December 21, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless
[Game Developer magazine EIC Brandon Sheffield recently caught up with Grasshopper Manufacture boss Suda51, who has a little of the buzz about him recently, thanks to his new projects - here's a fun interview about No More Heroes and targeting the Western market, among other things.]
Grasshopper Manufacture's always interesting CEO Goichi Suda (aka Suda51) has a lot on his plate, what with No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle slated for 2010 and an untitled EA Partners project in the works with Q Entertainment (Lumines) and eminent designer Shinji Mikami.
His company's visually unique titles like Killer7 and the original No More Heroes have kept Suda and Grasshopper in high demand.
In particular, Marvelous Entertainment noted the studio's growing popularity and published a Nintendo DS remake of Flower, Sun, & Rain, one of its older PS2 games, earlier this year in Japan. Marvelous' U.S. branch plans to bring the game stateside next month.
In this candid interview, Suda talks with Gamasutra about where the No More Heroes sequel is going, why that destination isn't away from the Wii, and what he'd tell himself about Flower, Sun, & Rain if he could go back in time:
When we first spoke, you talked about how you wanted to make an open-world game. No More Heroes is kind of along the path to that. Are you going to take that further into the user sandbox environment with the second game?
Goichi Suda: Yeah, we'll once again manage to do what we want to do with realizing the open world, but expect big changes for No More Heroes 2's open world.
Now that there are no more heroes, what happens from now?
GS: Actually, there are still some heroes left. (laughter)
I thought maybe it should be called No More Heroes More, or Some More Heroes.
GS: We'll probably have to change it as we go ...
Before, Grasshopper developed games one at a time, finishing one and starting the other. Now that you're working on multiple projects, do you have to have a multi-team structure within the company?
GS: Right now, Grasshopper has two development teams. They've been in alignment.
Is it different, having to manage that? I know you have a lot of creative input yourself on all of the projects, so are you having to share directorship with other people and things like that in order to make these two flow?
GS: For No More Heroes 2, I'm going to be credited as executive director. I'm just going to take care of the character script and the scenario, but the director's going to be someone else. We actually have set a director at Grasshopper -- a young one.
Are you going to be grow more in the future, as you work on more projects?
GS: In my mind, the studio would like to keep the team under one of the people.
Each team, or the whole of Grasshopper?
GS: The whole of Grasshopper.
Maintaining smaller sizes probably helps keep a consistent creative vision. What are the things that you feel you still need to accomplish with the No More Heroes universe? You haven't really made sequels before at Grasshopper. What do you feel you still need to get across with that game and style?
GS: The world of No More Heroes should have more parallel stories running at the same time. The evolution of Travis -- I still have some stuff to write about with him and his growth.
So are you anticipating doing that kind of parallel story stuff in No More Heroes 2? Is that possible to do with one character?
GS: In the case of No More Heroes 2, it's just going to be one story again that takes place after No More Heroes 1.
Why target the Wii with this game when there are a lot of action games on the Xbox 360?
GS: One of the main reasons why we're back on Wii is because of the controller. When we released the first one on Wii, you had this feeling just finished with moving the controller; it was really good.
So, if we released it on Xbox 360, for example, we'd have to rethink this feeling. I wanted to keep the game's controller gimmick, so that's why the fighting was more fitting on Wii, rather than on other platforms.
More Japanese companies nowadays seem to be targeting the North American market as the first, primary market. I feel like Grasshopper's games do this as well. Are you specifically targeting North America first?
As a company in Japan, how are you going about targeting the Western market first?
GS: First, we check all of those games that set a standard, for example, in the FPS style in the U.S. We always want to make new stuff and new games, and try to create something innovative there, because there's always a market there for people who are tired of playing this style or level.
Would you ever consider doing something like an FPS, in order to gain more of that market? It's kind of flooded right now.
GS: Definitely, if it's for our audience. If we need to make an FPS to get into this market, we will.
I'm curious to know how you feel about Flower, Sun and Rain finally coming out in the West on the DS now. Traditionally, these games come out in sequential order, in terms of when they were released, but in the case of your games, it's more like now that Grasshopper is more popular, some of the older games are able to come out in the West.
What do you think about people now playing games that you made previously? Obviously, you're continuing forward with your game design and creation philosophy. What do you think about people playing the older games now, perhaps not knowing that they're actually older?
I'm just happy about that, because we had these games that were made eight years ago that I couldn't really sell outside of Japan. And now, because I have Killer7 and No More Heroes, and I have some working conditions outside of Japan, too, people are really enjoying this project.
When I developed Flower, Sun, and Rain on the PS2 all those years ago, it was one of the most difficult times at Grasshopper. I would like to jump into a time machine, go back to eight years ago, and tell myself not to worry, and that things were going to be all right, and that we were going to release this title on the DS, too.
But if I told myself that the game was going to be released on a handheld with two screens, I wouldn't believe it. (laughter)
If you're going back, you should convince your old self to patent the idea.
You'll be rich! I actually really liked Flower, Sun, and Rain. None of the characters spoke properly. Actually, I thought my copy was defective, because they had the...
GS: (laughter) Don't worry, because when we released it on the PS2, we got some comments from Japanese users saying, "There's something wrong with my copy. The voices aren't working for me." So it's not just you.
BS: I think it's because it had the subtitles. Do you think that maybe Silver Jiken [PS1 and now DS murder mystery The Silver Case] would come to the West? Many people have said it's one of the top games from Grasshopper, story-wise.
GS: It needs time. Presently, I'm really busy with No More Heroes 2.
I was wondering how having foreign staff was working for you.
GS: It's good. Of course, nothing is perfect. Sometimes we have issues with foreign staff, but we always try to solve and fix them. It's not really a problem of nationality with foreigners. We just have issues with communicating with employees, too.
How important do you find it for them to be able to speak really good Japanese to fit in?
GS: It would make things easier if they could speak decent Japanese, but even if their Japanese isn't great, I can still, to some extent, manage to explain what I want them to do.
Does it help with trying to release games that are targeted to the Western market? I assume it would.
GS: Yeah ... When it comes to designers and programmers, [they bring] some know-how that we didn't have here. Even if [they weren't] here, we'd be trying to think of strategies on how to get into this market, but it would never beat an actual, real foreigner who's coming to the company and doing stuff himself.
Do you consider No More Heroes as a continuing series for you? Will it keep on going, or is 2 it?
GS: That's something I don't really think about -- the future or the sequel. I'm just focusing on each title, so now I'm focusing on No More Heroes 2, and then we're going to see later.