Killer 7 and No More Heroes director Suda 51's first game at the studio he founded, Grasshopper Manufacture, was a little known PlayStation One visual novel called The Silver Case. Never released outside of Japan, it's only now, 17 years later, getting a western release with an all new remake set to arrive this autumn on PC via Steam, Playism and other online markets.
Revealed in a meeting at a Boston hotel attended by Eurogamer, Suda 51 was adamant that The Silver Case may not be what fans of Grasshopper Manufacturer expect. It's not an action game, he's quick to explain, and there's no blood. Instead, it's a linear adventure game where players click through text, answer quiz questions, and complete mini-games.
If that sounds a little similar to Suda's 2009 DS adventure Flower, Sun and Rain, that's because it's set in the same universe and FS&R was actually a spin-off to The Silver Case featuring some of the same characters.
As for The Silver Case itself, it's set in an alternate version of Japan in its fictitious 24th Ward where new hi-tech systems have been established to solve crimes. Players will switch perspectives between two characters: a detective and a journalist. Suda wrote the detective scenario, Transmitter, while Masahi Ooka wrote the journalist section, Placebo.
The game's story will be told through a mixture of text, 2D illustrations, 3D animations, and real-life photographs that play out in different windows that the player will be able to customise.
Developer Active Gaming Media (who translated Demon's Souls into English and Dear Esther into Japanese) will be handling the remake's localisation and enhanced assets, which are being developed in Unity 5.
Back in 2009 Grasshopper was going to release a DS port of The Silver Case, though the company decided that it would need to be drastically rehauled in order to fit the western market. It wasn't until several years later that developer Active Gaming Media approached Grasshopper about developing a remake.
Besides looking better and being available in English, Active Gaming Media is rewriting many of the game's quiz sections as the original versions wouldn't make sense to players outside of Japan.
"When it comes to the gameplay the biggest change is the quiz section of the game," said Suda via translator and remake director Edward Douglas Watt. "The game was produced in 1999 and was very strongly focused on knowledge that would be difficult even for Japanese players. Even if we just translated those questions they wouldn't necessarily be answerable by many players, so we're updating and changing the contents of the quiz sections."
"One of the first puzzles in the game is an encryption puzzle that in the Japanese version relies very much on the presentation of the Japanese language in computer systems," the developer explained. "So we're also changing that puzzle."
A sequel to The Silver Case called The 25th Ward was released on mobile devices in Japan, and if The Silver Case sells well that too may see a western remake in the cards. When asked about continuing the series if The Silver Case is a success, Suda said nothing is in the works, but he has entertained the notion. "Another sequel - whether a direct story sequel or more of a thematic sequel - to games like The Silver Case may be possible, but it would be a very different type of experience. Perhaps even VR."
The director also noted that The Silver Case's story would help shed light on Flower, Sun and Rain's confounding conclusion. "It's not a direct sequel or anything like that, but because it takes place in the same world and some of the same characters appear, it is very much a related game," Suda said. "The ending to Flower, Sun and Rain has some elements that might be a little hard to understand for some players, but if you've played through The Silver Case then you'll understand more of the end to Flower, Sun and Rain."
When asked about Suda remaking any of his other titles, the director said "It's impossible for a lot of younger gamers to play a lot of Grasshopper Manufacture titles, even from the PlayStation 2 and Gamecube eras, as you need both the disc and the hardware to play those games. So it's becoming very much a reality that since these games can't be played anymore something needs to be done. That's a big part of the motivation for doing The Silver Case at this time."
That being said, Capcom owns the rights to Killer 7, so that one's out of Grasshopper's hands. Sorry Smith fans.