[Inside the Mind of Suda Goichi] Long Interview, Part 3

Note: there are spoilers for the ending of Moonlight Syndrome.

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Suda Goichi's Declaration through the "Syndrome" Series

After Fire Pro Special was finished, the next was the "Syndrome" series.

Before that for about a half a year or so, there was a period where I was training the next generation, so to speak. Personally, I felt that with "Fire Pro Special" I had completed everything I wanted to do with pro wrestling and I was ready to graduate from that. So then we had "Super Fire Pro Wrestling Queens Special" for the Super Famicom. Debugging was scheduled as an afternoon and night shift system, I was responsible for the afternoon shift. While I was doing that, the company ordered me to work on a "Fire Pro" for PlayStation.

Which would later be released as "Iron Slam '96," right?

It was going to be the first time for Fire Pro to be in 3D so I thought, "Let's change up Fire Pro here." Up until then, Fire Pro had a diamond-shaped ring viewed from an upper angle, but we decided to make it a kind of side scroller that would play in a similar fashion.

That's a pretty drastic change of course.

Yeah. So, I wrote the proposal, but when I got to the site, the programmer vehemently opposed it. He was the first programmer I ever produced with, and he said "This is not how Fire Pro should be." Also, I found out that we could only make eight wrestlers, but we argued over which ones to choose. We had a huge fight at the meeting, and I had to drop out of that project. Well, it was because I was still young.

I see.

Metaphorically speaking, while we were making Fire Pro for PlayStation in one room, the "Twilight Syndrome" team was in a slightly different room next door. Originally the plan for "Twilight" was being set in motion by Human's sound team who wanted to make a horror game using the 3D acoustics that was released in arcades. However, the sound team wasn't able to come up with a good proposal, so the director of "Septentrion" was put in charge of the project.

I see. So that's why it has a screen layout and user interface similar to "Septentrion."

Right. Twilight is a creation completely based on his worldview. I was watching from the sidelines like "This looks like fun" and cheering him on. And then one day, I got a call from the section chief...... Good thing I had been kicked off the 3D Fire Pro team and was a rōnin on the staff. He said, "Twilight's schedule went to shit. At this rate we won't make it in time for launch day. Do something!"

At that point, about how much of the game was done?

The fundamental system was already set, but the scenario for the early stages onward had barely been written. But if we created a pipeline and let things flow down in order, it was doable. Of course, at that point they could never make the schedule on time, so we asked the company to split it in two parts: up the the midpoint of the story was "Search" and the rest went into "Investigation." I also held a survey to find out what kind of issues people were having and dealt with them. The latter half of the scenario was mostly untouched, so there were a lot of parts I had to revise on my own.

So in other words, it was a complete helper job.

Yeah. Still, it was a good learning experience. Twilight allowed me to concentrate solely on direction, and I was able to pull back and think about what the director should be doing. Direction is, after all, a job of making decisions. How to complete the project efficiently and on schedule. In order to achieve this, we have to make choices. It was a great project to learn these techniques.

And then you started work on "Moonlight Syndrome," the sequel to "Twilight." What is the position of this work in your mind?

It's hard to put it in words... I wanted to make a clear distinction between the two games. In essence, Twilight Syndrome is a game that deals with unnatural phenomena. After all, it is a story about ghosts. But to me, people are more terrifying, and I feel like the madness of living people is actually scarier. If I were to depict something scarier than ghosts, it would have to be people. I wanted to reconstruct my own idea of horror, and "Moonlight" was my attempt at finding a completely different form of horror.

I see. So in reality, the direction of the scenario changed completely...

Early on, I thought of killing off the three main characters of Twilight. I would give the girls proper atonement, and then end the series with my own interpretation. If I didn't do that, I felt like I wouldn't be able to move on to my next new work.

So in terms of depicting human karma, this work continues to show your awareness of issues that started from Fire Pro Special.

Hmm, how did it go? Looking back now, I think I wrote the scenario in a machine-like state. Words just came out unconsciously... I can't recall if I wrote it at the company or not, but I wrote while listening to music – and it was like the music entered my body, and at the same time my thoughts would spiral and the words would come out of me like bam! I guess in current terms you would say I got in the zone. I think that even now I write with very a similar feeling.

You created a methodology as a scenario writer. But what about the response? The fans' evaluation of the game must have been harsh, what with the protagonists dying.

Well, I was prepared for that part... How was it? With that development team, I feel I was able to accomplish what I wanted to. If Fire Pro Special was a work that served as my business card, Moonlight was a work that showed the craftsmanship I was aiming for, what I wanted to do going forward. I think that was one of my declarations. When we create something, not just video games, but anything, we do something that no one else has done before. I think it was that kind of declaration. Also, while we were in the middle of making Twilight, I decided to launch Grasshopper Manufacture...