interview

Suda51 Discusses His Strange Approach To Game Development And The 25th Ward Remake

by Kimberley Wallace on Oct 09, 2017 at 04:35 PM

Goichi Suda (aka Suda51) has made a name for himself with surreal games such as Killer7 and The No More Heroes series. He also created a slew of smaller novel experiences from Flower, Sun, and Rain to The Silver Case. The latter received a remaster last year with some new content, and now he's giving its sequel, The 25th Ward, similar treatment. The upcoming remake features completely rebuilt HD graphics and new content.

The game, which is due out sometime in 2018, takes place five years after the events of the original, when a woman's murder sets off a chain of strange events. The tale will bridge across multiple protagonists, including The Silver Case's Tokio Morishima. To find out more about The 25th Ward: The Silver Case, we chatted with writer Suda and director Nobutaka Ichiki.

When you set out to remake The Silver Case, how likely were the prospects of The 25th Ward also making it stateside? Was The 25th Ward remaster contingent on The Silver Case doing well?

Suda: Basically, it was like you said, it has to succeed in order to move on to the next one. However, one of the really good characteristics of this project was that right when the team working on the development of The Silver Case finished, they were all still together. Usually, in development situations, the team will break up after the project is completed. NIS America had contacted them and said, "Come on, let's do The 25th Ward, too." So the timing worked out really well for that; the team didn't have to disband, they could stay where they are and just start working on The 25th Ward. Another thing that makes The 25th Ward a little different from Silver Case is that this time, Grasshopper has actually sent over three people, including Mr. Nobutaka Ichiki to work directly with the development team and really make sure it turns out the way we want it to.

Had you considered bundling in the first game for people who haven't played it?

Suda: Well, partially. One thing we always have to be cognizant of is the publishers and thinking about how they want to do things, too. But I thought that it would be good to [release them] separately. And for those players who maybe have not had a chance to play The Silver Case, we actually added a little bit of scenario at the beginning of The 25th Ward [for them] to be able to understand what happened in that game. Both ideas are really valid ideas for how to release the game, but in this case, I thought that this would work out a little bit better.

[Editor's Note: you can purchase a limited-edition bundle, which has both games, from NISA's store]

This was originally a mobile game that came out over a decade ago. How much of it did you have to change in order to update it for modern screens and the modern generation?

Suda: The story hasn't changed – we haven't changed a thing. But the approach to actually making the game is the same as making a new game; starting from scratch and just going from there and completely doing it.

Are there any enhancements for this?

Ichiki: One thing that we carried over from The Silver Case is that there's something called The Film Window Engine, which is how the game is displayed when you're playing it. So you've got that window and then you've got other windows [like the command window], and they kind of overlap and interact with one another. Because we were able to work on The 25th Ward, we wanted to use that system as well. That's part of how the gameplay has changed from the original. The one thing that this contributed to was allowing the player to really insert themselves into this world, because that's not something you can really do on a tiny cellphone screen. I feel that we really accomplished that. And again, because we have the engine from The Silver Case, we're able to use that as a base and then just kind of put things on top of it to keep that going.

What can we expect from the new chapters in The 25th Ward? The Silver Case had ties to The 25th Ward and elsewhere. Will these tie into something larger?

Suda: Like you said, the parts that were added before kind of led into this, and then the new stuff is kind of opening up to other stuff as well. But I don't know about the size yet; I'm actually still working on it, so I don't know how big it's going to be. However, whether the new stuff will lead into something bigger, that's what I'm still thinking about. What we're working on right now is just kind of getting that link between the two games really well, so obviously I'm working on a part. The other side of the story, the Placebo side, that's a different writer, and it's always been a different writer, Mr. Oka. He's working on that, so what we're working on now is really making that transition between the two very seamless.

How is it to revisit games you made years ago in order to try and remake them, while also adding new content at the same time?

Suda: It is difficult. It's like rehabilitation to get back into, "What is The Silver Case? What is this world? What's going on here?" I definitely had to take the time to do that for myself, to get back in that mode. However, the process of that rehabilitation put me in the mode to be able to write something new, and the cool thing is that now I do get to write something new and it's going to be matched up with this current time that we're living in. I haven't written it yet but I, myself, am excited to see what I'm going to write and what's going to come out of this.

How well did The Silver Case do sales-wise? Does it make you hopeful for The 25th Ward, or was this more a matter of preserving history?

Suda: It's a little bit of both. Obviously, you know, the sales of one kind of impacted my outlook for the sales of the other. But there's also definitely that feeling of preservation and wanting to keep something that I created and [make sure it's] able to be played afterwards. It probably leans a little bit more to that latter; however, it is important that I preserve this work. There's also the other feeling of expectancy for the future of The Silver Case overall. I don't necessarily assume it's becoming a yearly, episodic series or something like that, but maybe in a few years, I'll have a really cool announcement to make about this world and the future of what's going to happen.

Click to the next page to see why Suda compares The 25th Ward to a bowel movement coming out of his mouth...

Does this make you kind of optimistic about remaking any other old Grasshopper games, like Flower, Sun, and Rain or Killer7? How likely are they, and how much of a priority would that be?

Suda: So for Flower, Sun, and Rain specifically, there was a remake that's out there [for Nintendo DS]. But maybe in the future, I'd like to see it come out to Steam or something like that – that'd be really cool. The thing about Killer7 is that,  it's not easy to play that game anymore right now. That's definitely something I'd like to maybe revisit and update.

In America, Steam and PC gaming has sort of rejuvenated this whole old-game style. Have you seen this same kind of thing in Japan, or is this mainly targeted toward the Western market?

Suda: Things are really heading in that direction in Japan, too, I feel like. Larger publishing companies are definitely noticing this trend, so they're kind of moving in that direction. I even think I might have heard there might be a title announced from a large publisher of a big name that you've probably heard because it's the same in Japanese as it is in English, but I'm not going to say anything about that because we don't know if it's official yet. One thing that makes me nervous about Steam is that I've heard from users that it's really hard to find titles, and there are so many titles on there. That kind of feedback [makes me] wish they'd do something about that because it's kind of an issue [and makes me] nervous about the Steam market. And it turns out they actually did announce it – Monster Hunter is coming to Steam, too. So just kind of giving more credence to what I just said about bigger publishers really noticing what's going on with Steam and doing stuff for it.

What has you most excited about bringing The 25th Ward over, especially to a North American audience?

Suda: We really are approaching this as a new game. Obviously, we're using the engine from the remake of The Silver Case and we have people from Grasshopper over there working with us. But by and large, we're considering it kind of a new game. The fact is that [a lot of] members of the original team have come together again to work on this along with the folks from AGM to work on the programming side of things. But everybody coming together like this is really allowing us to do what Grasshopper does. And the cool thing about it is that I think that this is an experience that even amongst Grasshopper games in general, is a very, very different experience. Because everyone has been able to come together from this original team, every frame, they put work into it to make it what they wanted to make it, so it's very handcrafted. I wouldn't go as far to necessarily call it an indie game, but it's that level of attention to detail and that level of hands-on from the team.

What I'm really excited for – and hopeful for – is that when the players out in America play the game, and they see all these events that are going to go by, they're going to be able to have a really cool experience from that. When they finally get to the ending, it's going to be really big and impactful for them. I'm really excited for players to have a chance to do that, and I'm also really excited for them to be able to take something away from this game, from this experience that me and the rest of the team has created.  

Anything you can tease about the story or characters?

Suda: The game is about detectives and there's a criminal that they're chasing, and so it's a crime story in terms of that. It's cool because the player will be able to experience this from multiple different perspectives within the game. The interesting thing about it, though, is that when we were working on [the original], I had just done No More Heroes. In the past, I've compared that process of creating No More Heroes to having a bowel movement; The Silver Case was like that bowel movement re-entered me and then [came] out of my mouth. So, it was an energy that existed in that timeframe for me, and one kind of allowed the other to happen. And it was a very special time because it allowed me to create these two very different works. So, [with] the fact that it was created during this time period of really strong creative power [in mind], I really hope that people will look forward to it. That wasn't really a tease, but...

Is there any wrestling in this game?

Suda: A little bit. It's my habit to throw some wrestling things in there.

Is there anything you wanted to share that I didn't give you a chance to? Anything to tell the fans?

Suda: The Silver Case, the original one, it had two sides to it – Placebo and Transmitter. Two scenarios, essentially. There's like the front-facing one and the back-facing one. For this one, the Placebo part of the story is still there; it's from the perspective of a former journalist. However, there's also another scenario called Match Maker that talks about this different group doing things, and then there's a third scenario going on. So rather than just the two that were in The Silver Case, there are three threads that are going through this entire story. It really is a crime suspense game, but it goes from crime into this big serial murder case, and like all this murder stuff happens. The way the game unfolds and opens up, it's really cool and unique, and I'm really excited. That's what I want people to know  there's a lot going on from the story side of things.