Thoughts On: Suda 51

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I want to make something clear about what these articles I write are about. First and foremost, it is not a review. If this was a review of a game that isn’t out yet, I would have given a score to it and that sounds rather silly to give a game a score when it isn’t even out yet. These are a series of written articles covering upcoming games, and giving my impressions of what I have seen of them, gaming topics, and other things gaming related. Now that I got that out of the way, I thought I would do an article about one of my favorite game designers, Suda 51. This is the guy who makes those crazy action games like No More Heroes, Shadows of the Damned, Lollipop Chainsaw, and the recently released Killer Is Dead, which will be one of my reviews in the near future. There is just something that I love about his games, even if they are not perfect all around. Let’s begin, shall we?

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Let’s get started with Suda 51’s history of being in the game industry. His actual name is Goichi Suda. The 51 is a play on his name, because "Go" means 5 and "ichi" means 1 in the Japanese language. He started out working for a developer called Human Entertainment, known for some popular games like a few Fire Pro Wrestler games, Vanguard Bandits, and the Super Famicom horror game, Clock Tower, among others. At Human Entertainment, the first games he worked on were Super Fire Pro Wrestling 3 Final Bout and Super Fire Pro Wrestling Special as a director and scenario writer. He also worked on a series of adventure horror games called Twilight Syndrome: Search, Twilight Syndrome: Investigate, and Moonlight Syndrome. None of these last three games were ever released in America. After the team at Human Entertainment disbanded, Suda 51 founded his own company called Grasshopper Manufacturer. Game-wise, this is when things got more interesting. I am going to skip a few years to the mid-2000s, because this is when Suda 51 got really noticed by the gaming community. In 2005, he released a GameCube and PlayStation 2 game known as Killer 7, an on-rails shooter kind of game with a unique artistic presentation. It was definitely a game that stood out among the games released that year. The reception was mixed, but Killer 7 became a cult classic among gamers and remains one of the many games talked about during the whole, “video games vs. art” and “sex and violence in video games” conversations. I have never played it, but if any of you have played either version of the game before, tell me what you think, and I might go find a copy of it since I am usually up for something unique. Suda 51 has made other games that were also well-known, but for the people that don’t know him, I thought I would start with one of his more recognized games. Some of his earlier games that he was famous for before Killer 7 are Flower, Sun, and Rain, and The Silver Case. We didn’t get the original release of those two games, but we did get a DS remake of Flower, Sun, and Rain, an adventure game that got mixed reviews when it was re-released, but was praised for its colorful themes and story. At the same time, it was criticized for its difficulty. Before we get to his more popular games, Grasshopper Manufacturer and Namco Bandai teamed up to make an action game based off of a popular and mostly well executed anime called Samurai Champloo. Now we get to the games he has worked on for the past few years. In 2008, Suda 51 released a new action game for the Wii called No More Heroes about a young man named Travis Touchdown who wants to become the number one assassin. The game was once again known for its violence and art style. It was well received with the biggest criticism concerning the camera and the very empty overworld you can travel through on your huge bike. I liked it personally, but it did have its problems. There is also a PlayStation 3 version that you can find that uses the PlayStation Move controller. Before releasing a sequel to No More Heroes, Suda 51 was the producer for a Nintendo DS RPG called Contact. It was released in 2009 and got mixed reviews. In 2010, he released a sequel to No More Heroes called No More Heroes: Desperate Struggle. The overall design of the first game was improved upon in the sequel, and some new playable characters were added in certain moments of the game. It is my favorite game out of the series, but it had some camera issues, and the first part of a certain boss fight was awful since you had to deal with the motorcycle controls in a small battle arena. In 2011, Suda 51’s company teamed up with EA to release a campy horror-survival-third-person shooter game known as Shadows of the Damned for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. This game had some big names besides Suda 51 behind it, like Shinji Mikami and Akira Yamaoka. Shadows of the Damned got mixed reviews, but a lot of people I have talked to who have played the game have said that they enjoyed it. Again, tell me what you all think of it and I might go out and buy a copy. 2012 brought us the quirky zombie-killing Lollipop Chainsaw for PS3 and 360, with the voice talent of Tara Strong who did voice work for many popular shows like The Powerpuff Girls and Teen Titans to voice the main female hero. It also got mixed reviews, but it was one of my personal favorite games of that year, even with its clunky controls. A few weeks ago, we got Killer Is Dead, another action game from Suda 51. You can probably tell how the reviews went so I won’t mention them here. Personally, I really liked Killer Is Dead, but it does have its issues. Suda 51 has worked on other games with his company, like Sin Mora and a game based off Blood+, but I just thought I’d give the viewers/readers a quick CliffNotes version of the games he and his company worked on that are well-known among the gaming community.

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So, what do I and many others like about this guy and his view on game design? Well, one thing that I think no one can deny is that his games are definitely memorable. They have a certain tone, look, and feel to how they play. They might be flawed, but in my experience of playing them, they always stuck in my mind out of most games I have played in that year. I think it’s great that he gets to make the kind of games he wants, even when he might be under the very tight grip of the publisher’s fist.

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Now then, what would I like to see him tackle in the future, or see him improve on? Of course, I would like to see him delve into other genres in gaming, like I think he could make a really trippy, deep, and unique L.A. Noire kind of game. I also wish he would polish up his games. Usually, you have different categories in what kind of an experience a game gives you. There are experiences like flash over substance, which is where Suda 51, in my opinion, falls. Sure, his games might look like no other, artistically, but there are always common issues within his games, like awkward camera angles and just an overall unpolished feel to them. Does his company allow suggestions or recommendations from the quality assurance team while the game is being worked on? I know this sounds harsh, and it is harsh, but after so many games and so many of the same problems, why do these common complaints still pop up? This next thing I would like to see him fix is a conflict of its own. I like how crazy his games can get, but sometimes I feel like that craziness detracts from the stories. I know Suda 51 is a smart man and has themes and commentary put into a lot of his games, but sometimes I just don’t see them. I don’t want to feel like I am stupid or something when I miss these themes and commentary, but I also don’t want Suda 51 to feel like he needs to be more explicit with his stories. Maybe I am just never going to be happy or able to explain this criticism, since I would criticize Suda 51 for toning down the craziness, but would also criticize him if the story was weak.

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So, do I have any last thoughts for Suda 51? Not really. I just hope he keeps creating his strange and unique games, giving the gaming world something different. Sure, his games might never reach “Game of the Year” status, but if you ever find any of his games for cheap, I would pick them up and see how you feel about them yourself. I know not everyone is going to like his style of games, but if you need something interesting in your action games, why not try out a game designed by Suda 51?