BADGP Reviews: Killer is Dead
Killer is Dead (Xseed, Grasshopper)
Review: The Good, The Bad, and The Beautiful
September 10, 2013
One should not have to say it, but Killer is Dead is a weird game. Goicha Suda or Suda 51 has made a name for himself by crafting strange and unique experiences that are often criticized as being immature. It is easy to observe why his works would receive such criticism when simply glancing at the cover of Lollipop Chainsaw, learning the premise of No More Heroes or discovering that there are “gigolo missions” present within Killer is Dead. Suda’s games are far from tactful when handling sexuality in general (see out-of-place peep show sections of No More Heroes 2). Killer is Dead separates its awkward “gigolo missions” and perceivably chauvinistic view of male-female relationships in optional, non-essential missions. The “core” game is found in the game’s episodes that tell a sadly predictable story about the dark side of the moon, post-traumatic stress, and dreams. This eccentric tale is backed by some great action and excellent boss fights that make the game worth experiencing.
The Killer 7 Connection and Tribute to Japanese Gaming
The only thing connecting Killer 7 and Killer is Dead is the beautiful art style and potentially the crazy pacing for better or worse. I would still describe Killer 7 as the weirdest game I have ever experienced by a long shot, to the point of not being able to recommend it. Thankfully, Killer is Dead trades some of Killer 7’s absolute insanity for playability, and Killer is Dead eventually plays very well after several upgrades and possesses plenty of its own brand of crazy.
The main character of Killer is Dead is named Mondo. He is an assassin with a mechanical arm who works for the state. Mondo’s boss is essentially Barrett from Final Fantasy VII and his colleague is essentially Eva from Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. Now, I imagine this as Suda placing himself alongside the greats of Japanese game development, but it could surely be open to interpretation (as is pretty much everything in Suda’s games). Mondo also has an assistant who is a generic high-pitched voiced anime-like character; if she is another game reference it is lost on me.
Playability, Structure, and Comparison
Killer is Dead is probably the most “fun” I have had with a Suda game. The combat system and upgrade system are both robust and engrossing. Borrowing a similar dodge mechanic of the venerable Bayonetta, Killer is Dead’s “witch-time” equivalent is visually striking and undeniably cool and stylish. Killer is Dead is both stylish and substantive. Upgrades are varied and make HUGE improvements on K.I.D.’s playability, and at times offers an option is given for what type of pick-up will be dropped from a defeated enemy adding further customization. There are some slight camera issues, but the deeper I got into Killer is Dead the more rewarding I found its gameplay.
Killer is Dead’s structure offers choice. There are often multiple options for the player from side-missions that are absolutely unnecessary and are no doubt padding for the completion time, main story episodes that continue the game and open more side missions, and then the aforementioned gigolo missions. I would be more apt to defend the gigolo missions if they were at all fun, interesting or inventive, but they are not. They are pure fan-service and perhaps in bad taste. These missions are how alternative functions of Mondo’s arm are unlocked.
Though Killer is Dead is infinitely more playable than Killer 7 and all of Suda’s previous work, No More Heroes 1 & 2 are still my favorites of his. Lollipop and Shadows of the Damned are both solid, but Killer is Dead’s engaging combat gives it an edge over Grasshopper and Kadokawa’s more recent efforts.
Killer is Dead may be longwinded and have an extended and elaborate train/penis metaphor, but its captivating art direction and pure style plus its satisfying action and creative boss fights makes for a net positive as do most of Suda’s games. Killer is Dead is a great action game worth seeing by fans of the genre or fans of different gaming experiences.
8.1 out of 10 (GREAT)