Following its submission to the Square Enix Collective in 2015, Tokyo Dark, the debut horror adventure title from Tokyo-based developer Cherrymochi, has enjoyed quite the journey of its own. Its submission to the Square Enix Collective resulted in a whopping 94% rating by its members before the game was quickly Greenlit by the Steam community. A successful Kickstarter campaign would follow that with Tokyo Dark raising an incredible $225,386 of an original $40,000 goal, unlocking all but 1 of the studio’s stretch goals in the process. A fusion of point and click and visual novel, Tokyo Dark is now set for a new adventure when the game makes its official debut on PC on September 7th.
I caught up with Cherrymochi co-founder and producer Maho Williams recently at Gamescom 2017 in Cologne to find out more about the studio’s debut release.
Can you start by introducing yourself to our readers and your role at Cherrymochi?
My name is Maho Williams, I am the producer for the game studio Cherrymochi located near central Tokyo. Cherrymochi is a tiny micro studio founded by my husband and me, We are working with 3 very talented freelancers from all over the world.
From what I’ve seen so far of Tokyo Dark it certainly appears to be an interesting concept that blends adventure, investigation and horror elements together. Can you tell our readers a little about its conception, story and what players can expect when the game launches?
Maho Williams: Tokyo Dark is a fusion between visual novels and western style adventure games. You play as a character named Ito Ayami, who is trying to solve the mystery of her missing partner. As you explore real places in Tokyo you’ll encounter a lot of strange incidents, as you solve the puzzles you have to choose different options depending on what you choose your stats called spin’s change, spin stands for sanity, professionality, investigation and neurosis. These stats change the reaction of the other characters and lead to different endings.
You list Shenmue, Heavy Rain and The Clocktower among your inspiration for Tokyo Dark, what is it about those particular games that inspired you to make this game?
Maho Williams: We have different sources of inspiration. Clocktower is a side-scrolling adventure game but also Higurashi When They Cry, which is a classic novel classic are 2 are our core inspiration. Same as J-Horror Ju-On, with mystery and a psychological element to it. From the western side our inspirations are Heavy Rain and also Neverending Nightmares these are point and click adventure games with elements that not many Japanese games have. We wanted to combine these elements into one game.
As a point and click detective game, there are a lot of choices for players to make throughout the adventure. How deep do the choices players make in the game run? Do they heavily alter the game’s direction one way or another? I believe there are multiple alternative endings available?
Maho Williams: Each choice you make changes your stats, that is the spin I talked about. Your choices influence that and based on what you choose it will give you one of 11 endings. Also in your first playthrough, you can’t manually save the game, so until you reach the end for the first time you will not be able to influence the outcome by reconsidering your decisions.
Away from player choice, there are many different ways to interact with the environment in Tokyo Dark. Can you describe the various types of puzzles and other challenges we can expect to encounter and how players can solve them to progress?
Maho Williams: There are a number of different types of puzzles in the game, most revolve around finding and using objects or helping characters solve difficult situations, and that’s another interesting thing about Tokyo Dark, we don’t want to force the player having to solve a puzzle, our puzzles always have a choice. So if you don’t want to and just want to experience the story you don’t have to. If you want to complete the puzzles you can but it’s not gonna be like a traditional point and click puzzle game.
I was intrigued by one of your stretch goals for Tokyo Dark which includes a flashback chapter set in Japan’s suicide forest. This particular forest is a lonely and desperate place for many who visit it, often entering with sad intentions. How do you plan to convey such a place in Tokyo Dark?
Maho Williams: It’s a main plot point in the game, you will visit this place at a certain point in the game you can explore the forest. Because it is a very important plot point in the game I cannot really discuss that at the moment, what I can say is that it’s a really cool location in the game. Just like in real life it’s a beautiful place it’s notorious for being suicide forest but it’s also a great hiking place.
On your official website, you state that as a studio you want to bridge Japanese and western game design. From what I’ve seen of Tokyo Dark’s earliest moments you certainly appear to be achieving your goal. How challenging has it been to mix the 2 design philosophies together and what made you decide to bridge the gap between the 2?
Maho Williams: It wasn’t actually difficult because like I said as husband and wife with Jon being from the UK. The core of the idea was his novel, but living in Japan made him want to mix some of that into it. In the case of this game, it is Japanese urban legends and Japanese history. As the huge Japanese nerd that I am, I wanted to add some Anime or Manga into it, we both like story driven games we mixed our points of view together and it wasn’t challenging at all. It is what makes this game unique, it’s not a Japanese game from Japanese makers but a Japanese game seen from outside eyes.
Tokyo Dark was backed by a whopping 94% of the Square Enix Collective community before being Greenlit and enjoying a successful Kickstarter campaign. Can you briefly talk me through the journey from the beginning to now?
Maho Williams: The first thing that we did was write the code for the game, since we reached so many stretch goals we had to restructure the story line and how the game will be played, we started from scratch again. The Kickstarter backers have been very supportive, we’ve always been honest and transparent with them and have been putting out monthly updates, we don’t want to disappoint the backers. We have had a very big problem with the game’s engine, but our game makers have managed to solve that, besides that, we haven’t had any big dramas. We are so grateful to our Kickstarter backers they have been so supportive, we were so scared to tell them we could not release the game on our initial set date, we are 11 months late now, but even with that delay announcement the backers stayed so supportive they have been very kind and nice, they are always like “take your time”, they have made it a very pleasant journey so far.
Tokyo Dark will be available for PC and Mac players when the game releases but what about consoles, it seems like a perfect game for the PS Vita? Is that something you’ve considered or are considering?
Maho Williams: Yes, of course, we want to do that, but for now we are only releasing Tokyo Dark on Steam and later will add a Mac version. If the sales go well we’ll consider bringing Tokyo Dark to the other consoles including Nintendo Switch and PlayStation Vita, I have both consoles and I love the both of them and I personally think Tokyo Dark is a perfect game for a handheld device and if it happens it will be a dream come true. We would like to bring our game to as many platforms as possible.
Do you have a final message for our readers?
Maho Williams: Tokyo Dark is a really unique thing, and if you like Japanese anime style games or adventure games, if that’s something you like, I am very sure you will like Tokyo Dark so please try our game and enjoy.
We’d like to thank Maho Williams for taking the time to chat with us.
Tokyo Dark releases September 7th for PC and arrives on Mac at a later date.