Let It Die is what you get when you drag Dark Souls back through time, fill it with cheap booze, and knock it out on the floor of CBGB after a long night of dirty punk shows. That’s unsurprising given its developer is Grasshopper Manufacture, the studio founded by Goichi "Suda51" Suda. When you fire up the E3 demo and your nude brawler starts wandering through a bombed out theme park, picking up bats and nail guns, putting on clothes he finds on the ground, and getting stomped by enormous monsters made of dirty, discarded mannequin limbs, it makes sense. Yes, this is what it would look like if the guy who made Shadows of the Damned remade Bloodborne.
Playing a game this dirty requires refreshment. That’s why I asked Suda and Let It Die composer Akira Yamaoka, the famed musician behind the immortal Silent Hill soundtracks, what drinks should be paired with their new title and some of their classics.
"Just a straight shot of tequila," Suda told me in an interview conducted with a translator at E3. He said this at the exact moment a green freak with a glowing fishbowl for a head bludgeoned me to death in Let It Die. "It’s got a nice punch. It’ll wake you up and send you to another world!"
Tequila is also core to Suda’s philosophy in making Let It Die. "I don’t drink a lot of tequila and maybe a lot of players don’t drink a lot tequila but there are a lot of new challenges we wanted to take on at Grasshopper making something with online elements and all these new aspects that we’ve never gotten to try," he told me. "So that’s how we got to tequila. Something to try and making something new."
For Yamaoka, though tequila’s too much. He needs something a little bit lighter.
"Champagne," said the dapper guitarist, leaning back and crossing his legs. "Let It Die is an action packed game, it’s very hardcore. Tequila is too strong. I want something that’s more bubbly when I’m doing something hardcore. For Let It Die and any game music I make, I keep in mind that it’s a game. It’s interactive. The sound has to work with the game itself rather than as music on its own. I focus how it works with the action, how all the sounds play off what you see."
While working on Let It Die, Grasshopper Manufacture is also remaking the studio’s very first game, the aggressively surreal PlayStation 1 adventure game The Silver Case. The unusual game needs a subtle cocktail to match it.
"Gimlet," said Suda. "We always treasured it, being our first game. It’s in the flavor. The Silver Case and a gimlet aren’t so much sweet but there is a flavor. And I just like that drink. It’s complex. The gimlet style back when Grasshopper was independent making our first game, we wanted to make something very different. Something that you wouldn’t expect. Something different that people could enjoy in an unorthodox way. That feeling hasn’t changed. To make something you can’t compare to any other type of game would be great."
"Killer 7 is my most personal game. It’s a bloody mary," said Suda wistfully and eager to talk about the obsessed over Gamecube. Back when Killer 7 was made, Grasshopper’s motto "Punk’s Not Dead" was emblazoned on their logo. Today Grasshopper is part of GungHo Online Entertainment and no longer independent. It’s hard to stay punk if you’re part of a corporation. Suda’s bloody mary is something he still strives for.
"'Punk’s Not Dead' was part of my spirit," said Suda. "It goes into developing games, putting part of me into them. Up until now the games I had to make under publishers, there were deadlines and budgets; the more publishers demand these, it’s harder to make something that you really like. Sometimes I wanted to make something a certain way but the publisher said change it for these reasons, so it becomes even harder to make something and keep yourself in it. Does ‘Punk’s Not Dead’ still apply to Let It Die? I’m not sure myself. A lot of people are trying to get their ideals into the game. Once people play it, it’ll be better to decide then."
Akira Yamaoka has his own canonized discography. The blend of rock and roll, drone, and trip hop in the first three Silent Hill games is utterly distinct, Yamaoka’s own personal style that’s imitated regularly but never recreated. He sees each of those three games having very different flavors.
"Silent Hill 1 is a mojito," said Yamaoka. The blend of disparate flavors, the sweetness of the rum and the acidity of the lime, are more than the sum of their parts. This is precisely how Yamaoka approaches making music in his games. "The most important thing with game music or mixing sounds for games. I don’t think of each piece as a single piece of music or as a song. I think of them first as collections of sounds, something that mixes with the rest of what you see on screen. I don’t think of it as taking some rock and then trip hop. It’s the mix that creates the atmosphere."
"Silent Hill 2 is wine," said Yamaoka. Appropriate given the dank pit of despair that is James Sunderland’s world in that game. "Silent hill 2 is a red wine. Very dry."
"Silent Hill 3 is beer," said Yamaoka very simply.