The future according to Suda51

24 Jan

Up until now, Goichi Suda, aka Suda51, has been making games for the future.

Flower, Sun and Rain relayed a nonsense plot to American gamers last year through the use of boring, number-related riddles. It also dared them to question the very reason they play games with its characters’ long-winded, often self-referential soliloquies.

Metacritic: 54

Killer7 treated its audience to an ultra-violent, ultra-confusing tale of multiple personalities centered around infinitely respawning, suicidal, invisible zombies. It also united gameplay and plot by allowing players to guide themselves along a critically misunderstood rail system.

Metacritic: 74

No More Heroes exposed players to an open, yet barren Grand Theft Auto-inspired world of sexual innuendo and mindless violence. It also showed players that it’s okay to not have fun in a video game through its use of mundane but satirical mini-games and side-missions.

Metacritic: 83

Let’s be honest: Suda51’s games are not fun. They’re hardly even games in the traditional sense. They are, however, where games should be going.

Debate over whether or not video games are art aside, it’s obvious the medium has a unique potential to provide its audience with experiences that can’t be found anywhere else. The resolutions to each of Suda’s three titles deemed “good” enough to make it to America leave the player with mixed emotions. They’re not emotions regarding whether or not the game was good or long enough to justify our purchase, but emotions that make us wonder about life and the medium of video games itself.

We don’t go into serious movies, critically acclaimed for their acting or themes or messages about society, to be merely entertained. We go watch these movies to be moved, or intrigued, or impressed. Unfortunately our preferred medium has the word “games” in its name, and no one wants to play a boring game.

Suda’s titles cling to some gameplay traditions, but they fail to entertain. Flower, Sun and Rain has the player searching a guide book for answers to cryptically worded puzzles, but it’s so traditionally boring to play and ugly to watch. Killer7 allows players to fire guns at glowing weak points and build stats to earn new abilities, but players are restricted to rails and are punished for backtracking by an endless horde of invisible enemies trying to blow them up. No More Heroes forces players to explore a bland, empty world and repeat mindless fights, which consist of little more than button-mashing, in order to reach mindless boss fights, which consist of little more than button-mashing.

These games aren’t fun, but Suda is obviously getting better with each new release according to Metacritic; “better” meaning giving in to modern gameplay trends. Suda’s titles have inspired cult followings that struggle to express why it is they love his creations, but it should be obvious after experiencing each one that they offer something unique that we can only hope future releases can replicate more frequently and efficiently.

Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be crazy to assume this week’s No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle will clearly mark the point that Suda’s knack for bizarre, existential games begins to diminish. Don’t be surprised when the game ends up with a Metacritic average in the high 80s.

Sure, it’ll be great to have a new and enjoyable reason to turn on the Wii again, but if Suda pulls out on making games that really make you think, who will pick up where he leaves off?


4 Responses to “The future according to Suda51”

  1. Shaunathan January 29, 2010 at 11:39 PM #

    Just like I said over at the Brainy Gamer, you hit the nail right on the head. The characters and storyline are interesting but the gameplay is abysmal. It’s strange to see a company like Bioware address just about every issue with great effort between Mass effect 1 and 2 and succeed almost entirely. But how does Suda keep making games like this? More importanly, why do we let him? In other words why do people buy his games?

    I think that leads to two major types. First are people who love fighting in games, no matter how awful, tiring, and tedious it is. The second group are people who enjoying that a game takes itself so lightly, pointing out cliches and such.

    Its frustrating to see that this man is still in charge of gameplay when it hasn’t really improved. His talents for writing (though bizarre) are refreshing, satirical, and humorous. I think we all need to be willing to accept and understand where our true gifts are.

    Another example is Hideo Kojima. Over at Kotaku the other day they had an article where he sort of brags that he makes up the entire story. But is that something to brag about? Sure the characters are amazing and standout against the general fare but the storyline is overly complicated and wonky at best. But he’s to a place where his artistic choices are not questioned, which in turn lead to a game with more cutscenes than there were gameplay.

    There’s several questions I want to propose as I haven’t been able to strike up a dialogue at the Brainy Gamer.

    1. Is this just a problem in Japan? If not, what are some examples of game creators elsewhere?

    2. Now this puzzles me the most. Why do we care about a character (like Travis Touchdown) when there’s nothing redeeming about him. As far as I can tell there’s no pathos within either game and yet its so amusing. Is it amusing because there’s no point to it? I don’t want to make the comparison of Tarantino and Suda because Tarantino still gives his characters purpose and pathos. If you’ve ever seen the anime Hellsing in Japan (again is this a Japan thing?) the character has no redeeming qualities, is a psychopath, can’t be killed, etc. By all writing reasons I would not think this character would make a good story but it does. Why?

    • chasmang January 30, 2010 at 3:38 AM #

      I suppose it was inevitable for us to be disappointed in a Suda sequel. His games have thrived entirely upon their originality, but a sequel takes that originality and turns it into a formula. It just doesn’t suite Suda. The fact that the game is just plain un-fun makes it far worse.

      As for Travis, I like him because there aren’t many heroes like that. I can’t stand the typical “I fight for good and that’s that” kind of characters. Travis is terribly flawed, but he’s also compassionate and complicated. He’s not as simple as he first appears to be, and that’s something refreshing that more games need.

      • Shaunathan January 30, 2010 at 4:03 AM #

        While I understand enjoying Travis as not the normal sort of hero, but how is he compassionate or complicated?

        I first have to admit that I’ve only finished the first game, not the second all the way through but so far it seems his motives are purely selfish (besides avenging his friend in the 2nd). A log of his dialogue seems to contradict itself (which isn’t necessarily bad). He doesn’t care but he still wants to win.

        I dunno, perhaps I have to finish the sequel because the first didn’t offer much besides strange characters (the singing guy at the baseball stadium being my favorite).

        It was also refreshing for the boobox boss to have an irish accent instead of just making him ghetto. Suda really needs to tackle anime because he could do great things as long as gameplay isn’t attached to it.

  2. chasmang January 30, 2010 at 8:02 AM #

    Several times throughout the first game, Travis wants to spare his enemies. Other times, he ruthlessly dispatches them after delivering a cheesy one-liner. Even his goal is out of the ordinary as far as video games go. He’s trying to get laid. When he finally encounters each of his enemies, he gets all cheesy and waxes poetic with the other psychopaths.

    Video games are so full abused stereotypes that any deviation from the norm is a breath of fresh air. I may not be able to pin down exactly why I find Travis to be a good character, but I know I like him, and I know it has something to do with how I’ve never met anyone like him before.

    And yes, Suda should either get into film or just never make a sequel to anything ever again.

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