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Your Friend and Mine, Garcia Effin' Hotspur

Shadows of the Damned didn't sell very well, but who cares? Suda 51 and Akira Yamaoka talk about making this summer's biggest surprise.

There are very few good playing, genuinely funny video games. Shadows of the Damned is one of them.

It should have been a home run.

Shadows of the Damned sold just 24,000 copies in North America when it was released in June. It doesn't matter how many copies it has or hasn't sold since; it's a tragedy when a trio of gaming's most creative minds out of Japan produce something terrific and the game fails to bring anyone out.

Shadows may have started as horror, but it ended up more Sam Raimi than Wes Craven.

As the story often tragically goes, the collaboration between No More Heroes designer Suda 51, Resident Evil 4 mastermind Shinji Mikami and Silent Hill composer Akira Yamaoka was widely praised by critics. Electronic Arts did little to market the game, dooming it to word of mouth.

"I'm not satisfied with the sales," said Yamaoka in a recent email. "I'm proud of the project, so I'd like for a lot more people to play it."

You and me both, Yamaoka-san.

The project that eventually become Shadows of the Damned was announced in August 2008 at EA's annual summer event. Suda 51 and Mikami were both in attendance (Yamaoka was still working at Konami) to announce a collaboration with EA Partners for a horror game both of them would be working on. At the time, the game was even intended to be released on Wii. Obviously, that never happened.

EA, Epic Games and People Can Fly announced its partnership at the same event. Bulletstorm was released this past February.

Shadows of the Damned changed shape from when Suda 51 and Mikami conceived it while making Killer 7 at Capcom, and again over the course of development. Mikami and Suda 51 were aiming at Western audiences from the start, and signing with EA was seen as a way to reach that goal.

"Well, one of the reason for the, and I don’t know if I would call it restrained, but one of the reasons is our partnership with EA," Suda told me over email. "As a publisher, EA has been involved with Damned since the planning stages and their feedback has been invaluable. Damned has changed significantly since the first game design documents were created. And both Grasshopper and EA had the American and European markets in mind when we decided to make the game. Of course, we never once thought that we wanted to make a game that didn’t resonate with our Japanese audience also."

Suda pointed towards the decision to move onto Unreal Engine 3 was one of the reasons Shadows of the Damned underwent one of its stylistic changes, long before the public would actually see it.

Yamaoka was not part of the game's entire development. He left Konami in December 2009, having been the face of the Silent Hill series for years. Shadows of the Damned debuted for the first time at Tokyo Game Show in September 2010, less than a year after Yamaoka showed up. Even though the project had changed several times before he came on, he didn't look back.

"My focus was on the game we were creating when I joined," he said.

Catherine was not the only Japanese video game to feature a scantily clad blonde.

Like so many other of Yamaoka's projects, it's impossible to discuss Shadows of the Damned without mentioning its music. Music feels like little more than a checkbox in most games, but as with Silent Hill, Yamaoka's contributions help define the game. Shadows of the Damned is hardly a scary game, with a style heavily influenced by Sam Raimi's Evil Dead, but Yamaoka changes the game's mood on a dime, invoked by a eerie, shifting combination of music and sound effects.

Yamaoka described his work on Shadows of the Damned as "ethnic."

The composer is a player, too, and is constantly picking up the controller for influence.

"I think I spend more time playing the games than working on the music," he said.

His old habits have continued at Grasshopper, too. At Konami, Yamaoka was known for composing music at his apartment, a tradition that continued when he started working on Shadows of the Damned.

Yamaoka described his relationship with Silent Hill's musical style as "one and the same."

"I don't feel as creative when I'm at the office," he said. "In my home I have a studio with all of my personal equipment and it's more familiar. To me, making music isn't an extraordinary special activity. It's just like anything else you do in your home from cooking, to sleeping, or just relaxing; making music is the same. Your house is the place you're most comfortable, so it's the best place for me to create."

Shadows of the Damned is not a perfect game, but it exemplifies some of the best, craziest parts of Japanese creativity, something that's been largely lost in the transition to this generation. This problem is a source of great angst, an issue former Capcom designer Keiji Inafune railed against on a regular basis, telling Japan to evolve or perish to irrelevancy.

When Shadows of the Damned did arrive in stores in June, the game had been reworked several times, based on back-and-forth feedback between Grasshopper and EA.

"I created the original concept for Shadows of the Damned and the light and dark gameplay," said Suda. "I think I’ve rewritten the scenario for Damned at least five times!"

However long it took was worth the wait, unlike something else.

Shadows of the Damned arrived just after the release of Duke Nukem Forever, an ugly affair in which Duke experienced an old fashioned critical bloodbath. Duke Nukem Forever forced a whole generation of gamers to question their nostalgia. Was Duke ever really funny? What was I laughing at the whole time? Oh god, has my life been based on a terrible lie?

Shadows of the Damned's dick jokes were...legitimately funny. Okay, the "taste my big boner" part went on about 10 minutes too long, but if you were scared about the death of the dick joke, worry not. It turns out Duke Nukem Forever was missing a key ingredient: actual humor. We also have the 8-4 localization production house, who worked on the game, to thank.

Unfortunately, Suda passed on the opportunity to talk about this critical split. It's unclear whether Suda just doesn't know who Duke Nukem is (definitely possible) or didn't want to comment (also possible).

Players have been quick to throw EA under the bus regarding Shadows of the Damned's poor showing. EA featured the eccentric shooter at its press events, but in terms of wide advertising, the game felt blindly dumped at the end of the company's quarter, right alongside Alice: Madness Returns.

Suda, however, remained positive about the relationship.

Grasshopper is showing no signs of backing off from its traditional brand of crazy with Lollipop.

"EA has given us feedback and support on many aspects of the project," he said. "There is a lot of mutual respect between EA and Grasshopper. Foremost in EA’s thinking was introducing Grasshopper to a global audience without losing the trademark style and attitude that has helped made us who we are today. We've been great partners."

It's unclear whether Grasshopper and EA will work together again. Warner Bros. will publish Lollipop Chainsaw, based on an idea from Suda and with music by Yamaoka. It sports a skirt-flashing cheerleader who moonlights as a zombie killer--and there's a head strapped to her gun.

Yep, sounds like a Grasshopper game.

Yamaoka said a Shadows of the Damned soundtrack will be available in early September.

The game will finally be released in Japan on September 22.

Thanks to the folks at 8-4 for making this happen. Listen to their podcast (mostly) about Japan, 8-4 Play, at http://www.8-4.jp.

Patrick Klepek on Google+
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Posted by patrickklepek
There are very few good playing, genuinely funny video games. Shadows of the Damned is one of them.

It should have been a home run.

Shadows of the Damned sold just 24,000 copies in North America when it was released in June. It doesn't matter how many copies it has or hasn't sold since; it's a tragedy when a trio of gaming's most creative minds out of Japan produce something terrific and the game fails to bring anyone out.

Shadows may have started as horror, but it ended up more Sam Raimi than Wes Craven.

As the story often tragically goes, the collaboration between No More Heroes designer Suda 51, Resident Evil 4 mastermind Shinji Mikami and Silent Hill composer Akira Yamaoka was widely praised by critics. Electronic Arts did little to market the game, dooming it to word of mouth.

"I'm not satisfied with the sales," said Yamaoka in a recent email. "I'm proud of the project, so I'd like for a lot more people to play it."

You and me both, Yamaoka-san.

The project that eventually become Shadows of the Damned was announced in August 2008 at EA's annual summer event. Suda 51 and Mikami were both in attendance (Yamaoka was still working at Konami) to announce a collaboration with EA Partners for a horror game both of them would be working on. At the time, the game was even intended to be released on Wii. Obviously, that never happened.

EA, Epic Games and People Can Fly announced its partnership at the same event. Bulletstorm was released this past February.

Shadows of the Damned changed shape from when Suda 51 and Mikami conceived it while making Killer 7 at Capcom, and again over the course of development. Mikami and Suda 51 were aiming at Western audiences from the start, and signing with EA was seen as a way to reach that goal.

"Well, one of the reason for the, and I don’t know if I would call it restrained, but one of the reasons is our partnership with EA," Suda told me over email. "As a publisher, EA has been involved with Damned since the planning stages and their feedback has been invaluable. Damned has changed significantly since the first game design documents were created. And both Grasshopper and EA had the American and European markets in mind when we decided to make the game. Of course, we never once thought that we wanted to make a game that didn’t resonate with our Japanese audience also."

Suda pointed towards the decision to move onto Unreal Engine 3 was one of the reasons Shadows of the Damned underwent one of its stylistic changes, long before the public would actually see it.

Yamaoka was not part of the game's entire development. He left Konami in December 2009, having been the face of the Silent Hill series for years. Shadows of the Damned debuted for the first time at Tokyo Game Show in September 2010, less than a year after Yamaoka showed up. Even though the project had changed several times before he came on, he didn't look back.

"My focus was on the game we were creating when I joined," he said.

Catherine was not the only Japanese video game to feature a scantily clad blonde.

Like so many other of Yamaoka's projects, it's impossible to discuss Shadows of the Damned without mentioning its music. Music feels like little more than a checkbox in most games, but as with Silent Hill, Yamaoka's contributions help define the game. Shadows of the Damned is hardly a scary game, with a style heavily influenced by Sam Raimi's Evil Dead, but Yamaoka changes the game's mood on a dime, invoked by a eerie, shifting combination of music and sound effects.

Yamaoka described his work on Shadows of the Damned as "ethnic."

The composer is a player, too, and is constantly picking up the controller for influence.

"I think I spend more time playing the games than working on the music," he said.

His old habits have continued at Grasshopper, too. At Konami, Yamaoka was known for composing music at his apartment, a tradition that continued when he started working on Shadows of the Damned.

Yamaoka described his relationship with Silent Hill's musical style as "one and the same."

"I don't feel as creative when I'm at the office," he said. "In my home I have a studio with all of my personal equipment and it's more familiar. To me, making music isn't an extraordinary special activity. It's just like anything else you do in your home from cooking, to sleeping, or just relaxing; making music is the same. Your house is the place you're most comfortable, so it's the best place for me to create."

Shadows of the Damned is not a perfect game, but it exemplifies some of the best, craziest parts of Japanese creativity, something that's been largely lost in the transition to this generation. This problem is a source of great angst, an issue former Capcom designer Keiji Inafune railed against on a regular basis, telling Japan to evolve or perish to irrelevancy.

When Shadows of the Damned did arrive in stores in June, the game had been reworked several times, based on back-and-forth feedback between Grasshopper and EA.

"I created the original concept for Shadows of the Damned and the light and dark gameplay," said Suda. "I think I’ve rewritten the scenario for Damned at least five times!"

However long it took was worth the wait, unlike something else.

Shadows of the Damned arrived just after the release of Duke Nukem Forever, an ugly affair in which Duke experienced an old fashioned critical bloodbath. Duke Nukem Forever forced a whole generation of gamers to question their nostalgia. Was Duke ever really funny? What was I laughing at the whole time? Oh god, has my life been based on a terrible lie?

Shadows of the Damned's dick jokes were...legitimately funny. Okay, the "taste my big boner" part went on about 10 minutes too long, but if you were scared about the death of the dick joke, worry not. It turns out Duke Nukem Forever was missing a key ingredient: actual humor. We also have the 8-4 localization production house, who worked on the game, to thank.

Unfortunately, Suda passed on the opportunity to talk about this critical split. It's unclear whether Suda just doesn't know who Duke Nukem is (definitely possible) or didn't want to comment (also possible).

Players have been quick to throw EA under the bus regarding Shadows of the Damned's poor showing. EA featured the eccentric shooter at its press events, but in terms of wide advertising, the game felt blindly dumped at the end of the company's quarter, right alongside Alice: Madness Returns.

Suda, however, remained positive about the relationship.

Grasshopper is showing no signs of backing off from its traditional brand of crazy with Lollipop.

"EA has given us feedback and support on many aspects of the project," he said. "There is a lot of mutual respect between EA and Grasshopper. Foremost in EA’s thinking was introducing Grasshopper to a global audience without losing the trademark style and attitude that has helped made us who we are today. We've been great partners."

It's unclear whether Grasshopper and EA will work together again. Warner Bros. will publish Lollipop Chainsaw, based on an idea from Suda and with music by Yamaoka. It sports a skirt-flashing cheerleader who moonlights as a zombie killer--and there's a head strapped to her gun.

Yep, sounds like a Grasshopper game.

Yamaoka said a Shadows of the Damned soundtrack will be available in early September.

The game will finally be released in Japan on September 22.

Thanks to the folks at 8-4 for making this happen. Listen to their podcast (mostly) about Japan, 8-4 Play, at http://www.8-4.jp.

Staff
Edited by Lyfeforce

Soundtrack!!! Yes!

Also... F'ING FINALLY!

Edited by Napalm
@Lyfeforce said:

.

Seriously? Absolutely pathetic. 
 
Great article, Patrick.
Posted by Swoxx

Meeeh is all I have to say about this. Well written though pat!

Posted by Qkey

I really hope one of those days suda discovers the wonders of indie games made on the cheap. Never really been a fan of the game parts of his projects.

Posted by StarvingGamer

Bought this a few days ago out of a sense of gamer-guilt, was well worth it. I can't wait to K-I-L-L kiiiiiiiiillllllll zombies!

Posted by sirdesmond

I love actual interviews like this and articles that aren't just the headlines or re-written press releases you get on most other gaming sites. Good stuff! This is why I come to Giant Bomb.

Posted by jkuc316

I have to admit..... I haven't gotten SotD. I'm still waiting for NMH: Heroes Paradise to FINALLY show up on my retail store

Posted by Bwast

I didn't find what I saw of Shadows of the Damned funny at all. It was a little sad, actually. A bunch of grown men giggling over a gun called boner. It just reeks of sexual frustration. That said, glad they're going to continue doing what they do. It's always interesting, that's for sure.

Posted by Tesla

Good to hear they will be releasing the soundtrack. While the game is very enjoyable and one of my favorites of the year, the soundtrack is one of my favorites OF ALL TIME!

Posted by 1p

Game is so awesome.

Edited by Hector

Such a shame it didn't do well when it's a great game!

Posted by WerewolfGuy

This blending of editorial and interview is pretty weird. I dont mind it being on the site, but if there is really going to be such an increase in editorials and opinion-pieces that are news posts rather than reviews, it really does seem like a good idea to reflect the split between news and editorial in the user interface of the site. A small icon by the title or something like that.

Posted by JackiJinx

"and there's a head strapped to her gun"
I believe you meant chainsaw.

I'm really not sure this article has convinced me to get this game as the only thing I see as incentives listed in this article are humor and Suda 51.

Posted by MicRas
@WerewolfGuy said:

This blending of editorial and interview is pretty weird. I dont mind it being on the site, but if there is really going to be such an increase in editorials and opinion-pieces that are news posts rather than reviews, it really does seem like a good idea to reflect the split between news and editorial in the user interface of the site. A small icon by the title or something like that.

Were thinking the exact same thing!
Posted by dyong

This game is such a gem, and ended with a cliffhanger. I hate to think that poor sales would mean that a sequel isn't going to be produced.

Posted by Vash108

I really enjoyed this game, I am hoping more people will pick it up.

Posted by Ghost_Cat

 "You house is the place you're most comfortable, so it's the best place for me to create." 
 
Your house?

Posted by thetenthdoctor

I keep waiting to buy this, since I know that the moment I do it's going to drop to $39.99 as a result of the poor sales.

Posted by DeadMonkeys

If Suda's games ever make it to the PC, I'll be more than happy to buy them. Until then, no dice.

Posted by Chiefslapaho

Just a few chapters into this game and its the tits so far. Really liking it.

Posted by Nekroskop

It's a damn shame to see how little it sold. I'm curious about the European numbers though.|

Posted by Elod
 @WerewolfGuy
Since when does giantbomb dump regurgitated press releases in the guise of "news" ? The editorial/opinion content are why gb is one of the Time 50 best sites of 2011.   
 
P.S. Your argument vis-à-vis news and editorials vs reviews is really weird... Every story posted on GB contains GB's editorializing style... 
Posted by Brendan

Although I don't necessarily agree with your sentiments regarding SotD as a "terrific" game from the little I've played, this is a great article, Patrick Fucking Klepek. Thanks.

Posted by Catarrhal

Well, Patrick, you recently described Mr. Suda's game design as being "dog shit," so maybe you should apologize.

Posted by CyleMoore

This game looks great, but since I don't have the means to buy it at it's current price I will buy it once it gets cheaper.

Posted by Yummylee

It's a crying shame that one of the most outlandish games released also has to pull in the least amount of revenue. I generally don't even think SoTD is all that great, either. I mean speaking as something with all those names attached it stands as a pretty substantial disappointment. It's a decent shooter on its own, though the severe lack of replay value, some sections that go on for a little too long (GODDAMN SIDE SCROLLERS) and humour that is a more of a hit-and-miss in spots, it stands as being kinda average. 
 
That of course goes without praising the dark and comical style, the parts where the game is genuinely laugh-out-loud hilarious, the voice acting, the pacing, the fun boss battles, which brings it back up as a largely flawed, but still memorably unique and stylistic shooter. It's a three star game for me, and honestly not something I'd wholeheartedly recommend for full price, but it still stands as something that deserved the attention just for the amount of attempted (and successful in a lot of cases) diversity it flaunts at every turn.

Online
Posted by Hizang

I love Shadows of the Damned, 4 stars!

Posted by nickux

I don't know what else I could have done except buy it, play it, and enjoy the hell out of it. I love all Suda games so it's no surprise. Though I must admit I am saddened and slightly annoyed that from now on EVERY story that mentions Shadows of the Damned will always include a line about "24,000 copies". Usually in the opening paragraph.

Posted by Monk

Kinda unclear who did this interview, it says 8-4 Play at the end but I would like to know more upfront who conducted the email interview. Make reference to the dudes at 8-4. They have a great podcast.

Good article, it does feel like it should be highlighted more. Colour code it on the main page or sumthing :)

Edited by Sagalla

Have to say this article is a really weird blend of interview, editorial and school report... "Shadows of the damned was widely praised by critics"... Really??  "There are very few good playing, genuinely funny video game... Shadows of the Damned is one of them"... Well, would you be saying that if you weren't trying too hard to make a story here, and possibly ingratiate yourself to the developers??  

I hope not because this game has nothing on the older Monkey Island games, truly some of  "the few good playing, genuinely funny games".  I personally thought Duke Nukem was funnier - I don't see how you can claim the opposite is true as if it is some kind of truism - the humor in either of these games is hardly a a strong selling point at all...

Posted by Vlaphor

The biggest problem with Shadows of the Damned was it's length. It was about five hours long and very difficult to replay. No new game plus, couldn't really see what you had missed in certain levels, and the fourth level was bad enough to turn people off of even trying to play the game ever again. It makes an excellent rental, but there isn't enough there to make it worth $60.

Posted by CapnMikeM

playing thru it now and am enjoying it. it's good to get away from sequels and try out new franchises.  Do it.

Posted by Spectreman

I don´t understand why this game don´t have a demo.

Posted by superfunhappygun

I've never seen anything beyond the first hour of the game, but the fact that I don't care about seeing anything beyond the first hour says enough. I feel like I'm missing something that everyone else sees, that makes this game good. It's probably the humor, as I think it's painfully unfunny.

And that's a problem because, as a fan of creative and crazy "niche" games like No More Heroes, Persona 4, Psychonauts and Alice: Madness Returns, I feel like I'm the target audience of this game, yet I don't even care about borrowing it from a friend. At all. It doesn't appeal to me whatsoever.

Soundtrack is crazy good, though. From what I've heard of it at least.

Posted by JohnPaulVann

Fuck everybody who didn't buy this game. I picked up two copies. I support visionary artists.  I want to know if Jeff bought a copy. If he didn't then I have no respect for him or GB.

Posted by DrRandle

It is sad to see a pretty awesome game go unknown. Not the first time I've seen it, though. :/

Posted by GrandHarrier

Game just didn't interest me. I'm sure that the studio behind it put their heart and souls into it, which is keeping me from bashing it, but I'll probably wait until its sub-$20 before picking it up.

Posted by ProfessorEss

Celebrities or not, I'm not a fan of most of the games that the developers involved have made so their big names mean nothing to me. What's your excuse? 
 
I'd like to pick it out of a bargain bin someday after my backlog shrinks (which could mean never :P) 

Posted by Sammo21

I bought SotD on day one and I will buy Lollipop Zombie day one. Suda's stuff is great.

Posted by craigbo180

Really excellent article, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Posted by GetEveryone

Great article. Seems I was one of the few that bought it. 
 
Loving the hell out of the handful of hours I've played. Got too damn much to get through and no time to do it...
Posted by rjayb89

I'm clicking the button on the front page to this story but I can't get to the Upcoming on Giant Bomb box!

Posted by CaptainFish

If they could get some sort of steam launch I bet they'd see a lot more sales.

Posted by Kayrack

This is really too bad the game is great. I am still playing it even now. I just wish there was new game + as loosing all your stuffs sucks! but otherwise i can honestly say i am pleasantly surprised with this title. If it had more marketing behind it though i bet it would have been better off

Posted by Video_Game_King

"It's a tragedy when a trio of gaming's most creative minds out of Japan produce something terrific and the game fails to bring anyone out."
 
Sadly, this crap happens all the time.

Posted by bybeach

Heh, this wasn't the greatest game I ever played. I really liked it as I got into it, and I didn't feel like I lost any brain cells in the process, unlike some other titles lately. Odd, but it was decent adult humor in video game format that was never bad and at times very good, and it entertained me.Now, not concerning all the negative comments here, but some of them of a trend I am perceiving in other threads,..you ppl. are coming off pretty jaded. Like if you stood up the air would be too thin for you. Probably real expensive to feed, also...

Posted by Tordah

Seems like a great game. Such a shame it didn't fare better.

Posted by Kujel

I got No More Heroes 2 recently and it's quite fucked up, I mean really fucked up. That being said I doubt I'll touch another game from Suda 51, the guy's work really isn't my taste. I'm now glad I didn't bother with Shadows of the damned cause he's involved and I can safely say I really don't care much for his work.

Posted by Brodehouse

I love Japanese artists (writers and modelers, physical artists), but want them to team up with American coders and businessmen. Japanese coders appear to ignore the user experience (how about pausing in cutscenes, option to skip cutscenes, how about functional save mechanics?) and always favor arbitrary rules over accessibility ("what if I run out of healing items and money near the end?" "start the game over from the beginning and be more careful!")

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