Suda 51 is the man behind such varied video games as Killer7, Shadows of the Damned, Lollipop Chainsaw, and the recently-released free-to-play PS4 dungeon crawler, Let it Die. His studio, Grasshopper Manufacture, doesn't play by the traditional rules of video game creation; they strive to create unique experiences which are simply unlike those seen in games from any other developer.

The team's first game, 1999's The Silver Case, didn't come to the West during its original heyday, but it's finally making the jump to Europe and America. The PC version launched on Steam last fall, and April 18 the title releases on PlayStation 4 – nearly 20 years after the title originally launched as a PlayStation 1 exclusive.

I spoke with Suda 51 about The Silver Case and its long road to Western shores, which of his other games he would like to see get the HD Remaster treatment, and, of course, the question on everybody's mind – what's the deal with his consistently recurring character, Sumio?

Why is it important to you that Western audiences finally be able to experience The Silver Case?
One thing is that, of course, it was Grasshopper Manufacture’s debut title, but it is also the starting point for all of the action and action adventure games that we made afterwards. I want people to know that the roots of Grasshopper are here. It’s more than just an old-school visual novel, and it was a challenge for the 30-year-old me. This is something that I want gamers around the world as well as young gamers to know.

The Silver Case came out 18 years ago. In going back to it for the remaster, what are you most proud of?
Well, one thing is that complex scenario that Masahi Ooka-san and myself managed to create. Another is the art that Takashi Miyamoto-san created. The entire staff came together and created the Film Window Engine and took a swing at that. It might sound a bit prideful to say I'm proud of everything, but from the very moment you start the game until the very end, I had my hand in every frame. I guess I am most proud of that.

Did your time as an undertaker influence your work on The Silver Case, a murder mystery with lots of dead bodies?
[Laughs] Not specifically because of my undertaker work, but because the theme of the game is crime. And of course, the main characters and player character are police detectives. Since they must perform investigations, there’s definitely going to be dead bodies. There was also a game I worked on at my previous company, Human Entertainment, called Moonlight Syndrome. Around the time, there was a very famous case in Japan called the Sakakibara Incident that had a large effect on how things could be portrayed, in terms of regulations. In Japan, this caused many rules to be imposed on games. Because of this, I realized what a large effect this put on the games we were making – how they could be damaged or distorted by crime. When I decided to make a new game, I thought about Moonlight Syndrome and The Silver Case was kind of a reaction to that. "What is crime? Who is a criminal? What causes crime? Who are bad people?" I decided to make a game using these themes. In this way, Moonlight Syndrome ended up being a much larger influence than my past work as an undertaker.

The Silver Case plays out in an episodic format. Overall there are 4 different stories. This was my first original game, but there were four different games that I wanted to make. So, The Silver Case has everything I wanted to express and create. There are various inspirations in there, but I want people to see The Silver Case as the coalescence of everything I wanted to do at the time, and my passion.

This is the first time The Silver Case has been released in English. Being such a text-based game, what were some of the challenges of localizing the game for an English-speaking audience?
Definitely the amount of text is one. Another is the structure of the scenarios, Transmitter and Placebo, and how well they could be accurately translated. There are many special points to each side and they are interrelated. That was a big potential problem area. In fact, this is why the game couldn't be released abroad originally. 

However, three years ago, a company called Active Gaming Media came to us and told us they wanted to localize and program the PC version. This offer came through Playsim. At that time, I was very happy, but we told them how difficult to translate it was. They told us they were adept at translation and there were three foreign staff in their company who had beaten the game, and one of them was actually the president of the company, Ibai Ameztoy! They told us they could do multiple layers of accuracy checks on the localization and that translator James Mountain would be handling the translation. That gave us confidence – well, confidence enough to take a chance on them!

The Silver Case was, at one point, on its way to the Nintendo DS before being cancelled. Why didn't that work out?
One reason was the issue of an English localization. We wondered if a game with this much text could be localized correctly to be able to bring it to the West. 

Another reason was the quality of the port. We actually had a full, working version, but we just couldn't figure out a way to make use of the DS’s main feature, the dual screens. Since we were working on several other games on the time we just didn't have the energy to figure it out. We actually thought about just handing the DS version out at Tokyo Game Show for free, but even that would have cost a lot of money, so we couldn't even do that either! Unfortunately, we then had to cancel to the project.

To my eyes, The Silver Case HD looks practically identical to the original 1999 release, but with a crisp coat of High Definition polish. Was there ever a desire to remake all the assets before settling on a more traditional remaster?
No, I didn't think to do a complete remake this time. At the time of the DS version, yes, I thought that if we were going to do it, it would need to be a remake. But as I said before, that was difficult. This time our main goal was getting it in HD for Steam, so we thought a remaster would be most appropriate.

As for the PS4 version, we decided to take it one step further and deal with some things that had come to our attention. One was what happens to the idol Sayaka Baian during Chapter 4. We remade the footage of Sayaka and had her art redone. We used a popular gravure idol named Arisa Matsunaga for the live-action sequences. Also, the Grasshopper sound team, comprised of Akira Yamaoka and newcomer Erika Ito, worked on some remixes and new tracks.

For more on The Silver Case, and why Suda thinks Michigan: Report From Hell would make a good VR game, head  to page two.