Suda51, Videogame Auteur, On What Excites Him in Gaming Today

Don't call it a comeback...


Goichi Suda, the man known as Suda51, has made a lot of iconic games in his time in this crazy industry. His studio, Grasshopper Manufacture, is responsible for cult classics like The Silver Case, No More Heroes, Let It Die, and Killer7. He’s an auteur of videogames, and just recently it was announced that Grasshopper Manufacture will be making the Switch exclusive Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes. We had the distinct pleasure of talking with the man recently, where we asked him everything about his influences, his games, and more.

Blake Morse – GameSpace: It’s been ten years since the first “No More Heroes.” What’s changed in your philosophy and approach to game development since then?

Suda51: A lot’s happened over these last ten years. For Grasshopper, in particular, we went from making No More Heroes 1 and 2 to making, I wouldn’t call them AAA titles, but maybe like single A titles. We’ve increased our staff. We’ve worked on a lot of games since then. I guess to consider things on a slightly bigger scale: not just Grasshopper, not just me, but Japan, in general, has been through a pretty major natural disaster. So much has changed over these past ten years that a lot of my philosophy has shifted. The main thing that has changed in how I think about development, and this is very personal to my own situation, but I’ve come to find that it’s pretty much impossible to make games, especially big games, just based on personality anymore.

B: So does that mean that the world is what’s more important now to you?

S: Yeah, it’s not so much that I place more importance on the world in general, but as far as games are concerned I’ve always wanted to make the kinds of games that people around the world can enjoy, and have easy access to. Not just physically, but that they can easily understand, and can relate to. Over the past few years, I’ve certainly become more conscious of… not just people in my local vicinity, or in Japan, but is this something people all over the world can dig?

B: Is that what led you to decide to pay tribute to all these various popular indie game titles in the new game?

S: Yes, the main reason I decided to do the indie collaboration, is because I personally love these games. I have very specific reasons for putting these indie games in the game. It’s not because I’m getting paid for them, but because they’re games I really love and games that I feel Travis would love as well.

I didn’t want to do anything that seems like we’re ripping the games off by saying like we’re going to have this level that looks like this game or something. I didn’t want to be rude or insulting to these games. I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily an homage, but I do want to pay tribute to these games by including them in there somehow.  So that’s how I came up with the idea for the T-shirt collaboration where I’m going to have Travis wear the T-shirts representing all these indie games that I feel not just me but Travis as a character would be into.

B: When you reached out to these different developers, what was their initial response? Is there anyone you really wanted to get who you couldn’t get to collaborate?

S: So far the response has been really amazing. At this point, there are 15 games that have already been locked in. I’ve talked to all the developers. They’ve all okayed it. The only two that have been announced so far have been Hotline Miami and Shovel Knight.

Hotline Miami was actually really easy to get into the game because over the past two years, especially since hanging out with them at PAX West last year, I’ve gotten really cool with Dennaton Games’ Dennis and Jonathan. They love my games, I love their games. They were more than happy to help out with the collaboration. You know there’s Hotline Miami visible in the trailer. Shovel Knight as well. I was finally able to meet with those guys in person just the other day before the Nindies night. I talked to them, they were like “We’ve got Yacht Club games. We’d love to work with you. By all means, put it in.” From then on, really it started snowballing. We talked to a bunch of developers at the Nindies night. We’ve mostly been busy with media interviews the past few days. But at the end of the day, we go down to the convention center and look around as much as possible, talking to developers there. So far, pretty much everyone I’ve talked to has been more than happy to get on board. There haven’t been any problems yet with rights or anything like that.

Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment

There’s always the possibility that some game I want to put into the collaboration someone may tell me no. But so far that hasn’t happened yet. All 15 games developers have been really happy about it.

B: So let’s talk about gameplay. The gameplay is remaining somewhat the same. What kind of features are you looking to add this time around? You mentioned you have some mysterious use for the second JoyCon controller.

S: I’m going to leave that up to your imagination. If you check out some of the key art, it’s relatively clear what the second JoyCon is going to be used for. I can’t really say anything.

B: You’ve always been very passionate about your love of music. What were you listening to when conceptualizing the new game and what are you listening to now?

S: There’s a really high-level Japanese band called Sakanaction I’ve been listening to a lot. I feel when I listen to this band’s music I get really inspired creatively. I’ve been listening to pretty much nothing but that recently, especially when conceptualizing the game, working on new features to put in, pretty much all Sakanaction.

B: What would your desert island album be?

S: There’s two. I’m trying to decide which one. Oh, it’s harder than I thought it would be. Ahhh, Queen’s Dead. The Smiths.

B: Once you’re done with the new No More Heroes game, do you have any interest in going back and revisiting any of your other properties like Lollipop Chainsaw or Shadows of the Damned?

S: If possible I would really like to bring back Juliet again from Lollipop Chainsaw. I really feel like she deserves the chance to become more of a game superstar. But the problem is we don’t own the rights. The rights are with Warner Brothers and Kadokawa Games. So even if I wanted to it would be difficult to get both of them to agree on it and let me run with it. That’s sort of unfortunate, but I do feel like the main characters for all of my games are kind of my children. I want to give them all the opportunity to come back and see what they can do again. The two that if it would be possible I’d really like to do would be Juliet from Lollipop Chainsaw and Garcia from Shadows of the Damned, and Mondo Zappa. I really feel like these characters have a lot of possibilities left and I would really like to see how they evolve over the years, and where they go from here. There are no concrete plans to do that yet.

B: Do you envision all of your characters living in the same universe? Are all of your games sort of interconnected in one world in your mind, like in a Sudaverse, or is everyone kind of in their own world?

S: I do feel they all exist in the same world, in the same universe. You know, they live in different areas and won’t come in contact or anything, but I do feel they live in the same world. Not just the characters but all the game elements too. For example this, it’s called the Death Drive Mark II. This has its own whole mythology behind it. If you pay attention it’s not just this game, but it stretches beyond this game to at least one of my other titles as well. There are also some other elements in some of the games that people may not have noticed are kind of connected, characters will make cameo appearances in other characters’ games. There are no concrete plans but something I would really like to do at some point is to give fans more cameos, like crossovers between the different characters of the different games so far.

Blake has been writing and making videos about pop-culture and games for over 10 years now. Although he'd probably prefer you thought of him as a musician and listened to his band, If you see him on the street, buy him a taco or something.

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