Picture running through the pube-infested corridors of Hell with a chatty shotgun as your companion. Now, imagine defeating hordes of zombies with stylish pompom attacks while your boyfriend’s severed head cheers you on.
Welcome to the world of Goichi Suda.
Better known by his nickname Suda51, the CEO of Grasshopper Manufacture is no stranger to the undead. His latest creation Lollipop Chainsaw stars Juliet, an American high school cheerleader, who mixes agile gymnastics with her talent for wielding chainsaws to fend off against her town’s sudden outbreak of zombies. When I asked Suda if he enjoyed making zombie games, he smiled and answered with a resounding “Yeah!”
As I played through the game’s demo, I couldn’t help but get reminded of Shadows of the Damned, a survival-horror title Suda worked on last year that managed to be more funny than scary. Suda told me that while the monsters in Damned were zombie-like, the ones seen in Chainsaw are the real deal.
A lot of his inspiration behind Chainsaw’s concept came from movies. Suda has always liked American horror and comedy films that are set during high school. Being a fan of zombie films in general, he one day fused these two genres in his head, and the game was born. Suda also incorporated depictions of zombies from around the world and from different time periods to give players more variety.
In the game, Juliet can stun zombies with her pompoms and then slice through them with her powerful chainsaw. You can do fancy backflips as you’re attacking, and if you manage to kill three zombies in a row, you’ll start a flashy combo complete with glitter and confetti. Also, not only do you have Juliet’s boyfriend’s head by your hip, but you can also use him to attack zombies, even placing his head on the ones you decapitate to make them dance via a surprisingly fun rhythm game. I could definitely sense that familiar Suda humor among all the blood and gore.
As I made my way through the game, I noticed the music change when I entered into battle with one of the mini-bosses. The high school level I played may have showcased rock music, but the game’s soundtrack will be very eclectic. The various zombie lords Juliet will face are inspired by different music genres. Video game composer Akira Yamaoka knows his stuff, Suda told me, so he’s once again in charge of the game’s score, this time collaborating with singer and composer Jimmy Urine. Their collaboration was great, and Suda can’t wait for fans to experience it.
At PAX East I also got to sample the bizarre, but enjoyable, Black Knight Sword, another game of his coming out soon for Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network. This would be the third game, the first being Sine Mora, that Grasshopper Manufacture has made available in a downloadable format. Suda told me that downloadable games are something his company likes doing and hopes to do more often.
Before ending our interview, I just had to ask Suda how he comes up with such interesting (to say the least) video games. Other Japanese game designers like Shigeru Miyamoto have drawn inspiration from their hobbies, but I learned that Suda gets most of his ideas while he’s driving around town. The passing scenery and people help him blend together all his thoughts and ideas.
Suda is aware that our society loves zombies, whether they be on television, movies, or in games. Lollipop Chainsaw is another game that will feed our hunger for the undead in a way we perhaps haven’t experienced before, this time allowing us to cheer and dance with them as we fight for our lives.
Lollipop Chainsaw hits stores June 12.