Summer of Suda: Interview with Grasshopper Manufacture’s Masashi Ooka

Goichi Suda, better known as Suda51, has undoubtedly contributed some of the most imaginative video games in the history of the medium. Whether it’s the cerebral thrills of Killer7 or the over-the-top action of No More Heroes, Suda51 has brought the arthouse to games. Although he’s been working for nearly twenty-five years, Suda51 is showing no signs of slowing down and is remastering the classic The Silver Case for release this fall. In celebration of this release, we’ve decided to curate a limited run series dubbed “Summer of Suda,” which will take a look back of some of his most memorable games, evaluating what they contributed at the time of their release and how history looks back at them today. Keep an eye out for exclusive interviews with some of the auteur’s most famed collaborators like Takashi Miyamoto, Masashi Ooka and of course Suda51 himself as they reveal never-before-seen behind-the-scenes info as the series progresses this summer.

With the recent release of The Silver Case on Steam and Playism, many gamers are getting their first glimpse of Suda51’s early work. Back then, the Grasshopper Manufacture team were getting their feet wet with gaming before moving onto such esteemed titles as Killer7 and No More Heroes. Masashi Ooka was there at the time, working as a writer on games such as The Silver Case. Here’s what Ooka had to share about writing for video games, and more about The Silver Case itself.

thesilvercase4

[Hardcore Gamer] How did you get involved in writing for video games? Were you writing for TV, books, or anything else prior to joining Grasshopper Manufacture?

[Masashi Ooka] I wrote a strategy guide of Suda’s “Moonlight Syndrome”, called “Moonlight Syndrome Truth File” in 1997. It is more like a fan fiction of the game rather than an actual strategy guide. In this book, a journalist investigates the cases happening in the game and writes the reports about them. The original idea came from my editor. Suda read that and called me, asking if I wanted to work on the scenario for “The Silver Case”, which was his new game at that time; this was how I started writing for video games.

Before working with GhM, I’d been and am still working as a freelance writer. As for video games, I didn’t do anything other than GhM related jobs. I seldom worked for game strategy guides but writing articles or books was my main job.

What fiction/nonfiction writing or stories inspired you to become a writer?

If I limit it to “The Silver Case”, I think Haruki Murakami and Ryu Murakami inspired me since I was reading their books a lot at that time (not so much these days though…). I tried to create an air of hardboiled novels like Raymond Chandler. The first thing I decided to write in the Placebo part was “Let’s just try to make a 100% hardboiled story”. Other than that, “Virtua Fighter” was my biggest hit back then.

Was writing for The Silver Case the first time you had worked on a video game before?

Yeah, it was my debut into the game industry. I didn’t even know the proper way to write a game scenario. I was constantly checking Suda’s scenario to learn and imitate it.

thesilvercase5

What was it like putting a different perspective on The Silver Case’s storyline by focusing on a writer investigating the case?

I’m a writer to begin with, so it’s not so hard to write something in the viewpoint of a journalist. However, when I try to supplement or view the story from a different perspective, it’s a different story. The original plan for Placebo was much simpler it was just a bunch of diary entries written by Morishima. Then the scenario gradually changed to add more stories or background to Placebo. Thinking back on it, it was easier for me to write the scenario as stories rather than sets of diary entries.

Is there anything that you wish you had done differently when working on The Silver Case? What about your work on Flower, Sun, and Rain?

I’m just trying not to read the Placebo again since I’m sure there are lots of “I should’ve done this or that.” It makes me sweat lol. It’s like a grownup child who is already independent (and I couldn’t bring him up properly…). It’s the same for “Flower, Sun and Rain”. It is true that I feel like I couldn’t do my best, but at the same time it is too late to do something about that. If I have a chance to do something new, this time I’ll do my best as a challenge.

Has any of the storyline been modified or updated now with the upcoming The Silver Case release on PC?

I heard that we might add a small scenario, but I still don’t know the details lol.

Do you wish that the characters of The Silver Case could have had a bigger role in Grasshopper Manufacture games in the future?

Mmm, not really. But well, I should say my favorite character in Placebo is Yu.

How do you feel knowing that The Silver Case will finally be experienced by English-speaking gamers years after its Japanese debut?

It’s deeply emotional. I wonder what foreign people will think about this game? What I want them to do is to skim through Placebo lol.

  • Arale

    Ooka’s other Grasshopper work includes the Jaco Report in the book Hand in killer7, as well as contributions to Samurai Champloo: Sidetracked (though I don’t know to which story or chapter.)

    I’m glad we got to hear from him. I’m always interested in the other people who’ve worked at GhM…