As the man behind Killer7 and No More Heroes, Goichi Suda has a reputation for making distinctive--and perhaps twisted--games. But what else would you expect from a developer who was actually an undertaker in a previous professional life?
Based in Tokyo, Japan, Suda is currently the CEO of Grasshopper Manufacture, where he heads up a team of approximately 50 employees. He may be better known by his nickname, SUDA-51, which derives from the name "Goichi" being a combination of the two Japanese kanji meaning "five" and "one."
A veteran of Human Entertainment, Suda is known for his unique brand of games, and told attendees at last year's Game Developers Conference in San Francisco that it was just as well people thought his games were unique, as he disliked making the kind of games that other developers made.
He also said that he believed punk was not dead, and that game developers should channel the punk spirit when they are making games, instead of "being copycats." Remembering with awe the very first time he played a video game, he said, "There were movies, and books, and music...and then there was a small, tiny box, and when I played [the game] I felt something really different, and I don't want to forget that feeling."
No More Heroes is due out on the Wii exclusively on February 29 in Europe, and January 22 in the US. GameSpot caught up with Suda on a whirlwind European promotional tour for the game.
GameSpot: Where did the title No More Heroes come from?
SUDA-51: Actually, at first the game title was going to be just "Heroes." It was inspired the name of the David Bowie song. You know the one? But the problem with that was there are so many different things with the name "Heroes" these days--for instance the US TV series, that we were kind of not allowed. So I had to change it, and I got the idea to call it "No More Heroes" from another song, this one from the Stranglers.
GS: Could you tell me why you made the decision to make the US version of the game more violent, and keep the European one the same as the original Japanese game?
SUDA-51: In the European and Japanese versions, there's more of an action style to the game. For instance, when you kill characters in this version of the game, the coins come out straightaway. More focused on the action than violence.
GS: So you think Americans like their ultraviolence more?
SUDA-51:Yup, I think Americans love violence [laughs]. The reason why I chose to do this is because the American market has a predilection to more-violent versions so I had to adjust to the market somehow. That's why I made two versions--and the more violent version just for the American market. But I don't want anybody to misunderstand. Neither version is better. I love both versions.
GS: Why did you decide to make the game for the Wii only?
SUDA-51: The reason why I decided to make the game only for the Wii was because the No More Heroes producer, Wada-san, recommended to me strongly that I make the game for the Wii exclusively. Because you know, I wanted to make this game for Xbox 360, actually. Actually Wada-san had information about the Wii and how the new controller would work before it came out, so that's why he thought I should do that. At the time I didn't really understand why, but after seeing it and understanding how it works, I think it was a good choice and the controller works really well with the game.
GS: I've got to ask this. Blueberry cheese brownies, strawberry shortcake. Please explain.
SUDA-51: The names of Travis' attacks? Because of the animation Bizarre Jerry which Travis really loves. And the attacks in the animation have these names, so Travis uses the same names for his.
GS: Where did the inspiration come for this game?
SUDA-51: The inspiration for Travis Touchdown actually came from Johnny Knoxville from Jackass. I really love that show. Actually the idea came out of the character Travis, and then became a game, rather than being an idea for a game and adding the characters...I wanted to create characters like the guys in Jackass, and also make them part Otaku as well.
There's also a movie called El Topo, which inspired the story itself, because in the movie, in the first part, there are fights against three enemies. And then you become number one after beating these three enemies. So he wants to actually make the story based on something like that and with this Travis character, so the game is kind of those two combined together.
GS: What are your plans now?
SUDA-51: I'm working on many projects, but the one thing I can talk about is Flower, Sun and Rain. It was a game for the PlayStation 2, which we are porting to the DS. It will come out March 6 in Japan from Marvelous Entertainment. And I'm just starting a project for the 360.
GS: Can you talk about Project S yet?
SUDA-51: I can't say anything about it because it's a Konami project. You'd have to talk to talk to them, and see if they'll let anything slip.
GS: You're also bringing another of your previously released games, Silver Case, to the DS as well. Why do you think that the time is suddenly right for rereleasing these games now?
SUDA-51: The reason why the game [is being] ported to the DS is because, firstly, the DS is selling very well. Adventure games these days actually don't, but after the DS came out suddenly there are a lot of games in Japan that have elements of adventure game and now they are actually selling again in Japan. So that's why I want to convert Silver Case--which is an adventure game--to the DS. And then also, this year is the 10th anniversary for Grasshopper, so I want to do something to mark that, and the first title that Grasshopper made is actually Silver Case. And I also want to bring the game to people in the US and Europe as well. It should be finished this year or maybe next year.
GS: Almost all of your main characters are assassins. Why is that?
SUDA-51: [Pauses.] I'm not sure why. I don't know why exactly I like this scenario so much for stories, but it's very easy to write based on some violent act or a criminal or something like that. So that's a part of the reason. And then I like to have some dark images in the stories, too, so that's another reason.
When I create a game, especially action games, you always have to kill enemies, and there has to be a story behind that, a reason to do that. So that's the main reason, I guess--if you think about making an action game, really it has to always be related to something like that. It's always about facing death and life.
GS: Is it true that you used to be an undertaker?
SUDA-51: How do you know that? Yeah, it's true.
GS: So do you think that this--maybe this background has some kind of influence on your games?
SUDA-51: That's interesting. I don't think I get any inspiration from my time as an undertaker. But maybe I have a slightly different view on the world, because every day for 10 months I saw people who had died when I was working. I had that job just before I started working in the game industry. So I know more about death maybe, compared to other people. So with death I don't want it to be like, cheap. There has to be something behind having to kill.
Another example of how it's affected me is in No More Heroes, I made sure to describe the enemies in great detail, so you know where they're coming from and what kind of person they are, because I think that's important, because they have to be die, you know, because Travis will fight against them and then kill them.
And also if it's possible in the future to do the same for the other enemies--like even just the regular enemies that you have to get through before you start fighting the boss character--you know, I'd like to do that, too. Travis has to kill a lot of them, but I always feel bad that I don't describe what kind of person they are. So in the future I want to describe everybody in the game, you know, who they are and stuff like that.
GS: What are you working on at the moment?
SUDA-51: It's a secret! [Laughs.] Actually, Marvelous and also Grasshopper are really pleased with No More Heroes. I'm really willing to make a sequel version. So actually I'm asking Marvelous if we can make it happen. So, right now, I'm preparing for that if it's possible.
GS: Are there any plans for a sequel for Contact?
SUDA-51: I wouldn't know anything about that. The guys that made that game, they used to work for Grasshopper, but the team that made those games moved to--actually they started up their own company. So if the sequel does happen, it won't be through Grasshopper.
GS: Is there anything that you wanted to say?
SUDA-51: No More Heroes is a really great game. A very amazing game. I think No More Heroes is a great game, there's no other action game like it for the Wii. If it was a band, it would be really energetic, like the Arctic Monkeys.
GS: Thank you for your time.