Lollipop Chainsaw: Suda 51 Interview
Lollipop Chainsaw delivers everything that makes for a top-selling game. It stars Julia, a blonde, innuendo-prone cheerleader, more gore than all three Gears of War games combined, and this year’s popular flavour, zombies. How can it fail?
The game comes from Japanese outfit Grasshopper Manufacture, the same studio that brought Killer7, No More Heroes and Shadows of the Damned to a bewildered Western audience.
But in Lollipop Chainsaw, the studio could just have the dark horse hit of 2012 on its hands. We caught up with Grasshopper’s designer and charismatic frontman Suda 51 for a brief chat about his insane Grindhouse tribute.
Suda 51. We want his awesome jacket.
Lollipop Chainsaw was an unexpected reveal earlier this year (check out the most recent trailer here). But just how long has Grasshopper been working on the game, and how far along is the project now? Can you tell us where the concept came from?
Suda 51: Lollipop Chainsaw has been in development for a bit less than two years, including when the idea first came about, and also theãplanning. I started to create it as horror series and it evolved from there.
It was a great reveal because it has that unmistakable Grasshopper vibe that has run through all of your games to date. The combat also appears similar to No More Heroes at face value. Is it similar?
It might appear similar, but the game is different. Of course, Lollipop Chainsaw is the new sword action game, and it’s the style that I believe Grasshopper Manufacture is best at.
In No More Heroes, Travis is a guy, so his sword action is more masculine, but Juliet is a cheerleader. Her movements are flexible and very athletic. When combined with her chainsaw, Juliet’s attacks are both hyper and powerful.
The game is set in San Romero High, which is a cool nod to the George Romero zombie films that the game parodies. Are you only locked into the school setting, or can Juliet roam around beyond the school walls?
San Romero High is not just a place where there is one classroom after another. Beyond the normal school settings are still secret, so please look forward to more updates in the future.
The Romero reference is one of those neat cultural references that Grasshopper does very well. Is it safe to say that you’re all huge fans of the man’s work? To what extent do you like to convey your own personal tastes in your games?
Yes, and not just me, but many of my staff members love Mr. Romero. Some are so crazy about him that they really should be called his sons. I always think of my interests in games, but I think even more about new ideas that can stimulate the interests of the players as well.
SEX! Now that we have your attention, you should check out this game.
The whole zombie Grindhouse motif is a great selling angle, and it seems likely that Lollipop Chainsaw will ignite great interest in the West. We recently saw you quoted as saying the game will be, “A really big title in the worldwide market”. How would you convince Western players to buy the game?
I’m not quite sure where I’ve mentioned this, but Lollipop Chainsaw will be a very precious and important title in a world market. It’s great, as this is a market where not so many new IPs get to be born. It’d be easy to convince them. I would convince them that this game has a new heroine who supersedes the normal female video game characters they’re used to.
When you talk about worldwide sales, you really do start to think about big numbers. Grasshopper’s games always reach high critical acclaim, yet never hit the same sales figures as its peers. How do you muster the budget to make these games, and is it a model you’d recommend to others?
Developers have less power than many might expect. The only thing we can do is to create a high quality game and create intriguing ideas. The most important thing is to just continue this process.
You are also collaborating with Digital Reality on Sine Mora. Would you say that this approach is good for business, and would you like to see more studios working together in this way? What was your experience of working alongside Shinji Mikami on Shadows of the Damned?
Actually, it’s not so uncommon to see projects worked on by multiple studios, but it’s just not been talked about too much by the media. I believe it is a scheme already seen. The collaboration with Mikami-san was a very precious experience where each of us was creatively stimulated as we worked together.
This is normal for a Grasshopper game.
We interviewed Burnout developer Criterion a while back and some of the guys there said you are perhaps the biggest Burnout fan they had ever met. We suggested to them that you should pitch to them about making a new Road Rash game. Theoretically, would you be interested in making that game? How would you do it?
Burnout is the greatest game ever. I am a fan of Road Rash as well as it is a very exciting game. I am very interested in the sequel for Road Rash, and I’m pretty sure my ideal version would have gore of course, right?