2/11/10 Weekly Famitsu Kotaro Uchikoshi 999 Interview Translation

The following interview with Kotaro Uchikoshi, the man behind Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, comes from the February 11, 2010 issue of Weekly Famitsu; it was conducted less than two months after the initial Japanese release of 999 and was designed to answer fans' lingering questions about the game. (Questions were solicited from fans on Famitsu.com, and the magazine apparently posed the most popular ones to Uchikoshi.)

I bought this issue to check on a claim that it contained a certain outrageous comment from the developer (and, yep, it's right there), and I decided that since I went to the trouble to get the magazine, I might as well translate the whole interview. There's not much new here, but it's interesting to see the questions that (incomprehensibly, in some cases) stymied the Japanese fans. Uchikoshi's explanations on certain backstory elements are also different.

Endgame spoilers present, obviously. For convenience's sake, I'll be using the English names for the characters. Scans of the interview are available here and here; you'll probably want hard proof of what's being said by the end of the document.

Q1: What does it mean when Akane (June) suddenly comes down with a fever?

Uchikoshi: When she comes down with a fever, it means that her existence is in danger. When you follow the Safe Ending route, she comes down with a fever, so if you go in Door 4 etc., her fever will get better.

--By the way, how should we interpret the nature of Akane's existence?

Uchikoshi: She's not a ghost, and she's not half-alive, half-dead like in quantum theory, either. She's an actual flesh-and-blood human being.

--So she didn't die in the incident of nine years ago?

Uchikoshi: Seven is the only one who says she "died"; Snake didn't directly witness Akane's end. [Note: This doesn't mesh with the English version, obviously, where Snake does indeed say that she died.] In the timeline where Akane was saved, the event in which Junpei and the others participated took place, but if Junpei doesn't access the Akane of the past at that point, that timeline where Akane was saved will disappear. Therefore, if you make choices that lead you away from that route, she'll come down with a fever. To put it in simple terms, it's like in the movie Back to the Future. Think about what happens to Marty's own existence if he doesn't return to the past. [Translator comment: Well, Marty still gets born - I mean, he does in the initial timeline - but it's just in a less-happy 1985. I'd say it's more like the family photograph in Back to the Future, where when events post-timeline meddling make it less and less likely for Marty's parents to get together, his siblings start vanishing from the image.]

Caption on image of Akane swooning: "Her sudden attacks of fever signal danger to herself."

Q2. Did Seven really have amnesia?

Uchikoshi: I can't give a clear answer about Seven's amnesia. There are two possible interpretations: either he's a collaborator and in on it, or he's not. I leave the question up to the player's imagination.

--By the way, when did Seven come down with his amnesia?

Uchikoshi: If he really did have amnesia, then after he was brought by Zero to the site of the Nonary Game. It can be considered that he lost his memory as a result of the anesthetic gas (Soporil).

--After Seven escaped from the incident of nine years ago, did he pursue a case against Cradle Pharmaceuticals?

Uchikoshi: Yes; he pursued it personally, not as part of his organization, but due to pressure from higher-ups, he was told, "don't get involved in this case."

Caption on Seven looking downward and not smiling at all: "Seven flashes an enigmatic smile. Is he part of the plot?"

Q3. Who is the culprit in the Submarine and Knife endings?

[Translator comment: Were you guys even paying attention to the plot?]

Uchikoshi: This isn't a direct answer, and just in case I'm going to dodge the question slightly - a certain president of a certain corporation is the killer. In the Submarine ending, Seven takes only Clover's pulse on the staircase, so the culprit in question could very well be alive. I believe Lotus's bracelet disappears afterward; the killer intends to use it in conjunction with his own bracelet and the number 9 bracelet he obtained earlier to attempt to escape.

--By the way, what was a submarine doing there?

Uchikoshi: In the events of nine years ago, one of the researchers hired by the killer had a crisis of conscience and prepared the submarine to rescue the kidnapped children. A replica of the submarine was also installed at Site Q. I had originally planned to write a little more about the events of nine years ago, but for a variety of reasons, such as length, it ended up cut.

--So the culprit in the Knife ending is the same person?

Uchikoshi: Yes, the same CEO.

Q4. Why was Lotus chosen to be a player in the Nonary Game?

Uchikoshi: The basis for the plan Akane thought up was the idea that she had to recreate the future her past self of nine years ago saw through Junpei. Therefore, the reason why Lotus was brought to the Nonary Game was because she was present in the Nonary Game of the future, which Akane was trying to recreate perfectly.

--So it wasn't Akane's own idea; she was trying to recreate what had been already chosen? So where does whoever did choose Lotus to participate at the very beginning of this loop come in?

Uchikoshi: That's a tough question (laughs). It all loops back on itself, you see.

--It's the chicken or the egg question (laughs).

Uchikoshi: That's right, that's right.

Q5. Who the heck is the person who shows up in the ending?

Uchikoshi: That's Alice. The Ice-9 melted, and she's in the desert.

--We also got questions about how Alice knew how to hitchhike considering the age in which she lived.

Uchikoshi: Alice's ice melted in a time prior to nine years ago. Lord Gordain purchased the Gigantic around 1920, and Ace subsequently opened the coffin nine years before the events of the story, so she must have broken out in the interim. I presume Alice breaks out just before Ace opens the coffin - about several months to a week before - and I suppose she learned about hitchhiking culture in the nine years since then.

--So, she's roaming around Nevada?

Uchikoshi: No, not quite (laughs). She has a purpose in mind and was waiting for a car to pass by at that spot.

Q6. What's the point of that scene where the screens are flipped upside-down in the final part of the story?

Uchikoshi: I'll talk about the premise first: the one who was solving the puzzles in the escape parts on the bottom screen was Akane, and she, as the Transmitter, was giving information to Junpei. Flipping the screens is meant to signify that Junpei is now solving the puzzle by his own will in that scene and giving information to the Akane of nine years ago.

--So did Junpei also have talent in transmitting & receiving?

Uchikoshi: If you believe in the theory of morphogenetic fields, everyone has a slight ability to both transmit and receive. Akane was highly skilled as a Transmitter, so she could also receive. By the way, the conversation takes place across time because the general concept of time does not apply to morphogenetic fields. Of course, I absolutely think there's also an interpretation where "the power of their love transcended time and space" (laughs).

Q7. Were Ace and his cohorts the ones who thought up the Nonary Game?

Uchikoshi: No; as told in the design documents, Lord Gordain would night after night gather together young people who were deep in debt aboard the Gigantic and force them to play the game. Long ago, Ace was failing in his business and was made to participate as a player in a game held aboard the ship; it was there that he learned of the Nonary Game. The rules back then were a bit different from those of the current game; Ace proposed the changes to the millionaires, with the idea that "this'll make it more interesting." His proposals were accepted under the premise that they would "be fun," and the game assumed its current form.

Q8. Does the costume Snake wears after being shut up in the coffin have any significance?

Uchikoshi: That's also connected to the original Nonary Game held by Lord Gordain mentioned previously. During his Nonary Games, which were played by young people who were deep in debt, there was a ceremony at the end where those who had lost the game were executed. This took place at the location where the incinerator is currently situated; long ago, it was known as the Hall of Ceremony. In the chapel, they prayed to the god they worshipped, and in the Hall of Ceremony, they offered up living sacrifices. The ceremonial robes Snake is wearing were used in those ceremonies.

--Those were the robes those conducting the ceremonies wore? [Note: The phrasing of this question implies "as opposed to those being sacrificed."]

Uchikoshi: Yes. Ace knew of those ceremonies; I don't know whether Akane and Santa were aware of them.

Caption on image of millionaires flinging money around: "A unused illustration of a past Nonary Game."

Caption on image of millionaires anteing up in a casino: "Another unused illustration. Millionaires living it up in a casino?"

Q9. Are there any plans for a sequel that follows from the ending?

Uchikoshi: Personally, I'd like to make one, and I have a good idea of the plot, but as a project, it's really not off the ground and not settled yet. If there's enough of a response to the game, and if there's enough demand for a sequel, I don't think it's impossible.

--Is the sequel you're considering a continuation of the plot from this game?

Uchikoshi: It's a continuation of the plot, but I'd like for those who haven't played the first game to be able to enjoy it, too. If there is a sequel, I think I might be able to talk about the reason why Alice's ice melted and where Santa and Akane were headed after the ending.

--Do you have a final message for our readers?

Uchikoshi: First, to those who haven't yet played the game: this article is full of spoilers, but I think there's plenty of enjoyment to be had in actually playing the game even if you're aware of the spoilers, so please give it a try. And to those who have already played & finished the game: if you go through the game again after reading this article, I think you'll make a lot of "So that's what was going on!" discoveries, so please - give it another try!

A Revealing 999 Q & A!

--There was an illustration in the July 17, 2009 issue of Weekly Famitsu of Snake with his eyes open...?

Uchikoshi: That's because Snake's original design had him able to see (laughs bitterly).

--What happened to Snake to make him lose his sight?

Uchikoshi: It was an incident that occurred prior to nine years ago.

--No Pink Bookmark or Conspiracy Episode this time around? [Note: The "Pink Bookmark" refers to an extra scenario in the visual novel Kamaitachi no Yoru that's a bit racy; the "Conspiracy Episode," to a hidden scenario in both Kamaitachi and 428 that, in Kamaitachi at least, is a bit meta. (I have not played either Kamaitachi or 428 myself and am going off secondhand info & YouTube; my apologies for any inaccuracies here.)]

Uchikoshi: No, sorry. I wanted to include one; please enjoy the risque hidden text that pops up when you tap things instead. [For those who attended LPer supergreatfriend's 999 stream: this must have been what happened to the Bed Ending for which we were all looking.]

--Is the final "Q room" escaped by using 26, or does it have a digital root of 8?

Uchikoshi: It's 26. The previous doors just happened not to use an alphabetic character.

--Where did the funding come from for the current Nonary Game?

Uchikoshi: Santa mentions this in the story; he's spending the money he made on the stock market.

--Is Lotus really in her forties?

Uchikoshi: She's really in her forties. Her clothing is just her personal fashion sense and doesn't have any particular significance.

--How did Akane disappear at the end?

Uchikoshi: The entrance was left open, so she walked out from there and left.

--Wasn't it a pain in the neck for Akane and Santa to get everyone out to Nevada?

Uchikoshi: They had help besides just the two of them. Also, I never said any of the characters were in Japan... (laughs)

[Note on the next part, because I know I'm gonna be asked: the original text for the question below is the last bit of the small article at the upper-left of the second page.]

--There are doubts as to whether Cloverís wearing underwear...?

Uchikoshi: I think she probably doesnít wear any (laughs). Because her brother forbids her to, you see. Itís a special custom in their household, so actually, Snake doesnít wear any, either (laughs).

[Yeah, I donít know whether this was intended as another one of Uchikoshiís weird jokes, or whether heís pandering to the Famitsu audience (this issue was overall kind of surprisingly laddish), or what here. My apologies for inflicting this on everyone.]

Translated by R. Capowski, RACapowski@sceneryrecalled.com, 8/23/2016. 999 is property of Chunsoft & Aksys, and the interview was conducted by Famitsu; this translation is not officially-sanctioned.