Spring 2001 interview with Suda Goichi about his newly released game — Flower, Sun, and Rain for GPara, unearthed by infernalgrape. Thank you for the commission!
“I killed all my previous works once when Flower, Sun, and Rain was released, so I’d be really happy if I were somehow able to put them all in order.”
Thus sounded the proposal of Suda Goichi of Grasshopper Manufacture, the developer of Flower, Sun, and Rain, barely two weeks after the game’s release.
“Killing the past” is a message that has appeared countless times in Suda’s works, but also his own policy. In Suda’s words, “I want to create games where you look towards the future without clinging to the past”. He also knows well that in order to kill the past, one needs to face it head-on.
To be honest, Flower, Sun, and Rain has received both positive and negative reviews from players. In order to “kill the past”, Suda has dealt with all the reactions that appeared after the game’s release, and in response shall talk about them in this interview GPara has prepared as fast as possible.
GPara’s questions for Suda
- Flower, Sun, and Rain? Negative feedback and answers;
- Reactions after Flower, Sun, and Rain’s release;
- Future Suda games and a message.
Flower, Sun, and Rain? Negative feedback and answers;
Flower, Sun, and Rain received both positive and negative reactions and even though there were enthusiastic people reacting positively, there was also completely negative feedback. On bulletin boards, Suda consistently thanks players for their reviews, but in this interview I have decided to tackle the problem of the “noes”. Are you ready?
SUDA: Please be gentle.
Q1. Well then, let us start with the graphics and the game platform.
There were voices complaining about the mediocre graphics, about being constantly on the move, asking why the game was released on the PS2, or saying that it gets boring if all you do is move around. Were the graphics and system chosen on purpose? What other options were there while making the game?
In other words, was everything done on purpose even though Grasshopper had the possibility to showcase beautiful graphics and a flawless system or was it actually because that was the limit of your technological abilities? Or was there perhaps not enough time?
I have already mentioned this in the fanbook, but I created the general image when I decided on Paradise as a setting.
For example, there were ways to turn the character designer’s art into faithful 3D reproductions, but in the beginning I had doubts whether making them realistic was the best choice.
Each game has its own artistic direction, and making everything look beautiful is not GHM’s style. When it comes to the visual presentation it’s natural to aim for modelling and composition with new designs and flavours for each game. As a result, we ended up with unique models.
The staff in charge with the models also had quite some trouble with the fierce competition of the PS2 age. The moment where the models and backgrounds were displayed, they were certain the models they had chosen were the best option, including the compatibility between the two.
The quantity of movement is seen as a problem of filling in empty spaces. The space in the game is a fictional world, but I certainly wanted to have the players spend some time in Paradise. I figured that strolling through Paradise would need calm sounds and a comfortable setting, but nothing more than that. As long as you have the power of sounds and images there will be no need to fill in those empty spaces. Regarding the sounds in particular, the sound team went to Phuket (Thailand) to record live sounds, like the chirping of birds or the sound of waves. Those would not just end from movement to movement, but would become an important factor in creating the environment. In other words, I created the amount of movement that ties action to action as a stroll in Paradise.
As for the system, it was basically simplified so the people who do own a PS2, but don’t really use it because they’re too busy or the games are too difficult, would be able to play the game with no problem.
Technological abilities? Hmmm, what a charming question. Taken to the extreme, it would mean it is because that’s how it’s reflected in the players’ eyes. Saying the developers are skilled would be unpleasant and being told their skills are low would be rude to the staff. The main reason they’re rated so poorly is that even though they do a fine thing, I ask them for things where technique cannot be seen with the naked eye. Everyone from the staff is always on the losing side.
Q2. “I made this game as if I was filming a movie”. What can you tell us about such a daring quote written on the back of the package? Does it belong to you or to JVC?
It seems to me that when one thinks about a movie-like game, what generally comes to the minds of most players are the extremely beautiful graphics of Final Fantasy and the like.
That blurb? It showed up on the back of the cover jacket before I knew it (laughs). I didn’t even say such a thing…(laughs). Ah well, I make games because I have a complex about movies and if I were to say, I think games are superior to movies anyway.
Q3. Now, about the story.
The latter half is heavily influenced by the previous game, The Silver Case. Why did you create this kind of story?
You felt that the story concluded in Flower, Sun and Rain, but what if it didn’t? Was there any plan to approach the ending as a stand-alone story? Or perhaps, the story could only be related to Silver, or better said, Moonlight Syndrome?
I had a public commitment with ASCII CORPORATION related to The Silver Case. Leaving Moonlight aside, the plot of The Silver Case was too expansive, it couldn’t be completed that easily. There’s a short personal record in the game’s pamphlet, but it will still continue in various forms.
The link with Moonlight are various cast cameos.
If there’s a demand for an independent story, then I’m available at any time. Also, I’ll be able to make it as long as there’s a story on the way.
Q4. Were there any disagreements within the company while working on the game’s presentation, system or story?
There were and weren’t.
Our environment has nothing to do with intense ideology disputes, like you would see in a creative spot. The place for creating games is suitably plain and time is spent slowly and leisurely.
Reactions after Flower, Sun and Rain’s release
Next, I will ask about the reactions that followed the game’s release, and we will see what Suda himself has felt.
Q5. The negative opinions posted on bulletin boards I mentioned in the previous section have most likely reached your ears as well. What do you honestly think when you see this kind of opinion? Do you ever feel down and think ‘Shucks…now I’ve done it’?
I react with sincerity to all the opinions of the buyers, as I expressed on our company’s bulletin board.
It’s impossible to feel down, since I don’t think there’s any meaning in feeling down because of whatever someone said. For and against impressions are something natural.
I wouldn’t like to prioritise, but I want to place the most importance on the survey cards.
In the times of Super Famicom you could only find out opinions and impressions thanks to these cards. I straighten up and read them all, including the ones with actual signed names. Not to mention the fact that some even have stamps glued on them; it simply feels different.
Q6. I think there were mistaken views about the details of past works and game making or environment, so you must have felt irritated and frustrated.
What did you consider painful or regrettable among all those messages?
There are many inquiries for our company as well, but the questions are related to details of the Twilight series.
In this industry there are many people with achievements, and they themselves can clearly talk about the true details behind their work; there are, however, many reports that distort the truth and change it according to circumstances.
The Twilight series is particularly complicated, with both positive and negative reviews, and GHM was also used depending on circumstances, but the scale was too small, so it was worthless.
The frustrating part is that the transfer of Flower from ASCII to Victor has been written as a joke; it broke my heart and can’t help but I wonder where all that speculation is coming from.
Q7. I would like you to tell me how you felt when you created your games, about the details and background.
I would like you to start with Twilight before getting to Moonlight.
Twilight was basically a big gathering where I was able to get to know most of the GHM staff.
The game scene is generally heavy, but you can’t understand Twilight’s heaviness unless you are someone who worked on it. This is not something physical. It’s impossible to put into words, you know. It’s like there was something that tied us by working together.
I’m thinking we should have a reunion in Kichijouji one of these days.
Q8. Now about Moonlight.
The entire staff of Twilight was replaced, so there were a lot of efforts to establish work relationships. That’s my impression of Moonlight.
The company’s requests were extremely difficult, so that in itself was really distressing. I figured we should give shape to the fear and madness experienced back then.
The Kobe child murders had taken place just before the development deadline, and the setting and other parts were influenced much more than expected, so the public opinion, morals, presentation were factors that put a lot of tension on us every day. Due to mass-media’s reaction to the Kobe child murders, the game fell under strict regulation before release. I felt resentment towards this at the time, but now I’m thinking it was a good thing…not.
Q9. And from independence to The Silver Case. What made you choose this way?
My bonuses were reduced, so I got annoyed and simply decided to go independent (laughs).
I was starved for my own original style, and I figured I wouldn’t be able to achieve it there. Well, there’s actually a deeper motive, but, basically, I flipped out.
I was in a dilemma myself, and my determination to make games in my own style as quickly as possible and ASCII’s needs coincided, so we clicked immediately.
I was pretty clear when it came to how honest The Silver Case was going to be.
At the time of the release, I honestly thought there must have been a grudge against me or something, since so many similar games were also launched. I was wondering if there was something more than that. Releasing five adventure games in one month was such a waste.
There was this sort of one-on-one fight with Kouno Hifumi’s (whom I might as well call my comrade in arms) Zoku Mikagura Shoujo Tanteidan, and it’s frustrating that I wasn’t able to win against him.
Future Suda games and a message
Q10. Do you make games in order to satisfy any personal desires? Also, why did you choose the video game medium in order to fulfil that something inside you? Is there something about them that is overwhelmingly more charming than in other mediums?
When I create games and the like, my dissatisfaction only keeps growing. No matter how much you create, there’s still something missing, and saying it makes you feel fulfilled is a lie. I am telling young people with a future that having aspirations or hope is useless, but I believe the highest entertainment can only be found in games, and the fact that they have that kind of job does fulfil ‘something’.
Our generation has experienced the brilliant glimmer of the genesis of video games, and can feel their tremendous potential. The longing for video games has developed strangely, and we blindly throw ourselves in the world of video games. I would like to make everyone playing video games experience that glimmer. That is, I feel that the power of video games lies not in the evolution of visuals, but in the beauty of the luminescence of the pixels, and in that primeval charm of an extraordinary romance.*
Q11. We have talked before how you always think about the future form of your games (‘Fight the future’), but how do you see the future form of all video games?
The keyword is online, but people will get bored of it, no matter how interesting something is. Sooner or later, they will question the raison d’être of this connection, and from there, when it evolves into another future type of online system, they will really be connected to the game. If the technological change in development means a rush towards the future, this industry will undoubtedly come to ruin, and if we will not give up on our complexes, it will end with second-rate media.
I’ve got all these complicated thoughts, but to put it simply, if the future types of video games are able to find a place in the life of the customer, they will endure. This rule only applies to video game consoles for now, but if suitable rules show up, I feel that we will face the future.
Q12. What will your future work be like?
I’m not writing a tale. I’m also sure it will not be an adventure game. It will be a change of direction.
Q13. And now at the end, a few words for your fans, please. I would also like to hear a few words for your detractors.
I still don’t have a real feeling of fans or detractors, and I feel that recognition itself is presumptuous. I am aiming for the day when I will be able to stick out my chest and say ‘my fans’ or ‘my detractors’.
I am working hard on my game romance so I can announce my new work to everyone, since our mission is to make games in a time span as short as possible.
This was a long interview, but I would like to thank you for spending your time with me. I have taken up your time, so thank you very much once again.
*romance as in epic tale