On March 11, Japan was hit with a massive earthquake and tsunami. The country was left in ruins. Within days, Japanese game developers began cancelling, altering and postponing games. One game, the latest Disaster Report, got the axe.
It was assumed that the game Zettai Zetsumei Toshi 4: Summer Memories, which dealt with the aftershock of a massive earthquake and showed Japan crumble in 3D, was canned out of respect for earthquake and tsunami victims — that it would be tacky to cash-in on the quake. That assumption was partly wrong.
Disaster Report designer Kazuma Kujo told 1Up that the game was actually running behind schedule. While March’s event did factor it, the earthquake wasn’t the only reason.
“In the cancellation announcement text, it doesn’t say anywhere that we cancelled the game due to the earthquake,” said Kujo. “Other companies said in their announcements that, ‘we delayed so and so because of the earthquake.’ But it doesn’t say that anywhere in ours. Even without the earthquake, it was becoming difficult to do a lot of things at Irem.”
By the end of March this year, Irem canned all Disaster Report games.
Kujo was originally inspired to create Disaster Report after experiencing the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995, while living in Kobe as a student.
“I loved hearing how the previous Zettai Zetsumei Toshi games were useful to the current victims,” said Kujo. “I originally made the game for entertainment purposes. But about the time we made Disaster Report 3, I started becoming aware about how the fans were finding the information helpful and tried to incorporate more of that into the design.”
In the days following March 11, Kujo received letters from fans, expressing their gratitude for his Disaster Report games. “During that time, we got about 20 letters from the public criticising us for being insensitive in creating a game about a disaster. Then, after the 14th when we announced the cancellation, we got 500 letters asking us to rethink our plans.” Among those letters were a tsunami victim and a government employee, working earthquake relief.
Kujo has since left Irem and is currently planning to release a new series of disaster games in the next two or three years that he hopes will be more informative and instructional than the Disaster Report games.