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Think Zenless Zone Zero was inspired by Persona 5? Think again - one of the biggest influences was Digimon

Plus, thousands of hours in Street Fighter had an understandable impact on combat design.

Sixth Street in Zenless Zone Zero, showing NPCs walking through an urban street environment with a coffee shop and other businesses on display.
Image credit: HoYoverse

Zenless Zone Zero may have drawn comparisons to Persona 5 thanks to its urban fantasy anime aesthetic, but producer Zhenyu Li has revealed that Digimon was a far bigger influence on his creative vision for his upcoming HoYoverse title than Atlus' blockbuster JRPG franchise.

"We happened to choose the urban genre in general, and for some players they might just find urban genres similar," Li said of the Persona comparisons, in an interview conducted via interpreter. "However, there are a lot of differences if you go deeper into the game."

Although he didn't go so far as to disavow the Persona influence altogether, Li was clearly more eager to talk about a very different game franchise that he did consciously draw from during ZZZ's production: "I draw references from Digimon because I played a lot during my childhood." He went on to elaborate just one of the ways in which Digimon directly influenced Zenless Zone Zero: "[in] our temporal system, you will meet different incidents in different times [of the in-game day]. This is all something [I] drew inspiration [for] from Digimon World."

However, while Digimon sparked design ideas for the setting and exploration, a major inspiration for Zenless Zone Zero's combat is another matter entirely - although perhaps no less surprising to find in an action RPG. "As a loyal player of Street Fighter 6 [I have] actually spent over thousands of hours in this series," Li continued when asked about other gaming influences. "One thing [I] did learn a lot is the feedback of the action, like how to make each punch really feel that it's on the flesh."

When asked if he'd like to see ZZZ receive crossovers with other games, the way Genshin Impact did with Horizon Zero Dawn a few years ago, Li demurred, but not for the boring corporate reasons you might think. "The problem with me is that I have a difficult time making a choice," he admitted. "Personally speaking [I have] so many favourites [...] it's something where I'd really need time."


Zenless Zone Zero is set to launch on July 4 for PC, PS5, and mobile. Switch and Xbox ports are on the producer's personal wishlist, but aren't officially in the works right now.

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