Monday, June 23, 2014

I Don't Buy What Happened to Lily Bergamo

It's not common, but sometimes when games are announced at E3 they're just not that interesting. What's even more uncommon is when a game is announced at E3 and it completely sucks.

I'm talking about Let It Die, an upcoming title headed by Suda 51 from Grasshopper Manufacture. As was revealed shortly after the announcement, Suda let known that Let It Die is actually Lily Bergamo, and that the uninspired snoozefest of the Let It Die trailer is the direction that the game is taking from here on out. No more ultra stylish anime game; bring on the next dully serious, dark-tonality murder simulator! ---*crickets*

For those not in the know, here's the Let It Die trailer;

And here's the [inspiring, stylish, creative, cool] Lily Bergamo trailer;

Before I even go on with this blog, I just want to post some pics of previous Suda 51 titles.
For those who've played these games and/or others from Suda 51, really jog your memories of those experiences, what stylized and lead them. Now go watch that Let It Die trailer one more time, and try to find a single way that Let It Die exemplifies anything Suda. Find the neo-Japan characteristic, or the lovably camp grindhouse aesthetics of dialogue and sex, or the gripping, jazzy action-gameplay.
Can't? Neither can I.
Is This the Last Real Suda51 Title?
It isn't much of a leap to start thinking that the recent acquisition of Grasshopper Manufacture by Gung Ho Online Entertainment (a Mobile titan; the guys behind the immensely successful Puzzle and Dragons) isn't quite the 'We're best buds!' deal everyone thought it was, particularly because Killer Is Dead was already well into development when that deal went down, and their only other title since (Ranko Tsukigime's Longest Day) was an attachment to a Blu-Ray film (and co-developed anyway). As many are nervously speculating, maybe Gung Ho weren't too pleased with the reception of Killer Is Dead, a reception not unlike most every Suda 51 game before it, and are starting to hammer for a more commercial presence from the cult-based Suda 51 and the Grasshopper Manufacture teams.
Or maybe it is a loving partnership; who knows. But whatever advice Suda might be taking from Gung Ho is just not the direction that anyone who admires Suda want for him to take, especially if the raw skinning of Lily Bergamo for Let It Die is what the future has in store.
Suda 51 titles have been a cult-based phenomenon since the man has been able to play a major part in game-development, starting with the controversial, non videogame-like story for the Super Famicom title, Super Fire Pro Wrestling Special, onward to Killer 7's wacky, riveting, uncomfortably stimulating experience, and through to the modern, grindhouse-esque action titles such as No More Heroes, Lollipop Chainsaw, and Shadows of the Damned. Nearly all of Suda 51's titles have been criticized by media for certain limitations or conservative features in game design, and also (unfairly) for the sexuality within most of these games, and yet all of these games have been utterly loved by the sizable fan-base that simply get* Suda 51's remarkably inspired, intelligent, and involved titles, who dig their teeth into the intricate symbolism and sleuth out the every film influence Suda proudly positions somewhere in each game.
*By 'get,' I mean recognize the importance of entertainment and freedom in creativity in media (not just games, but all expression), and don't desire absurd political correctness where it has no place. If it weren't for people like Suda 51, Quentin Tarantino, and even James Joyce, creative mediums would be a horribly dull field, if you ask me.*
But maybe that's not cutting it anymore. While Grasshopper titles have never been met with too astounding commercial success, the company has managed to maintain itself by developing commercial titles between their independent projects, such as Samurai Champloo: Sidetracked and Blood+: One Night Kiss (but don't write these off; as far as licensed titles go, Grasshopper's are an eclectic treat). Who knows if maybe this financial set-up eventually stopped paying off enough, or if the Gung Ho acquisition was indeed mutual, or maybe if even Grasshopper themselves approached Gung Ho. Whichever it is, with the ever increasing costs of game-development, it's troubling to think that Grasshopper might be putting a stopper on their own creativities so to maybe reach a wider audience, something that has absolutely not worked with companies such as Capcom, who butchered their titles by sourcing them out to western developers last gen, and found little reward in doing so.
Suda 51: The Man Whose Ideas Form While Pooping (for real!)
What exactly is going on with Grasshopper and Gung Ho is unknown, but it's not far-fetched to believe that Gung Ho has had some influence in regards to the swap between Lily Bergamo and Let It Die, and it's horrible to think it's so great for them to make such radical (and awful) changes. Truly, I can't see a single thing from the Let It Die trailer that exemplifies either Suda 51's wild and admirable imagination, nor the sleek, fast-paced gameplay so mastered by Grasshopper's developers. The grossly unimaginative horror violence brings to mind only other creatively-sapped outsourced titles such as Silent Hill: Downpour and Metroid: Other M, games that missed the point of what made their predecessors fun by focusing on 'maturity' and applying obscure rationales to what are really just nonsensical entertainment, and they're, and always have been, at their best when they're exactly that; outside of realism and maturity, and instead just fun.
As always with something like this, we'll all just have to wait and see exactly how Let It Die shapes up before judging it. But regardless; I just don't buy that the guillotine-drop on Lily Bergamo was some natural evolution; Lily exemplified Grasshopper at their best; it exemplified exactly why fans of Suda 51 exist and are so passionate. But Let It Die--- it's so alien.

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