Killer 7, No More Heroes, and now Shadows of the Damned – we talked to Goichi Suda about the game that is and isn’t what you’d expect it to be.
Shadows of the Damned
Drops early June for PS3 and X360.
Grasshopper’s sixth game to see western release.
Developed in collaboration with Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami.
Published by EA.
Relatively little of Grasshopper Manufacture’s past oeuvre reached us in the English-speaking world, but what did has cemented the reputation of Suda51. The self-described punk designer isn’t afraid to break conventions, build unusual mechanics, and challenge players. But the studio’s latest is a traditional action game, which counter-intuitively seems like a major departure.
“Yeah, I guess. I mean, if you look at this game as being a 3PS shooter, and the enemy style, and the basic storyline, I guess you could say it’s traditional,” Suda agreed, through a translator.
“But in reality, if you look at assets and the level design and the actual adventure of hell, it’s quite exciting, and it’s really crazier than ever, so it’s not really traditional in that sense.”
But coming on top of No More Heroes – the most recognised Grasshopper title, marketed in the West in a kind of cartoony, kid-friendly way, but deeply bizarre at its core – the dark and gory Shadows of the Damned seems completely incongruent.
“I didn’t really intend No More Heroes to be cute,” Suda explained.
“It’s actually about a killer. I wanted to describe the life of this man, but not in a very realistic way but … the behind the scenes, imaginary [world]. But it ended up being hyper reality, and using cute characters in a way.
“It’s strange. It’s not just scary. I believed we could express something really different and it worked out really well in the end.”
Shadows of the Damned has strong Western-market appeal on top of its Japanese heart. In fact, Suda seemed uncertain whether the game carries a strong Japanese DNA.
“Actually, the world of Hell that we’ve created for this game is the merging – the conglomerate – of the Eastern world of Hell and then the Western side of Hell, so we probably can still feel a little bit of Eastern elements in Hell,” he hazarded.
Garcia Hotspur, the game’s protagonist, is one of the industry’s few Hispanic lead characters. Suda seems to feel this was the only possible choise for the character he’d envisioned.
“I always wanted to see an Hispanic character, and when I thought of the love story with Paula, I wanted him to be passionate.
“The type of guy who goes to save their loved ones. Naturally, the name Garcia came to my mind, and … I just wanted him to be very passionate. So.”
Hispanic stereotypes usually feature Casanova-like attributes and machismo. I asked which camp Garcia falls in.
“Relatively, I would say he’s the latter, machismo type of guy – but at the same time, he has this very romantic side again. When Paula is gone, he just gets really worried. He doesn’t know what to do without her.”
Suda sounded resolute on this point, and admitted, after laughing and exclaiming, that there’s a little of himself in Gracia.
“Well, I think, the terror [for] my wife, so I guess that kind of has something in common [with me]. If anything happens, no matter what, I’ll go and save her.
“So, even on the eleventh of March, when the earthquakes hit, I went straight to my wife first.”
Shadows of the Damned famously opens with something horrible happening to a woman. Thinking back on previous Grasshopper games, I was hard-pressed to remember a strong female character who wasn’t being dismembered.
“Wow,” Suda said to this challenge, before pausing thoughtfully.
“Well, this one is my first time creating a love story. I usually create our female characters to be ‘bitch’,” he said.
“This is the love love story of hell, so [the female characters] ended up having a hard time. But the next love story… maybe. We’ll probably describe the ladies a little bit [more nicely].
“Maybe a love story with Cameron Diaz?”
A wacky punk rom-com of two oddballs falling in love and stabbing each other repeatedly, I suggested – which seemed to go down well.
A unique, adult vision of Hell
If Shadows of the Damned were a film, who would have been the director?
“Robert Rodriguez.” (Desperado, Sin City)
So there’s no Quentin Tarantino vibe?
“Probably I would say Rodriguez is better.”
“The Hell that we’ve expressed in this game, it’s a different world from what we see in daily life. It’s gross. It’s bloody,” Suda said.
“But at the same time what’s scary is the demons, the enemies, [their] attack and how they look. So I guess it’s not too grotesque, it’s more the atmosphere that terrifies you. And it also attracts you at the same time.”
It’s a very different picture from EA stablemate Dante’s Inferno, which Suda seemed almost dismissive of.
“I think the Hell that they have is really mainstream and standard,” he opined.
“But I think our vision of hell is really different from theirs. It would be very interesting as you play to see the difference.
“Our version of Hell is really funny, and it’s actually closer to you than what you envision as Hell.
“It’s scary, but at the same time it’s really fun to play, so I definitely want the player to see the difference between ours and theirs.”
“It is an adult’s game, but at the same time, we’re getting a lot of reactions and feedback, a lot of people are saying this is crazy and funny.
“You probably can see some similarities with No More Heroes, especially this game is going to be released in Australia. That means it’s not too adult,” he joked.