As an interviewer, you live for these magic moments. 30 minutes after walking into the Wii Flat, Nintendo's slightly stilted attempt to recreate a hip, trendy young socialite's disturbingly Wii-focused living room, things have taken a peculiar turn.
Suda 51, the founder of Grasshopper Manufacture and creative mind behind Killer 7 and the forthcoming No More Heroes (step through the magic words of blue to enter a world of preview), is sitting on the sofa with a massive grin on his face, looking astonishingly pleased with himself. Beside him, the game's sound director Takuda Masafumi is holding his face in his hands and shaking his head. The translator, Grasshopper's bubbly Japanese PR girl, has gone bright red and covered her mouth with her hand.
Pidgin Japanese and some rather graphic hand gestures inform us that Suda 51 has just described the creative process behind No More Heroes as being like sitting on a toilet and, er, pinching off a loaf. Dropping the kids off at the pool. Laying a cable. Translation difficulties allowing, we're pretty sure that it's the first time a game developer has actually told us in an interview that his game is a turd.
"I don't know if I should translate this!", squeals the flustered translator. "It's really nasty!" She shakes her head. "You're dirty," she tells Suda, who grins even more widely. The sound director still has his head in his hands. It's all going rather well, we reckon.
Holding Out For A Hero
Rewind a few minutes, and you'd have seen Suda 51 (the name isn't as pretentious as it seems; his real name, "Goichi", reads as five (Go) - one (ichi) in Japanese, so it's an obvious nickname) casually playing through the first level of No More Heroes with practised nonchalance. As his fingertips play over the controller and his wrist flicks the Wiimote around, the game's unlikely assassin hero cuts, thrusts and decapitates through waves of enemies, cutting a stylish swathe of death through a grand mansion in search of his ultimate prey.
Suda makes it look easy. We doubt it actually is - but even if you can't quite pull off his skill, the game's style is still infectious. It's got sweary, stilted dialogue straight out of an eighties movie, menus and an interface that ape arcade machines of the Atari era, and stark, high contrast graphics which bring to mind Killer 7, without actually being quite the same. No More Heroes is more colourful, more silly and more over the top than its predecessor. It's also, by the looks of it, a lot more fun.
After the heavy, serious story of Killer 7, Suda is all about fun this time out. He's no stranger to the transition - this is, after all, a man who was working as an undertaker until he got bored of the dead and got a job with a videogames company, working on the wrestling games whose influence still shines through to this day.
Okay, so never mind that - you want to know why he told us his game was like taking a shit. We understand. Without further ado, we'll hand the floor over to Suda51...
Eurogamer: When you finished Killer 7 and started working on this, what were the things that you wanted to accomplish? What was the objective you had in mind, which led to creating No More Heroes?
Suda 51: When I created Killer 7, that was more of a straight, complicated story - it was quite strict, quite stoic kind of stuff. I've always made games a bit like that, so the next thing I wanted to do was something totally different and totally new. That's where the idea actually came from - that with this game, I wanted to make something more refreshing, something indecent and crazy.
I also wanted to show that Grasshopper could make a different type of game. That was a big reason for making this game.
Eurogamer: It shares a certain style with Killer 7 - lots of silhouettes and very black shadows. What kind of things have influenced that style, in terms of the media you enjoy yourself and the things you look at for art reference?
Suda 51: I'm in to a lot of different media - not only games and anime, but movies, TV drama, and many other kinds of entertainment. I watch Japanese movies, American movies, European movies - all sorts of things. I listen to lots of different kinds of music, too.
So, I get inspired by a lot of different things. A lot of people only listen to one kind of music, or they prefer one kind of movie or game - but I like to try everything. I think my inspiration is to mix together many kinds of different things, and to bring parts of all the things I like into my games. You could definitely see that in Killer 7, and it's there in No More Heroes as well - it's a real mixture.
You know, you can see on the screen, in No More Heroes you sit on the toilet to save the game - I guess making a game for me is a bit like that. When you take a shit, everything you've consumed is all mixed together, there are all sorts of things in that - and that's the same kind of idea, I think.
Eurogamer: (Once everyone had stopped holding their heads in their hands and blushing...) Why did the Wii appeal to you? What was it about the console that made you want to focus on that for your next game?
Suda 51: The key thing is about the beam katana in the game - it matches really well with the controller. I just felt that instinctively.
Eurogamer: You don't have direct control of the beam katana, though - instead you have more conventional controls, with special moves and height adjustment on the motion sensors. Was that a compromise you had to make during development?
Suda 51: Actually, I really expected that other games on the Wii would already have used the remote in that way by now - and I know that a lot of gamers prefer the kind of controls you get on a classic device. I wanted to get the best of both worlds, adding elements of classic controls to the motion sensing device.
I expected that everyone would be doing pure motion sensing controls, and thought it would be better to combine the two - that using the Wii remote for things like fatal moves and height would be better, would feel more refreshing.
Eurogamer: A lot of Wii games are designed for families, not necessarily for children but for a wide audience. This is obviously an adult game, even with black clouds rather than blood sprays; it's still full of swearing and sexual references, and a lot of violence. Do you think the Wii is a good platform for adult games, or will this look a bit out of place on the shelf next to Mario Galaxy?
Suda 51: I had really expected that more titles for adults would be launched for the Wii, and I've been really surprised by the reality - that most of the games are for families, or kids. That's not only in Japan, it's the same all over the world, and I didn't expect things to be that way.
Eurogamer: The retro arcade graphics in the game's interface are really fun, but they look a bit strange in a game in 2008 - what made you decide to go along with that look?
Suda 51: The main reason for adding the retro graphics was that, while this game is set in a fictional city, it's really inspired by the 1970s and 1980s, the generations that grew up in those decades, especially in California. Retro games are from that generation - the Atari 2600, stuff like that. I wanted to include those elements because it gives some real atmosphere to the setting of the game.
Eurogamer: You've talked in the past about being interested in multiplayer - did you plan any multiplayer options in No More Heroes, or is that something you still want to explore at some later time?
Suda 51: To be honest, I'm not really into multiplayer modes. I might do something like that in the future, maybe... I'm not saying that I don't like it, it's just that it's not a priority for me to add that kind of thing into my games.
Eurogamer: We can't leave this without asking about the black clouds in the European and Japanese version, as opposed to the blood in the American version. A lot of people feel like our version is censored, but the response has been that this is the original version - so simply, which version do you prefer personally?
Suda 51: Actually, I can't really say which is better. It's an action game, at the end of the day, and in some ways I feel like the black clouds make the European version feel more refreshing and more direct than the American one, when you're playing it. It's really hard to compare, though.