Suda51 On Games That Aren’t Just Games
Last month saw the release of an interesting project from Bandai Namco – titled Rinko Tsukigime’s Longest Day: Short Peace, the game was released with a series of four films that directly tie in to the game’s narrative. It’s a cross-media project the game’s industry rarely sees, but is it something that’s going to catch on? Suda 51 sat down to discuss gaming’s cross-media potential with us.
Short Peace is a peculiar game – the full gameplay experience clocks in at around two hours, and it presents itself as a score attack momentum platformer; akin to Bit.Trip Runner or a 2D Mirror’s Edge.
Over the 11 levels that comprise the game’s core experience, you’ll experience a whistle-stop tour through a heavily stylised version of contemporary Japan, a mix of homage and satire on the cultural patterns at play in the country.
But the most intriguing part of Short Peace is that the game only constitutes one fifth of the product; it sits nestled amongst four films, each with their own director and internal theme.
The first film in the collection, Possessions, was nominated for an Oscar at this year’s awards, and Combustible has Katsuhiro Otomo (famous for his work on Akira) on directorial duties – this is not a thoughtless, cheap release. In Japan at least, this is a big project.
“I heard from Uchiyama, a producer at Bandai Namco Games, that [what we’ve done with Short Peace] is a first, and I felt very proud that we created something new”, explained Suda when we asked him about what motivated him to jump on-board as a producer for the project.
“The theme of all the movies and the game in this title is ‘Japan’ – each part focussing on different regions of the country. The original Ranko Tsukigime features contemporary Japan, and while I would have preferred to have all the animation in full CGI, time constraints and the collaboration of Kamikazedouga [anime studio] gave an interesting style.”
By using the theme of Japan as a crux, the Short Peace boxset has the ability to deconstruct the region and explore each different district of the country in a different way – the cinematic experiences providing a hands-off study of the country, whilst the game throws you in at the deep end; offering an interactive element to the cerebral, screen-filling madness you’d expect from something with Suda 51’s name attached.
“It is an interesting challenge to get animation fans and players together, accepting the kind of concept that Short Peace is built around,” explains Suda. With mixed media, an interesting challenge is put forward to the developer – the game a studio is creating isn’t just aimed at gamers with projects like these.
If a title is released as part of a set with a novel, a comic tie-in, a cinematic accompaniment or even an augmented-reality side-game, developers must remain conscious that their audience possibly aren’t going to be the console/PC based hardcore they’d usually be developing for.
“The game component of the title was made with the awareness that not everyone that picks up Short Peace [will be a gamer] – the balance of the gameplay has been adjusted so that anyone can play until the end, and our priority for the game was to make sure it could be cleared by anyone, rather than fitting to any recent trends”.
Short Peace isn’t a particularly difficult game, but to its credit, the art direction and stylistic choices that have been put into the momentum-running side-scroller feel completely in tune with the cinematic releases the game sits beside.
It also takes the genre it operates within and runs with it (no pun intended) – taking advantage of all the tropes a momentum-runner can exploit. A potential problem with games released as component parts of a greater whole is that they have the potential to become the main focus – a film is a two-hour engagement, a novel doesn’t have the same interaction or focus on agency a game does, and each require different methods of production (with games traditionally seeing development cycles of two to three years).
If, going forward, we’re going to start producing games whose experiences extend further than the content behind the boxart, then a delicate balance will have to be struck – developers will have to figure out the equilibrium between what they want consumers to take from their games, and what they want consumers to take from their products.
“Short Peace has been an interesting challenge,” concludes Suda, “and I think the method of shipping games as mixed media is very likely to continue in Japan, and I hope the same is true overseas.”