Q&A: Hudson's Kasahara On Lost In Shadow's Understated Approach

Gamasutra recently sat down with Hudson's Shinichi Kasahara, producer on the upcoming puzzle/platformer Lost in Shadow for Nintendo Wii, to discuss the game's striking art direction, design, and more.
The Konami-owned Japanese publisher and developer Hudson Soft has long been known for its bright, cheerful games -- both self-published and made for other firms like Nintendo -- including Bonk, Mario Party, and Bomberman. Recently, the developer has stepped out of its comfort zone with the horror title Calling for the Nintendo Wii and the upcoming Lost in Shadow [E3 trailer], a puzzle platformer with an ambitious play mechanic that involves manipulating light and shadow in order to traverse a lonely, desolate environment. We sat down with producer Shinichi Kasahara for a quick demo of the work-in-progress Lost in Shadow for the Wii and to find out more about this intriguing title from Hudson, as well as some comments on Hudson's Nectaris franchise. The visuals in Lost in Shadow have a restrained, melancholy feel to them. How big was the game's art team? Shinichi Kasahara: Seven graphic artists ended up working on the art direction. What's kind of a work in progress is that there's a gentleman, Mr. Ogura, who also does character design for Hayao Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli, and we are probably going to ask him for some art direction as well. We're probably going to ask him to design the packaging and make merchandise in the future. The production team and the creative team are all located in Sapporo, which is the capital city of Hokkaido. That's where all of the creative teams gather. The game's sound design is very interesting in its understated, ambient approach. SK: We definitely made sure that we kept a minimal environmental sound, so we're really happy that you notice our effort in that. The game seems reminiscent of Ico in terms of the visual design—the mood and the environment. SK: Atmosphere-wise, because this is supposed to be an abandoned, mysterious building, you kind of end up using this ruined feeling; so we realize that the art direction might be a little bit similar. We also realize that, because our character's a shadow, he doesn't talk; and in Ico, the main character talks, but it's always gibberish so it's almost like there is no dialogue. In that sense, we also see the similarities. Are there places to explore within the game, or is it generally a linear path? SK: There are many different gimmicks towards the end. At the beginning everything is rather linear, and sort of simple; but towards the end it's pretty involved. There will be some items that you might not be able to acquire in the beginning stages, but you will be able to by the end. In later chapters, you sometimes come back the same physical area and things that you might not have been able to reach or get to the first time you go through it, you will be able to actually go through them in the later chapters. In that sense, that's sort of a multi-dimensional way of experiencing the game. We're going to have eleven chapters and fifty different stages. We also have what we consider the bonus stage, which is the shadow corridor; we have about thirty of them, so we kind of look at it as fifty plus thirty. Was designing the game for the Wii controls something that you wanted to explore as opposed to putting it on the PS3 or 360? SK: At the beginning of the project, we always have to look at the game consoles—how popular they are. At the beginning of this particular project, the 360 and the PS3... The popularity of those consoles didn't exactly warrant targeting, and so it was decided that it would be on the Wii. But we realize that the PS3 is obviously gaining momentum, and as soon as it hits a critical mass we would definitely love to look in this direction for the future—not just for this particular series but also for Hudson in general. I'm a huge fan of Hudson's Nectaris, which is still so playable even now, all these years later. Your studio recently released an updated version (developed by Backbone Entertainment for WiiWare, Playstation Network, and Xbox Live Arcade), but I must say that I missed the old-school bitmap graphics. SK: Yeah, we're a little bit squeezed because we love the original version, and we have also gotten comments that everybody loves the original version. It's just that, when it comes to re-releasing it, we have to do something new. So we feel a little bit torn about that. Remaking everybody's favorite is always so tricky because everybody loves it so much already, as is. It's always a challenge. We're definitely considering [a new title in the Nectaris series], because we want to give back to the hardcore supporters and fans. But we also realize we have to be careful about how we update it without losing the integrity of what made the original so great; but also adding something new that doesn't take away from what's original about it. So we're definitely working on that, and meanwhile we absolutely love getting the support. Would you be upset if the Nectaris became an RTS? Hmm... (Suspicious). I don't know. SK: We have two different parties: The ones that want to stay true to the original format, and the one that really wants to update it to make it totally different. It could be interesting, though. SK: That's kind of an ongoing thing, so we'll see who comes on top. Stay tuned!

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