Over this weekend, Goichi Suda (aka Suda51) was present at PAX West in Seattle to discuss and promote the remaster of his company’s first game, The Silver Case. After viewing his panel covering the game on Friday, we had a chance to meet up with him to, with the translation assistance of Active Gaming Media Editor-in-Chief James Mountain, discuss the game itself and the process of bringing it to the west for the first time.
Gamer Escape: For the purpose of our readers who might not know about this game, can you tell us a bit about what this game is, and maybe a bit of its history?
Suda51: It’s called Shirubā Jiken – in English it’s The Silver Case, and it’s the first game made by Grasshopper Manufacture and it originally came out in 1999.
Gamer Escape: So how long has this remaster and localization been in development and planning?
Suda51: Originally, as I said, the game came out in 1999 and it was only released for Japan at the beginning. I wanted to do an English release of the game for a really long time, especially being the debut game of Grasshopper Manufacture. Kind of wanted it to be our sort of flagship title, you know? But, unfortunately, localization proved to be too difficult for anyone to take care of and so, for years, it just kind of sat there. I was trying to find someone to take care of it, someone to localize it, port it and everything.
For about the last nine years or so I’ve really been trying to, somehow, get it released to the west, somehow get it ported to a system that most people would play on. Originally it was only for the first generation PlayStation, so nowadays it’s been hard to play on that hardware, ’cause a lot of people just don’t have it.
Last year, Active Gaming Media approached me and said “Hey, we’d like to help out with this remaster and localization, what do you think?!” So we got into talks, decided that the company, AGM, would be a good partner to do it with. From about March of this year, it began development and localization and everything and it just finished up recently.
Gamer Escape: Knowing that this was originally a console release, what prompted the decision to port the game to PC, rather than a modern console?
Suda51: Up ’til now, pretty much all of the Grasshopper Manufacture games have been based on consoles. When AGM and Playism, which is run by AGM, came to talk to me about porting it to PC, I thought about it and realized that recently there’s kind of an indie bloom going on. You come to places like PAX and see all these indie developers and they’re kind of smaller, with more compact games, as opposed to huge AAA titles, you know?
I thought about it and realized, well, back in 1999 when we first released this game, I was pretty much in the same type of position. Just starting up, an indie developer. Now, I work with veteran producers, veteran creators and developers and everything, but I kind of wanted to go back to the way it was when I first created this game. Kind of get back in that indie frame of mind and make something that could go up in a place like PAX with all these other awesome indie games with all these indie developers.
Putting it on PC would allow a whole new audience to play it. People who weren’t really into consoles, people who are more into PC games. Basically anyone with a relatively useable computer can use Steam and play the game, so deciding to port it to PC was mainly based on kind of like a nostalgic feeling; what it was like to be an indie developer myself. I wanted to go back and kind of reexperience that and, again, to also make it available for a whole new audience.
Gamer Escape: Knowing this style of game, along these same lines, is very popular on handheld consoles, was a handheld release something that was considered, or possibly considered for the future, depending on how well the PC release does here?
Suda51: Well, there aren’t any concrete plans right now. I do think this game would fit really well with tablets. Recently, even smartphones, screens are getting bigger and bigger…I, myself, am pretty far-sighted, so it’s kind of hard for me to read the text like that! I think it might be a really good experience for a lot of younger people with better eyes if I was able to put it on a tablet or smartphones! Again, while there aren’t any concrete plans right now, I would really like to port it to tablets and smartphones as well afterwards, possibly.
Gamer Escape: The Silver Case itself is a much different style of game than most American gamers are used to seeing from your studio. What kind of reaction are you anticipating upon the release of this remaster?
Suda51: Since it’s originally a game that came out in 1999, it is a slightly different style than most people, especially most younger gamers, are used to these days. It is a really original game in itself, so it’s kind of hard to gauge exactly what kind of reaction I will be getting. As far as what I’m hoping to get, basically, I want people to be honest in their opinions. If people play it and think it’s kind of boring, or think it’s garbage, I want people to say “OK, this is a boring game, this is garbage,” so I can learn from it and know what to do next time.
Conversely, if they think it’s awesome, I’d like to hear that it’s awesome! especially making a game like this, going back to my own indie phase. You know, when you’re first up-and-coming and you have people tell you your game is awesome, it kind of motivates you to do even better next time. I’m not sure exactly what sort of reaction I will get, but whatever it is, as long as it’s honest, and as many people as possible at least give the game a chance, I will be happy with that.
Gamer Escape: Along those lines – with much of what I’ve seen and experienced with the game, it seems to be very heavily a visual novel. That’s already a very niche genre here in the west. Did you, or do you, foresee any difficulties in marketing or selling a game that already has a narrow appeal right out of the gate?
Suda51: When I first decided to release the game, I was mostly just thinking, “OK, it’s our very first game. We want to get this out again, we want to give it to new audiences.” We were just really excited about that itself. It’s pretty much like you said. If you kind of calm down and think about it realistically, it is basically a very visual novel-element-heavy game. Like you said, it is a pretty niche market.
At the time, when we first made the game, these sort of text-based adventure games were really popular in Japan. We wanted to make something like that, but not something exactly the same as the old-school ones that were really popular at the time. We wanted to make sort of a new style of visual novel. A new style of text-based adventure game. We made [The Silver Case], and, again, this is the first time for it getting released in the west. To this day, there’s not really anything exactly like this game, in Japanese or western markets.
I’m hoping that, while the visual novel or text-based adventure market is somewhat niche, this game could maybe even usher in a new era of even more niche, more kind of original and unique text-based adventure games.
Gamer Escape: What can gamers who are more familiar with your more action-based works, like Killer7 or No More Heroes, expect to get from The Silver Case?
Suda51: All of the games I’ve made so far, they all have their individual stories. Some of them are more-or-less interconnected with others. The Silver Case is definitely not very much like most of the other games I’m more known for – not much action, it’s more very heavily text-based. There’s some kind of movement parts, there’s investigation parts, stuff like that. I like to think that one of the things my games are known for is the storylines.
So, with The Silver Case being the very first game that we put out as Grasshopper, I hope that the fans can come back and check out this game. Even if they’re really not into the whole not-a-lot-of-action part, I’d like them to see and feel with their own hands “This is where the whole Suda51 storyline started out.” This is where my storytelling origins are. I’d like them to go back and experience that and get a better idea of where I originally came from.
Gamer Escape: Do you have any plans or desires to return to a game of this style, of The Silver Case, for any future releases from Grasshopper?
Suda51: As far as the next step goes, most people don’t know about it, but The Silver Case actually had a sequel way back in the day. There’s not an official English title, but it’s something along the lines of The 25th Ward. While The Silver Case was available for the first generation PlayStation, The 25th Ward was actually only available for a really, really limited audience at the time. It came out before smartphones were even a thing; it was only available on certain mobile carriers for old-school flip phones in Japan. So even though it was available, there were very few people that were ever actually able to play it. Nowadays, there’s not even an emulator for it, so it’s really become like a “phantom game.”
Especially if The Silver Case does even somewhat well and reaches even a somewhat live audience, as far as the next goes, I definitely want to go back and revisit The 25th Ward, the sequel, as well. Bring that out to PC, possibly other platforms too. There are people that not only overseas, but even in Japan, even if they played The Silver Case, have no idea that this other game even existed.
After that’s done, right now, I can’t give exact details, but I have about ten other projects currently in other stages of development. Once I, somehow, manage to push through all ten of those projects, then, if possible, I’d definitely like to go back again and revisit the same sort of style and genre. Maybe try starting something from scratch again, too.
Gamer Escape: I heard you talk a little bit about The 25th Ward in your panel. Along those lines, of the desire to remaster that and possibly bring that over as well, I know your company also has a few other titles that still remain Japan-exclusive. Has there been any desire or talk about possibly localizing any of those?
Suda51: There are a few titles from back in the day that haven’t received official US releases. At the moment, mostly titles that I definitely wanted to bring to not just Japan, but the rest of the world…which I guess are most of the bigger titles…have all been released overseas. While I might like to go back in the future sometime and look over things again, see if there’s anything that might be worth bringing out to other audiences, at the moment, I don’t have any plans or specific wishes to go back and revisit any of the ones that haven’t seen a non-Japan release yet.
Gamer Escape: Is there anything else you would like to say to our audience about the upcoming release?
Suda51: The game should be going on sale sometime next month. Basically, I’d like as many people to play it as possible. I would also like as many people to buy it as soon as possible, before it goes on sale! If you have to wait until it goes on sale, that’s totally fine too! As long as I can get as many people to play it and experience it, that’s great with me! I want as many as possible to check it out and tell me what you think.