Goichi Suda (aka Suda 51) has been making games for over 25 years, and yet the iconoclastic indie creator shows no signs of slowing down. If anything, it seems Suda 51 may be surging toward something of a late-career renaissance – after a few quiet years, Suda has returned to directing with Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes and will continue in the role for the upcoming No More Heroes III.
Suda 51 certainly wasn’t lacking in energy or creative spark when I interviewed him the Reboot Develop Red conference in Banff, Alberta this past weekend. As a few of you may have heard, Suda provided the opening keynote to the conference, but instead of talking about the development of No More Heroes III as promised, he whiled away the hour talking about his musical influences and favorite music videos. A classic Suda move, really. Only two hours after the keynote, I sat down with Suda to discuss the state of No More Heroes III, his upcoming horror collaboration with Swery, his favorite Canadian musician (of course), and more…
Note: The following interview was conducted through Suda 51’s dapper translator Dan Luffey and some answers have been lightly edited to switch some of them from third-person (“he, they, ect.”) to first-person (“I, we, ect.”) This was done to make the interview more consistent and natural sounding – the content and intent of the answers has not been altered at all.
You certainly have plenty on your plate these days. A lot of creators with as much experience as you would be falling back into more of a producer role, but you seem to be charging ahead in the opposite direction. What motivates you to keep so busy?
It was really going to PAX and meeting a lot of the young indie creators there. That provided a lot of inspiration and a new vitality that made me want to get back into the thick of it, get dirty, and make a good game again.
You mentioned during your Reboot Develop Red keynote that you recently finished the script for No More Heroes III. How’s the game coming along overall?
It's about 35 to 40 percent complete.
Is it fair to say No More Heroes III is your biggest game to date?
We’ve made games with bigger budgets before, that's for sure, so it won't be the biggest.
Can you confirm NMH3 will be taking the open-world approach of the original game? If so, what’s the scope of that open world?
It will definitely be a bigger open world than the original No More Heroes, but you have to remember that we’re a middle-class studio in terms of size. It takes a lot of skills, wisdom, and resources to make an open-world game, so it won't be as big as something you see from huge companies like Ubisoft or Rockstar.
How varied is the open world? Will we seeing more side activities than before?
It will have about the amount of side-missions you'd expect from a No More Heroes game, along with some other extras as well.
Hmmm, extras? Can you elaborate on that?
They'll be something...greater. Something different than your standard minigame.
Going back to the NMH3 reveal trailer, what’s up with that battle armor we see Travis don? Is that something we’ll actually be able to use in game or was it just something cool for the trailer?
I imagine that when people saw that trailer, they thought "Oh man, I really hope we get to play as Travis in that suit!" So, we’re doing our best to make that a reality. Of course, you need to be able to fight as Travis in his normal form, otherwise it'd be weird, so the suit transformation will only be available in certain special circumstances.
You’ve said NMH3 will make heavy use of motion controls, which have kind of gone out of style since the original games. Nintendo themselves barely seem interested in the Joy-Cons’ motion-sensing capabilities. How will you make motion controls cool again?
It will definitely have the motions you know from the series [the Beam Katana charge motion...you know the one...was done to illustrate], but the real challenge was figuring out how to best use the Switch hardware. There are some interesting new possibilities.
During your keynote, you said you were planning to bring a new trailer to the show, but, uh…didn’t. When might we finally see that trailer?
This year or early next year you'll see something more.
Your talk ended up being all about music, so in that spirit, what can we expect from the No More Heroes III soundtrack? Is it all original music? Will there be any licensed tracks?
The guy introduced during the talk, Nobuaki Kanko, he's going to be doing the whole soundtrack.
I’m sure you can’t provide super-specific details, but could you describe one of NMH3’s bosses using just three or four words?
Thanos. Venom. Joker.
You recently announced a new collaboration with Swery called Hotel Barcelona. It sounds like the project’s in its very early stages, but can you provide a general overview of what’s it about?
Basically, it's a side-scrolling horror game set in a hotel. Just a few hours ago, I actually had a meeting with Swery where we started to decide how the actual game loop is going to work.
How will Swery and yourself be dividing duties on the game?
At this stage, all we’ve done is got together several times and talked. So, we’ve yet to get to the stage where it’s been decided "I'll do this, and you'll do this." That's still to come.
Both Swery and yourself have some pretty big projects on your hands, so I assume it will be a while before we see Hotel Barcelona? Or is it already moving along?
The soonest you'll probably see it is in about two years, because we still have to officially pitch it to a publisher. We’re going to try to make a proper pitch – we’re very serious about this. But when you think about it, two years isn't that long for a game's full dev cycle.
Is it possible you and Swery will get drunk and forget the whole thing again?
[Laughs]. We really set some things in stone today, so it's happening!
Turning our sights from upcoming games to some of your classics, will we be seeing any more remakes like the one you did for The Silver Case? I really enjoyed that one.
One game I’d really like to remaster is Flower, Sun, and Rain.
In the spirit of your keynote, and given our beautiful surroundings here, what’s your favorite Canadian band or musician? Just know I’m Canadian and will be judging you.
[After a great deal of thought]. Bryan Adams.
You know what? I can support that answer. Thanks so much for your time!
No More Heroes III is slated to slice into the Nintendo Switch sometime in 2020.