Grasshopper's Suda51

On Shadows of the Damned and more.

Goichi Suda has produced an amazingly eclectic body of work in his time. It includes a survival horror / erotic photography mashup, three games about lightsaber-wielding serial killers and an adventure title about a guy with a suitcase named Catherine. And yet he's still perhaps most famous for conducting interviews while on the bog.

He seems to have grown tired of that stunt, though. When we meet today he's sitting on a boring old chair in a poorly-lit back room. Much more conventional.

The game he's showing, however, is anything but. Shadows of the Damned is reminiscent of Devil May Cry with regard to the unashamedly ludicrous badassery of it characters. There are elements of Resident Evil 4 to its combat and Deadly Premonition with regard to its glorious failure to make any sense whatsoever.

The game also features glowing disembodied deer heads, demons who increase their power by ripping out and eating their own hearts, and the most entertainingly vulgar character banter since Bulletstorm.

"It's a punk-rock horror from Hell. And also a road trip movie," says Suda. Another way to describe it might be as an insane eighties B-movie horror viewed through a uniquely Japanese cultural filter to superb effect.

This is new territory for Grasshopper in a number of ways. It's the first title from the studio to be presented in HD, and the first which is multiplatform. Up until now, Grasshopper restricted itself to the Wii of all this generation's consoles (the PS3 port of No More Heroes was handled by a different developer, as was the rather botched PS2 port of Killer7).

In addition, Shadows of the Damned is a shooter. The studio has never tried making one of these before. According to Suda, it took a while to figure out gunplay after all that time spent perfecting motion-based swordfighting.

This is his second collaboration with Resident Evil and Vanquish creator Shinji Mikami (who, he claims, looks like a Japanese Eminem). The pair co-wrote Killer7 back in 2003.

Suda has teamed up with other developers before, too. Yasuhiro Wada had a significant role to play in the production of No More Heroes, for instance. You could hardly imagine a more unlikely partnership for the man who usually spends his time on the relentlessly cuddly Harvest Moon series.

Despite all that, Shadows of the Damned does share a certain f-you ethos with the rest of Grasshopper's work.

"It's a very different type of game to everything we've done before in terms of mechanics and look," Suda says. "But in terms of the punk-rock attitude, that's definitely the same."

Only write on your neck when you really have run out of paper.

It seems that he and Mikami play very nicely together. "We've known each other since Killer7, so I guess five or six years now already. Of course we get on really well, he's really funny. He's a joke machine," Suda says with a big grin.

With two big personalities at the helm you'd imagine there'd be clashes especially as high-profile Japanese development sometimes relies heavily on a single creative voice filtering down though the ranks and into the finished product. (See Deadly Premonition, any of Suda's previous work and the entire Metal Gear Solid series for evidence.)

Shadows of the Damned bears unmistakeable hallmarks of both developers, but apparently there's been less creative tension than you might imagine.

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