For a man whose games are overtly violent and often contain weirdly sexual themes, Goichi Suda is extremely polite and reserved in person. He grins when I meet him, offering a bow and a handshake in greeting.
He’s currently traveling to promote the upcoming Steam release of The Silver Case, the first game ever created in his development studio Grasshopper Manufacture. Originally released in 1999, The Silver Case only ever saw a release in Japan on the original Sony Playstation. What would best be described as a “visual novel,” The Silver Case weaves together multiple stories and characters all connected to the investigation of a serial killer.
It combines the regular trappings of a visual novel--namely character portraits, stills, and a generous amount of text--with some FMV and 3D environments. It never reached western audiences due to the text-based structure having a larger audience in Japan than elsewhere in the world. But now, with the continued success of games like the Danganronpa and Zero Escape series, several Japanese visual novels have proven to be a niche hit in the west, Suda feels now is a good time to bring his seventeen-year-old baby out at last.
“For years in Japan, this whole text-based adventure genre--visual novels--they’ve always been somewhat popular. And now these kinds of games are a good fit in Japan and in the US,” he said of the cultural change in the west.
It also helped that Suda finally had the resources to effectively remaster The Silver Case, enlisting the help of a localization expert to faithfully translate the original into English and using a smaller team to re-do the 3D environments and give an overall polish to The Silver Case’s dated PS1 graphics.
More importantly, Suda wants to use this as an opportunity to return to his roots and step outside of the dynamic persona he’s cultivated over the years with games like No More Heroes, Shadows of the Damned, Lollipop Chainsaw, and even the upcoming Let it Die.
“Instead of putting this out as a Suda51 game, I want to go back to a time where I was Goichi Suda, a nobody creator,” he says of his desire to embrace a more ‘indie’ mentality. According to him, he’s been working tirelessly in more general roles as a producer and director. With The Silver Case, he wanted to be more hands-on and involved with the finer points of development.
“With putting out this game, we wanted to go back seventeen years ago, before I was Suda51, back when I was just some guy making stuff and be a creator and embrace that indie feeling,” he says.
But what does that look like for him? And what, in his mind, makes one of his games a “Suda 51 game”? For him, there’s no clear-cut formula or unifying factor; he just knows it when he sees it.
“There isn’t any particular element or any particular style that I feel I have to put into a game to make it my own,” he says. “One thing I always try to keep in mind: as opposed to something solid and specific, I want to make sure I put out something I created, something nobody else could have imagined, something that’s really unique and different for myself.
“I don’t want to copy other people. I don’t want to follow others. Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve always wanted to do something different from other people.”
All things considered, he’s been pretty successful in doing exactly that.
The Silver Case is expected to release on Steam in Fall 2016. Those interested in learning more can check out the demo on Steam.