One can tell Lollipop Chainsaw is a Grasshopper Manufacture game within just a few minutes, from its heroine -- a chainsaw-swinging cheerleader cliche -- to its exaggerated aesthetic, equal parts zombie gruesome and bubblegum pop.
The story, though, is written by screenwriter James Gunn (Dawn of the Dead, Slither). The game's creative director, edgy game icon Goichi "Suda51" Suda, says the he and Gunn were excited to learn they were mutual fans of one another's work; it was the aesthetics of over-the-top horror films that inspired Lollipop Chainsaw.
The experience of working on the game, which is now slated to launch in mid-June after a few date slips, was Suda's first time working with someone from the film world, he tells Gamasutra. "He's such an able person, so I was worried about working with him, but we were able to work together, even though we came from two different genres," says Suda. "It was a wonderful opportunity for collaboration."
What Suda first visualized as a simpler parody of zombie films evolved into Lollipop Chainsaw's odd pastiche, which sees pigtailed Juliet Starling (accompanied by her boyfriend's advice-giving severed head) fighting hordes of undead in her high school and the surrounding environment.
"It became much more of a unique, individual kind of work... that's not just myself, but also my staff, Warner Bros. and [Japanese publisher] Kadokawa Games," Suda explains.
Suda sees his team as having been able to take advantage of collaboration with Gunn and a Western publisher like Warner Bros. In his view, Japan's barrier among different media disciplines, such as film versus games, is more rigid. "It's great being able to do this kind of work in America, because I don't think there's a barrier between the different media," he says.
"In Japan, the people who work in the TV industry, those who work in the game industry... I think they have their own silos," he continues. "But in America I think it's possible to grow across these borders as an enterainment industry, and I think it creates an environment where people can have a great time making the products."
In America Suda sees a heightened interest on the part of film industry people when it comes to understanding the power of letting players become the story's protagonist. "I think that's why this collaboration with James Gunn went so well this time," Suda reflects. "There's something so cheerful and forward-looking about him... he comes from a background of movies and what to do with the sets, he knows how to make that environment."
The collaboration has sparked something of an interest in cross-media work for Suda. "I would be interested in going and doing projects that would involve television or the movies; it's something that would be more difficult in Japan, but in America, it's freer," he says, adding he feels closer to film having worked with Warner Bros. and Kadokawa.
"I've also worked with other publishers in Japan, and there are some that have voiced interest in making an animation of some of my games," Suda says. "I've been coming closer to the movies and anime world, and maybe that's telling me I should come even closer."
On the inevitable question of Western appeal for offbeat aesthetics flavored distinctly by the involvment of Japanese creators, Suda says Warner Bros' involvement helps. But largely, he's unconcerned: "It's not that we're after the American market, because we're successful in Japan, too; this project has been succesful in Japan thus far. I'm doing what I always do and have confidence in what we're capable of doing, so it's not as though I'm overextending myself."
Although he's excited about crossmedia products, Suda, who says he regularly craves new challenges and the chance to explore unfamiliar arenas, is most curious right now about opportunities to develop for mobile and social platforms. "I would like to come up with games that are my style, with a smaller team... just like the games that were Nintendo-style, 8-bit kind of games," he reflects. "That would be a challenge, too."
[Photo credit: Emi Spicer]