would love one Digimon World games where I can raise Digimon with friends.
HK: I like that idea too.
AL: Is there anything you want to share with the fans that are waiting Digimon survive?
HK: I want to apologize to everyone who has been waiting so long. I also want to tell everyone that this story will be very unique and comes from something I have been thinking about for a long time. I want to express my understanding of Digimon who follows a group of children who are sucked into a new world where not everyone will react equally. You can imagine how some people may not make the right decisions after ending up in such a dangerous situation. We explore the human drama that stems from this, which is sometimes between strangers but also friends.
Now that these people are collaborating with Digimon, they are becoming a reflection of their human partners. Some will stand up and appear strong even if they are afraid. However, some people will push back against this aspect of reflection when they cannot see themselves in their partner, which can lead to fights and even abuse. We had to realize this if Digimon was actually based in reality. Because there are so many interactions between the characters and their partners, a generally dark theme manifests, but I do not want you to be sad. I want you to take this as just an opportunity for the Digimon series.
Finally, as I have mentioned before, I know that Digimon fans come from different products. Here I want to show them my understanding of this universe, and I want everyone to discuss it after completing the game.
AL: Yes, I’m going to cry.
Digimon survive coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC via Steam July 29, 2022.