Osaka is Japan's comedy capital. All of the country's most famous comedians come from this city in the west of Japan, where the people are warm and weathered from a proud heritage as merchant traders.
Pop-punk band Shonen Knife is from Osaka, and that's why the group sing about earthy subjects like food and laziness. Comedian Hitoshi Matsumoto is from Osaka, and that's why his movies and TV shows are filled with surreal humour. And Access Games director Hidetaka 'Swery' Suehiro is from Osaka, and that's why his 2010 game Deadly Premonition was as mad as a box of frogs.
"When you're facing a problem, you can go out for a drink and meet all kinds of weird people, so you find lots of inspiration," laughs Swery as we chat in a hotel suite near this year's Tokyo Game Show. "There are lots of weird people in Osaka. Like old men walking around in schoolgirls' uniforms as if that were a perfectly normal thing to do. And people like me, of course."
Deadly Premonition followed the story of investigator Francis York Morgan as he struggled with his split personality to solve a murder case in fictional suburban America. The game's David Lynch vibe, ludicrous characters and creepy horror elements won it many fans, even if much of the game appeared a little, uh, broken. And from what Swery's shown us of D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die, his latest game is shaping up to be just as batty and much more solid. But we'll come back to that in a minute.
Now 40, Swery grew up in the Juso red-light district of central Osaka, raised by Buddhist monk parents, and eventually went on to study film at Osaka University of Arts. It was shortly before graduation at the age of 22 that he realised he wasn't really that keen on a career in the film industry, and his attention was caught by the more interactive world of videogames.
"That's when I discovered that [videogame company] SNK was close to my home," he laughs. "I played games when I was little - my favourite classic being Nintendo's Ice Climbers. Anyway, I drew a circle on the map and picked the place that was nearest, and that was SNK. I don't know why they hired me. I'd studied film at college, and I'd had a part-time job at a theatre operating the stage lights and so on, so I guess I was able to write scenarios."
At SNK, Swery worked on the Last Blade fighting game series, in a team of around 20 employees. Eventually deciding to stretch his legs a little further, he moved on to a job at Sony subsidiary Deep Space, where he was the main planner on a survival-horror game called Extermination. But he was driven by the desire to direct his own games, and left to set up his own company, Access Games, with friends in 2002. There he directed PS2 stealth-action title Spy Fiction in collaboration with Sega, released in 2004. The game flopped. Perhaps it wasn't weird enough. But don't worry - his next one would be.
"When I first pitched Deadly Premonition to the team at Access Games, everyone looked completely confused," recalls Swery of the game's origins. "So the producer, myself and another scenario writer drew up a story for everyone to read, and some of them got what kind of game it was going to be. But I think about half the people made the game without knowing what it was supposed to be, right to the end."
The game drew influence from the American TV shows Swery grew up watching: Family Ties, Full House, Knight Rider, Airwolf, Bewitched, MacGyver, The A-Team and so on. It was his mum's influence, as she was hooked on these shows, and little Swery was swept along.