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Shadows of the DAMNED (シャドウ オブ ザ ダムド, Shadou obu za DAMUDO; subtitled A Suda51 Trip) is an action-horror video game for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 consoles. The game was directed by Massimo Guarini, produced by Goichi Suda and Shinji Mikami and developed by Grasshopper Manufacture. It was published on June 21, 2011 by Electronic Arts.
The storyline of Shadows of the DAMNED takes in upwards of eight hours to complete. Played from a third-person perspective, the game follows protagonist Garcia Hotspur from an over-the-shoulder camera angle. Hotspur wields a torch, pistol, machine gun and shotgun, all of which are actually forms taken by a demon named Johnson. Hotspur and Johnson's skills can be upgraded by a total of 80 upgrades from Red Gems scatted throughout the City of the Damned.
Rather than center around shooting enemies and triggering quicktime events, the principle gameplay focuses on strategically keeping in lighted areas while in combat. This is because enemies veiled in darkness become invulnerable to Hotspur's attacks; darkness drains Hotspur's health as well. Players must seal "conduits of darkness," which can sometimes be done through puzzle-solving. These actions range from firing at "laughing stag heads with concentrated bursts of light" to feeding "trinkets to cherub gates in order to gain access to the source of the creeping darkness."
The game features Hotspur in the City of the Damned, fighting through demons on his path to rescuing his girlfriend Paula, who has been transported there following her death. To do this, he enlists the help of Johnson, a demon who transforms into Hotspur's various weapons. Paula's death is somehow linked to Fleming Whatshisfaces, the Lord of Demons, who agrees to restore Paula's life if Hotspur will atone for slaying his demonic armies. Hotspur refuses and follows Whatshisfaces into the City of the Damned, where he and Johnson face hordes of demons, some of which Johnson refers to as Whatshisfaces' "V.I.Ps." These are George Reed, the Sisters Grim (Maras, Kauline and Giltine), Elliot Thomas and Justine Divangelo.
Origins as KurayamiEdit
The April 2006 issue of Edge detailed the first incarnation of Shadows of the DAMNED. The project, proposed under the name Kurayami, was reported to involve exploring "a castle and a village filled with strange inhabitants." The protagonist would wander this village wielding a torch, and would solve puzzles, among other things, to progress through the game. Furthermore, the protagonist would only be safe while occupying well-lit areas, with the torch he carried allowing him to travel through the darkness between these lighted zones. Suda stated that the dangers to the protagonist would not be limited to the creatures he encountered alone, as interactions with the townsfolk could also become heated.
Kurayami appeared to be planned as a free roam title with heavy focus on action and less emphasis on linearity. Speaking to Edge, Suda expressed that "The challenge now is to go beyond simple recognition, and transform our original games into a mainstream success." This interview was conducted within the first year killer7 had been released, and Grasshopper had yet to oversee a relatively mainstream title until No More Heroes was developed the following year. Suda described Kurayami as "inspired by [Franz] Kafka, a writer I greatly admire. I thought for a long time about how to adapt the environment of his books into a game – to represent the mystery perhaps by applying filters, or dividing them into various missions. When I considered the visuals, I immediately thought of darkness, and I imagined a hero within this night, with a light that would in a way symbolise his life. That became the core concept of Kurayami: literally, 'darkness'."
Suda went on to describe the unique approach he had planned for the game's graphics, explaining that "There are lots of toon-shaded titles on the market right now, but when you look how the contrast of light and shadow is central in our mangas, even in comics from abroad, there are few games that use this sense of darkness. So I want to deliver a very specific, totally new pixel shader based on darkness: an artistic texture, mixed with various effects."
On the topic of enemies encountered in Kurayami, Suda stated that "It's not about some hideous monsters or evil creatures coming out of the darkness, but playing on our natural fears of the dark, and the uneasiness that comes from the absence of noise and life." This element of the game also inspires the attitude of the townsfolk, with Suda elaborating, "It shows how people change when faced with their fears – in a way, you could see a little bit of what Japan, or the world, is like in this town. But I want it to be a profound message, not one based on what's going on around me at the time development starts, or to voice some utopian idea like world peace."
Speaking about the challenge of taking on a more high-end gaming console than the former PlayStation models and Nintendo GameCube, Suda admitted the project would be daunting, but had confidence that "We're capable of taking on technically and financially heavy development – at least, one game at a time. Sony has a vision that as a creator I wanted to respond to, and to deliver this very detailed drawing shader, we need the PS3's power. Our main focus at the moment is to make these illustrations run in realtime."
Suda's last significant description of the game for three years centered around its content, and potential conflicts with game rating boards. Suda explained, "Kurayami's ideas are not about violence or eroticism, but fundamental problems in the human mind, which may find some conflict with the rating system. But if you consider the moral elements, starting from Space Invaders, videogames are basically about killing beings. I understand why the industry is trying to soften this key idea, change it to 'defeating' adversaries to be more acceptable, but I think its almost criminal to diminish the impact of death, and maybe dangerous to depict it in a cute manner for a young audience. Though I expect the rating level to be quite high for Kurayami, I also expect the PS3 to be mainly purchased and used by an adult audience. I'm making a game for an adult audience, one that shows what life is and what being human is."
While sources as late as August 2009 continued to report on the game with scarce details and concept art, some of which falsely believed Kurayami was a newly announced title in development, the material they reported on in fact dated back to 2006, when the game was originally proposed to the media. In actuality, neither Goichi Suda nor Grasshopper Manufacture made a public statement on Kurayami after the first quarter of 2006 until Joystiq asked about the game's status in a late September 2009 interview with Suda. Here, Suda confirmed that Kurayami had never entered development, citing that "We aren't even really working on it. We've just been talking about it, but there hasn't been time to work on it." Interviewer JC Fletcher noted the recent resurgence in the game's concept art, which various websites insisted was new, to which Suda clarified, "Actually it was really just for Edge. The artwork was just something we submitted them. We're not working on this project yet. They had some special coverage about Grasshopper and we talked a little bit about Kurayami, and so we gave them some artwork." While Kurayami was ultimately never developed, Mikami confirmed its ideas provided the foundation for Shadows of the DAMNED. Some of these ideas would be filtered into other works in the future. The director of Black Knight Sword was offered a script from the transition from Kurayami to Shadows of the DAMNED to use as inspiration, and much later in 2015, Suda's manga Kurayami Dance also based some ideas off of the original plans for Kurayami.
Resurgence under Electronic ArtsEdit
Shadows of the DAMNED in its current form was first announced in 2008. Grasshopper initially intended to premier the title, unnamed at the time, at Electronic Entertainment Expo 2009, however this plan fell through. In an interview with Suda at the convention, the producer expressed hope that more details about the game could be confirmed at Tokyo Game Show 2009, however the game failed to make an appearance at this event as well.
The few reporters who managed to evoke a comment from Suda early in the development phase always noted his reluctance to do so. When IGN interviewed the director in June 2009, Suda hesitated to provide genuine details about the game, before saying that "It's a game about light and shadows." IGN pressed him for further information, noting Suda thought long and hard before solely stating, "it's sparkling." In a later interview with IGN in September 2009, Suda was asked about the game, to which it was noted he proceeded to "squirm around in his chair and go back and forth with PR, who obviously don't want him sharing anything." Suda then retorted that because he wanted to share information with IGN, he would say that "It's an action/horror game, and it'll be very scary... And I guess I can also tell you that the main character has a very cool watch [...] I better leave it at that."
Described as "mad genius in the horror genre," the project was reportedly 50% completed by May 12, 2010. The first trailer for Shadows of the DAMNED premiered at the Tokyo Game Show 2010, showing the first footage of Hotspur, Paula and Reed. It was also revealed at the premier that Akira Yamaoka would be helming sound direction for the game, his second Grasshopper album, after the the soundtrack for No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle. Shadows of the DAMNED's second trailer, debuting Johnson and Whatshisfaces, and showing Paula in greater detail, appeared at the Game Developers Conference in 2011.
It was confirmed in March 2011 that the game was powered by Unreal Engine 3, and while initially slated to be released for Microsoft Windows, Wii, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, it would ultimately only see release on the latter two consoles. Suda commented at the Game Developers Conference in 2011 that Shadows of the DAMNED was designed as a shooting game at the request of Electronic Arts.
A month after the release of Shadows of the DAMNED, director Massimo Guarini departed Grasshopper Manufacture to form his own studio, Ovosonico Productions. In August 2011, to commemorate the game's recent release and the success of their Facebook page, Grasshopper released three Shadows of the DAMNED posters signed by Suda and Yamaoka.
Reviewing a Shadows of the DAMNED demo in March 2011, IGN's Arthur Gies commented that "If it seems like I'm focusing on Shadows of the Damned's style over its play, it's because it's hard to get a solid feel for the kind of game that Shadows wants to be right now [...] There's the busty villainess who's teased for several acts before you'll have a chance to fight her, the giant demon with a weakspot comprised of a jewel that houses human blood, and plenty of third person shooting, but none of it really stands out in comparison to the bold stylings that Suda is known for." In response to the game's poor sales, Suda lamented that "I think it's really difficult to be successful with a new IP. [...] Unfortunately we couldn't really do as well as we hoped for," adding that he "had lots of ideas for online," which he would have incorporated if he could develop Shadows of the DAMNED over again. When pressed on the topic of Electronic Arts' less than generous support of the game, Suda was ejected from the interview by his public relations manager.
Shadows of the DAMNED left its key designers divided by the final product. When asked if the game turned out as initially conceived, co-producer Shinji Mikami responded, "No, it became a completely different game. That was a bit disappointing. I think Suda was unable to create the scenario he'd originally had in his head, and he rewrote the scenario several times. I think his heart was broken. He's such a unique creator, so it seems to me that he was not quite comfortable with making this game." In a later interview, Mikami further clarified that, "Suda's vision and direction, and EA's vision and direction, were totally opposite." In spite of this Mikami saw a silver lining in the experience, as the Grasshopper team walked away from Shadows of the DAMNED with experience using Unreal Engine for the first time.
These words were echoed by co-producer Goichi Suda himself, who felt, "it's really difficult to be successful with a new IP. You really need an extraordinary amount of support to have a new franchise be successful. Unfortunately we couldn't really do as well as we hoped for." Suda also admitted to having ideas for online connectivity which went unrealized and that it was Electronic Arts' wish that the game be a shooter, a shift which Mikami also called painful.
In spite of this, Mikami felt that Shadows of the DAMNED would have sold less than it ultimately did if Grasshopper and Electronic Arts followed Suda's original idea, though he added that the game would have still been unique. Contrasting Suda's disappointment and Mikami's indifference to the final product, composer Akira Yamaoka was more positive about the game, admitting, "I'm thinking of a sequel, actually. I can't tell you here, but clearly I'd like to."
Nearly one year after the release of Shadows of the DAMNED, composer Akira Yamaoka admitted in March 2012 that he was considering a sequel, feeling relatively certain that Grasshopper would have Electronic Arts' support. The prospect remains to be elaborated on, given Suda's own opinion that Electronic Arts was not tolerant enough of Shadows of the DAMNED in the first place.
North American PlayStation 3 scansEdit
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Shadows of the Damned - Suda 51 Goes to Grindhouse Hell. Arthur Gies. IGN. March 8, 2011.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 Shadows of the Damned brings together Resident Evil and No More Heroes creators. Henry Gilbert. GamesRadar. September 15, 2010.
- ↑ Shadows of the Damned - Suda 51 Goes to Grindhouse Hell. IGN. March 8, 2011.
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 Suda 51 Is Working On A Playstation 3 Exclusive, Kurayami. PushSquare.com. August 18, 2009.
- ↑ Killer 7 creator does PS3 game. Tom Bramwell. Eurogamer. April 25, 2006.
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 6.2 "Into the Darkness". Edge. April 2006. p. 53.
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 "Into the Darkness". Edge. April 2006. p. 54.
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 "Into the Darkness". Edge. April 2006. p. 52.
- ↑ "Into the Darkness". Edge. April 2006. p. 55.
- ↑ Suda 51 + Kafka = PS3 Exclusive Craziness: Kurayami. GayGamer.net. August 18, 2009.
- ↑ Suda 51's PS3 exclusive revealed as Kurayami. Destructoid. August 18, 2009.
- ↑ Kurayami se dévoile sur PS3. Gamekyo. April 22, 2006.
- ↑ 13.0 13.1 TGS 2009: Interview: Suda 51. Joystiq. September 29, 2009.
- ↑ GDC 11: Shinji Mikami Interview. GameTrailers.com. March 10, 2011.
- ↑ 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 E3 2009: Suda 51 Talks Forthcoming Mikami Collaboration. Matt Casamassina. IGN. June 3, 2009.
- ↑ 16.0 16.1 A Sitdown With Suda 51. Mark Bozon. IGN. September 29, 2009.
- ↑ Mikami and Suda51's "Mad Genius Horror" Game 50% Complete. James Newton. Nintendo Life. May 12, 2010.
- ↑ Shadows of the Damned: GDC Trailer. Electronic Arts. March 7, 2011.
- ↑ 19.0 19.1 19.2 Voice of the Damned: Suda 51 on being an EA Partner and surviving the Japanese market. JC Fletcher. Joystiq. March 8, 2011.
- ↑ Grasshopper working with Unreal Engine 3. Brendan Sinclair. Gamespot. October 7, 2008.
- ↑ Shadows of the Damned director leaves Grasshopper. Brendan Sinclair. Gamespot. July 19, 2011.
- ↑ To 6000, and Beyond - Signed Shadows of the Damned Posters!. Grasshopper Manufacture. August 23, 2011.
- ↑ 23.0 23.1 23.2 23.3 23.4 Suda admits Shadows of the Damned regret. Fred Dutton. Eurogamer. October 3, 2011.
- ↑ 24.0 24.1 Mikami: Shadows Of The Damned Broke Suda51's Heart. Ben Dutka. PSX Extreme. July 17, 2012.
- ↑ 25.0 25.1 25.2 Shinji Mikami and the fountain of youth. Matt Leone. Polygon. February 20, 2014.
- ↑ 26.0 26.1 Grasshopper considering Shadows of the Damned sequel. Martin Robinson. Eurogamer. March 22, 2012.