So yeah, Shadows of the Damned is out in Europe tomorrow. Having done a hands-on preview a while back and played quite a lot of the finished retail code at home this week, I can categorically state that I bloody love it. It's like Resident Evil 4 doing speed at a Damned gig while wearing an Evil Dead t-shirt, before getting into a bar fight over a girl. And winning. Yeah, I bloody love it.
You know what else I love? Goichi 'Suda51' Suda. Despite the fact that I've just referred to him as a "what" rather than a "who", I'm a mighty big fan of the punk-ass, No-More-Heroes-creating mentalist's work, and I reckon teaming up with ex-Resident Evil boss Shinji Mikami and ex-Silent Hill boss and composer Akira Yamaoka might have helped him produce some of his very best work in Shadows. So when I was offered the chance to e-mail him a few questions about the game, I did. And here they are, along with the answers.
Because without the answers, you wouldn't find the questions very interesting at all.
GamesRadar: With yourself, Mikami-san and Yamaoka-san collaborating, many expected something in the vein of Killer7-meets-Fatal-Frame-meets-silent Hill from your first horror game together. Was the balls-out rock 'n' roll of Shadows a deliberate attempt to subvert expectations?
Goichi Suda: Any collaboration you go into with preset conceptions of how it will turn out isn’t ‘punk’ in my opinion. Our top priority was to make a horror action game that was exciting; a hybrid horror game that wasn’t based on just Eastern ideas of what fear and horror should be. Damned is a unique rock-horror game, and I really hope that players will enjoy what we’ve accomplished.
GR: All three of you have been known for quite tonally disparate material lately. Has it been tricky to balance the team dynamic? Who has the last word?
GS: Our roles for the project were clearly established from the beginning of the project. The game world and story would be designed by me, to keep the SUDA 51 style. The gameplay and tuning of combat would fall on Mikami-san’s shoulders. And finally, Yamaoka-san would add a soundtrack that accentuated the previous two elements. Since Mikami-san and I worked together on Killer7, we had a good idea on how best to work with each other. Final decisions regarding Damned were made as a team. Under those guidelines, I think we’ve been able to create a special game.
GR: Some of the biggest design talents in Japan seem to be breaking free of their corporate shackles and consolidating their efforts recently. The creation of Platinum Games is a great example, as is Yamaoka-san joining Grasshopper. And Keiji Inafune has now very vocally parted ways with Capcom. It's almost as if there's a sense of punk rebellion against the current industry system amongst Japan's brightest stars. Would that be a fair appraisal?
GS: I’m a big fan of Akira’s previous works, and he and I have similar philosophy on making games. We value and admire the creative independence Western developers enjoy. I think we’ll see more Japanese studios emulating the Western model of making games in the future.
GR: Music has always seemed to be a bigger influence on your games than any other medium. How has working with Yamaoka-san affected the way you approach those influences?
GS: I wouldn’t say that it changed my approach drastically. I think making games is a lot like being in a band. Each member has their strengths that they bring to the table. As I mentioned before, I crafted the story for Damned, but Akira’s music is what amplifies the story and gives it nuance. It’s the same when you break down the parts of any of your favourite songs. The drummer’s beat might be cool, or the bass line funky on its own, but when you combine them they give you a more powerful emotion. I think Akira’s music has brought out the best parts in my writing, and the music is enhanced by the game’s story.