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Ghost Trick's Shu Takumi on finding humor in a murder-mystery


We'd happily take any opportunity to talk about Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective -- to our readers, our coworkers, our friends, people we meet in elevators, etc. So we happily jumped at the chance to talk with Capcom's Shu Takumi, the person responsible for creating the supernatural puzzle-adventure game. In a brief TGS interview, we spoke with Takumi about the unique humor in Ghost Trick and the Ace Attorney series -- and the relative uniqueness of any humor in a video game.

Your games tend to have a certain tone, they tend to be funny. Most video games don't even attempt humor. Why do you think it's so rare, and how is it that you can continue doing funny games?

I don't really know why people don't attempt to put humor in games. That's something I would actually love to know. I'd love to ask people why they don't try it. As for me, why I put humor in my games, and why I'm able to continue doing that: I like funny things. I like humor. I like writing mysteries, and mysteries have to be fun to read. They have to be something entertaining where you want to continue reading it. It can't be boring or dry. For me, what makes it interesting is adding a little humor here and there, using that to my advantage. Basically, I just write what is funny to me, whatever I'm interested in for other people to read. And that's how I'm able to continue in this manner that I do.

It's important what I write, but what I write is in Japanese, and part of that humor and part of what makes it unique is the translation. (Note: Takumi's interpreter in this interview was Capcom's Janet Hsu, who actually works on localization for the Ace Attorney games. She reported her embarrassment about translating praise for herself.)

The main image of this game is the dead protagonist, and Takumi-san's previous games were comedy games about murder cases. Is there something inherently funny about death?

In terms of why I keep making "comedies" around death, I'm not really trying to be a comedian, and I'm not really trying to be funny about death. It's just, you know, that's my sense of humor, and that's my taste. That's how I write my stories, and so I'm just writing what's funny to me and what seems interesting. If that's how people view it, maybe that's just how it comes off, but I don't necessarily think death is funny.

Let's say, you know, I had to make Street Fighter V -- let's say there's a Street Fighter V. The game would probably turn out the same way, it would still probably be full of really insane characters and ridiculous stories. It's probably just the way I write, my style.

The game has very fluid animation, bright colors, and unique-looking characters. What is the inspiration for the visual theme of Ghost Trick?

In terms of the visual style, the inspiration came mostly from the whole story that we wanted to tell, and coming from the fact that I wanted to do something completely different from Ace Attorney. For example, in Ace Attorney, we mostly had characters where you could see from their waist upward, and large sprites. This time, we wanted to show the full-body image of the characters, and so we have a lot of these small characters on the screen, and as you said, they're really, really well-animated. And part of the reason we put so much effort into making sure they were well animated, is that we wanted to make sure to be able to show how lively and how fluidly they can move. Because that's an integral part of telling the story behind that character.

In this particular game, the storytelling method that we're using is we wanted to have each character have their own backstory. And they have their own story, and their own mysteries, and their own pieces of the puzzle to add. In order to show that, we needed to show that they were almost alive, so we needed them to be very well animated. We needed them to be something that you can visualize very well. So that's part of where that comes from.

Referring to the whole 2D aspect: you'll notice that the game is very flat. We've seen a lot of 3D games in this day and age. We've seen a lot of fully rendered polygons and stuff. But we thought, "What can we do with 2D that nobody's seen before?" Because there's a lot of 2D games out there, but it's not true 2D, it's like that 2.5D. We thought, "Let's go back to basics -- let's just do plain 2D. And let's use the newest technology available to us. What can we do with it?" And that's one of the things that we tried to do with this game, and we think we've accomplished it.

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