Grasshopper Manufacture's detective adventure The Silver Case only debuted in America last year, but it's a game with a lot of history behind it. When Goichi Suda (aka Suda51) left Human Entertainment to establish Grasshopper in 1998, The Silver Case was his studio's very first production.
Nearly a decade later, The Silver Case received a sequel in the form of an episodic mobile game series released over the space of two years. Originally titled The Silver Case: Ward 25, the obscure i-mode follow-up is being reworked for modern platforms under the title The 25th Ward — presumably due to the success of The Silver Case. I spoke to Suda about his plans for the game, and for further details on a title that until now has been trapped in obsolete Japanese mobile formats.
USgamer: Your project announcement for BitSummit is a Steam announcement for your sequel to The Silver Case, correct?
Goichi Suda: Well, we won't be talking about specific platforms today. But "The 25th Ward" is the working title for our new game. It's not a remake [of the mobile title] but more of a remaster.
USG: In your view, how do you differentiate between "remake" and "remaster"?
S51: A remake would be simply changing the look of the game, updating the graphics to make it look modern. A remaster changes it, so it feels like a new game when you go back to it. In English, I guess it might be a little harder to differentiate!
USG: I think everyone defines the terms a little differently, in my experience.
S51: Yeah, yeah. "Remaster" to me just feels newer.
USG: What can you tell me about the original version of the game? I'm familiar with The Silver Case, but not The 25th Ward.
S51: This story takes place six years after the first game. The Silver Case was set in 2005, this takes place in 2011. The original game included 24 locations, and this is the 25th. There will be new crimes that the police will then investigate. This time there will be two protagonists, two new characters: Kuro Yanagi and Shiro Yabu — their names mean Black Willow and White... hmm, it's some sort of shrub, but I'm not sure what the English word for it is. This male/female duo will be investigating the crimes that take place.
In the first game there were two simultaneous plot lines. This game will add a third layer to the story.
USG: So their storylines take place in parallel?
S51: They're going to be separate, but sometimes they'll cross and interact.
USG: Can you choose which character's story you'll follow at any time, or do you have to follow one from start to finish?
S51: Once you complete the beginning of the story, you'll be allowed to freely select which character you want to progress. Once you clear the main story, you'll be able to jump back and see events from the other perspective.
USG: The Silver Case was in a lot of ways a traditional adventure novel game. Will that be true for this sequel as well?
S51: Because the protagonists are detectives, it is going to have the same feel. I think perhaps you'll find the new one will be a little bit darker, a little more intense than its predecessor. Like how No More Heroes 2 was darker than the original — that's kind of the influence here.
USG: When I think of the style of game, the interface strikes me as somewhat old-fashioned. But I know you like to create fresh, surprising experiences. How are you bringing that philosophy to The 25th Ward?
S51: You're absolutely right — I don't want anyone playing this to think, "Oh, I've played this before." The feeling will be different from The Silver Case, and the staff is hard at work on coming up with interesting new ideas. With The Silver Case, there was a very old-school flow of story-puzzle-story. I can't comment exactly yet on what it's going to be, but I'm thinking hard about new ways to play, to change the structure and keep it feeling new.
USG: I know BitSummit is mostly focused on Japan, but are you planning to localize this? The Silver Case took a long time to come west...
S51: Yeah, I definitely want to see it go abroad. We have a lot of experience now that we've done the international release for The Silver Case, and we have our translators on our team, so I have a lot of confidence that this is going to make that transition soon.
USG: The graphic novel/adventure style genre has never really caught on in the west like they did in Japan. Do you think there's anything about The 25th Ward that might help change that?
S51: I want this game to have a lot of appeal through its art and its characters, and I feel that it will resonate with many different audiences. With The Silver Case, the detectives in that story felt very Japanese in nature. They had a feel to them that would only be familiar to a Japanese audience. I'm working to create these new characters in a way that they're more global, so they have appeal for a foreign audience as well — more understandable to a broader audience.
USG: Are you consulting with people from other countries or simply trusting your own understanding and experiences?
S51: It's not that I'm specifically speaking to people, but I've been absorbing a lot of foreign police procedural dramas! I feel like I'm gaining a lot of influence from that.