Goichi Suda in 2008
|Occupation||Video game designer, writer, director|
|Title||CEO of Grasshopper Manufacture|
Goichi Suda (須田 剛一 Suda Gōichi, born January 2, 1968), commonly known by the nickname Suda51, is a Japanese video game designer, writer and director. He is the founder and CEO of Grasshopper Manufacture, which has produced some of his most recognized work including The Silver Case, Flower, Sun, and Rain, killer7, and the No More Heroes series. Suda is from Nagano Prefecture in Japan, moving to Tokyo at the age of 18 and eventually being hired as a designer at Human Entertainment after having a number of other jobs including as an undertaker. After leaving Human Entertainment, he founded Grasshopper Manufacture and worked on their debut title The Silver Case as writer, director and designer. The Silver Case helped establish both Suda and his company in Japan, but Suda and Grasshopper gained international attention with the release of killer7, Suda's first title to be released outside Japan.
Alongside his more recognizable work, both he and his studio have developed other video game projects in collaboration with outside studios, including original titles such as Guild01 and Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse; and licensed projects related to anime series such as Blood+, Samurai Champloo and the Short Peace project. Since No More Heroes, Suda has taken a more managerial role within his company, although he continues contributing to several projects including Killer Is Dead. Suda's own work is characterized by a focus on themes of crime and the clash of people with different ideals. While his early works adopted a serious tone, his later projects incorporated elements of humor — Suda has stated that he enjoys alternating between dark and comedic projects. Aspects of his work have been influenced by film and literature, with one of his favorite authors being Franz Kafka.
Goichi Suda was born in the city of Ueda in Japan's Nagano Prefecture on January 2, 1968, and lived in the region until moving to Tokyo when he was eighteen. Suda has spoken little of his early life, but he did not have a good relationship with his family, and disliked living in Nagano despite its natural beauty. He wished to design video games from an early age. Among his early jobs were working at Sega as a graphics designer for their brochures. One of his more unusual jobs was as an undertaker. Although he was more involved with flower arrangements, he still had his sights on a career in video games. Seeing an advert from Human Entertainment, then famous for the Fire Pro Wrestling series, and feeling his knowledge of wrestling would aid him he applied for a job as game designer. While distant from his family in Nagano, Suda is married and has his own family in Tokyo. In later years, Suda would come to be known by the nickname "Suda51". The nickname stems from the two parts of his given name—"go" translates to "5" and "ichi" to "1".
Suda's first job at Human was as scenario writer for Super Fire Pro Wrestling III, which earned him praise from the company due to the quality of his work. Due to this, he was appointed as both writer and director for Super Fire Pro Wrestling Special, which gained long-term notoriety for the bleak tone of its story and ending. Following Super Fire Pro Wrestling III, Suda worked on the Twilight Syndrome series; he initially had to step in as producer and director for Twilight Syndrome, but he was able to have greater creative input in Moonlight Syndrome: one of his decisions was to shift Moonlight Syndrome away from supernatural into psychological horror. Suda, who had gathered a fan base from his work at Human, generated controversy by killing off the main character in Moonlight Syndrome. Moonlight Syndrome would be the last game worked on by Suda for Human Entertainment, as he left due to being unsatisfied with available money bonuses. He also sensed that Human Entertainment, which would declare bankruptcy the following year, was not a secure position.
After leaving Human Entertainment, Suda founded Grasshopper Manufacture to fulfill his wish to create original video game projects. Its debut title was The Silver Case for the PlayStation. He was initially approached by ASCII Entertainment, who acted as the game's publishers and provided funding. Suda acted as director, co-writer and designer for the game. Alongside this, Suda had the responsibility of acting as the studio's CEO, so he felt responsible for ensuring everyone got paid. The initial staff of Grasshopper Manufacture was fairly small, which meant that the game's assets and style needed to be adjusted to fit limited resources and a tight budget. The title was a success in Japan and helped establish Grasshopper Manufacture, although had limited critical success due to the proliferation of its visual novel style at the time. While Suda wanted an overseas release, the large amount of text and difficulties localizing puzzle elements kept The Silver Case exclusive to Japan for a long time. Suda attempted to port the game to the Nintendo DS, but he was unsatisfied with the result and cancelled the project despite it being close to completion. Suda later acted as producer for a high-definition remaster of The Silver Case for Microsoft Windows, which was the title's Western debut. He also co-wrote new content that connected to its mobile sequel Ward 25.
Suda's next game at Grasshopper Manufacture was Flower, Sun, and Rain, developed for the PlayStation 2. As with The Silver Case, Suda directed, wrote and designed for the game. Due to having a larger staff, the gameplay shifted away from the text-drive style of The Silver Case, beginning the company's and Suda's shift towards more action-based gameplay. Flower, Sun, and Rain was almost cancelled when ASCII Entertainment changed its policies and withdrew funding. Suda pitched to other publishers, eventually gaining the support of Victor Interactive Software. This would begin a trend for Grasshopper Manufacture of picking new publishers for each projects so as to remain an independent company. The Silver Case and Flower, Sun, and Rain form an unofficial trilogy together with Moonlight Syndrome, featuring recurring characters. Suda next acted as producer and designer for Michigan: Report from Hell. Suda also created the initial concept around the idea of mist, but then created the camera-based and monstrous aspects to evoke terror. Michigan: Report from Hell was one of Suda's few games to incorporate elements of horror, a genre Suda generally dislikes.
His next title, killer7, was his breakout title in the West and garnered mainstream public attention for both Suda and his studio. Suda acted as scenario writer, designer and director. Development began in 2002 as part of a pentalogy of video games dubbed the Capcom Five, a set of games overseen by Shinji Mikami and intended to be exclusive to the GameCube. Suda was given high creative freedom by Mikami, allowing Suda to create an experimental game for an international audience. His next major title was No More Heroes for the Wii, which further established Suda's international reputation. Suda developed the title for the Wii as he had been one of the first to see the hardware first-hand, and saw the possibilities of the Wii controls for sword-based action. While sharing elements with killer7, Suda adopted a lighter tone and style to suit his vision for the characters and story. Following No More Heroes, Suda took on a supervisory role for the majority of future Grasshopper Projects including the No More Heroes sequel Desperate Struggle. He continued to be involved with writing and planning for Shadows of the Damned, Lollipop Chainsaw, Black Knight Sword and Killer is Dead. His guidance in the studio is credited with helping the company balance its original work with licensed collaborations, and prominent staff from other companies joining Grasshopper. His next project as director is Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes, a new No More Heroes title for the Nintendo Switch.
Influences and style
Suda's work has been dubbed by him as "punk"; Suda's use of the word was meant to signify how his and his company's games broke the mold of traditional games. In explaining this concept, Suda said that the greater majority of games were basically "copycats", mimicking other successful titles in their gameplay and themes rather than striving for something groundbreaking or unconventional. His game design philosophy was generally influenced by innovative games from his childhood developed by North America and Europe, as the Japanese market at the time seemed lacking in variety. While the term "punk" is generally associated with Punk rock music in Japan, Suda used the word in its ideological sense, breaking the mold on accepted conventions and deliberately making games ahead of current trends. Following this philosophy, Suda himself dislikes making games based on other people's concepts, instead preferring his own concepts and designs.
Suda's style of writing and direction has been compared to the works of Quentin Tarantino. A defining part of Suda's original work has been its balance of humor, dark or mature themes, violence and sexuality. His focus on death is because he feels it needs a rationale behind it, and so he focuses on those closely tied with death such as assassins. In his action titles, he considered the reasons behind each character's wish to fight and the reason for their deaths. His portrayal of death in his games was influenced by his time as an undertaker. Sexuality, while a big part of many of Suda's works, is not an important element from his perspective, and when used he is attempting to express a core part of the overall story and theme. Another recurring theme in his work from The Silver Case onwards is the focus on the criminal elements in society, in addition to people with equally valid views coming into conflict with each other. Following the serious tone of The Silver Case, Flower, Sun, and Rain saw a stylistic shift to a more light and casual tone. This approach of switching styles for each successive original project would be repeated by Suda throughout his career: when talking about the contrast between Lollipop Chainsaw and Killer is Dead he described is as a yin-yang effect.
Multiple sources have influenced Suda, from literature to games to foreign and domestic films and television. His favorite author is Franz Kafka, a German language author who focused on a combination of mundane and surreal scenarios. Suda's liking of Kafka was originally expressed in Kurayami, an in-development title based on The Castle, with a focus on nighttime combat and survival. The concept changed drastically at the insistence of Electronic Arts as they wanted it tailored for Western audiences, and the project evolved into Shadows of the Damned. Suda and Mikami both disliked the end product due to the publisher's creative interference, with Mikami in particular saying that Shadows of the Damned's final form broke Suda's heart. Numerous films have inspired elements of Suda's work on The Silver Case, killer7 and the No More Heroes games. When creating Lollipop Chainsaw, Suda used the series Buffy the Vampire Slayer to flesh out his initial concept. Popular culture have also played a part in Suda's work, with several characters in his games being named after or being homages to sports people or pop singers.
Alongside his original work, Suda and Grasshopper Manufacture have collaborated with other companies and video game creators on a variety of original and licensed projects. He directed and wrote the video games Blood+: One Night Kiss and Samurai Champloo: Sidetracked for Bandai Namco. According to him, depending on the type of project an exterior studio wants, elements unique to Suda and Grasshopper may be present or toned down in their licensed projects. Suda collaborated with Mikami on both killer7 and Shadows of the Damned, with the former proving the better experience. He collaborated on Lollipop Chainsaw with America writer-director James Gunn, who co-wrote the script with Suda and helped extensively with the English version. Suda was one of four major Japanese developers to contribute to the compilation video game Guild01 alongside Yoot Saito, Yasumi Matsuno and Yoshiyuki Hirai: Suda's contribution, Liberation Maiden, later released as a standalone title and spawning a visual novel sequel written by Suda. Suda worked as a designer, co-director and co-writer on Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse, the fourth entry in the Fatal Frame series. The project was a collaboration between Tecmo Koei, Grasshopper Manufacture and Nintendo SPD, and stood out from Suda's earlier work due to its focus on and his dislike for horror gameplay. Suda and Grasshopper also collaborated on Short Peace, a media project involving four anime shorts and a video game titled Ranko Tsukigime's Longest Day: all properties within Short Peace shared a common theme of representing different periods of Japanese history and culture. Suda created the initial concept, then gave the project to Tokyo Jungle producer Yohei Kataoka, having been impressed by Tokyo Jungle and wanting someone who could do "crazy" work. Outside gaming, Suda collaborated with Hideo Kojima as scenario writer for Sdatcher, a radio drama based on Kojima's early video game Snatcher.
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