Saturday, December 7, 2013

Review #77: Killer is Dead

 Yet another fantastic production by the man himself, Goich Suda.
 I've never made any effort to conceal the fact that Suda 51 is my favorite video-game director, I've played everything he has released since Killer7, except Killer Pitch, and I've loved every game. All of them exude personality from every single line of code and they are quite unique in their presentation, heck, Killer7 is unique in it's gameplay too. Killer is Dead is no exception, it's a cocktail of a unique visual style, off-the-wall characters and situations, a rich and at times confusing storyline with gameplay very similar to No More Heroes, my favorite Suda 51 game. If I had to sum it, it's a mix of No More Heroes with Killer7.
 In Killer is Dead you take the role of Mondo Zappa, an assassin from Bryan's Execution Agency that wields a Katana named Gekkou with his right arm and possesses a robotic left arm, and you must fulfill the assassination of a certain target. First things first, this is a very episodic game, there's 12 chapters and most of them are unrelated to each other, minus a few ends that get tied up as you go along. This is an action game, and a very straightforward one at that.  Stages are mostly linear, with an occasional puzzle every now and then that's very easy to solve. That's not to say exploration isn't encouraged, as there are plenty of secrets hidden among stages, if you can find them.
 If you've ever played No More Heroes, you'll be right at home here since Killer is Dead's combat works very similarly. Mondo's basic arsenal include an Attack button, a Guard button, a Punch(that breaks guards) and four different sub weapons. A word of forewarning, at the start movement feels a bit floaty and imprecise, and it actually is, but for a game like this with no platforming at all, it's not bothersome at all. Heck, thanks to sidestepping(More on it soon), moving is precise in the midst of battle, so no complains here, but it's worth noting that it takes a couple of minutes to get used to it. Gameplay is deceptively simple, as there's plenty of depth if you are willing to dig. Moving while holding the guard button produces a sidestep, if you sidestep right before getting hit, the screen will darken and Mondo will close in and you are free to mash the attack button for loads of damage, alternatively, you can press guard right before getting hit and Mondo will parry the attack, later upgrades allow for specialized actions after a parry. As Mondo scores hits with his Katana, Gekkou, without getting hit the combo counter will rise, and as it rises Mondo's slashes will become fancier, faster and stronger, killing an enemy when your combo counter is at it's highest allows you to finish the enemy in one of four different ways, each one yielding a different item drop.
 Besides the health meter, there is the Blood meter. This meter increases when you grab certain enemy drops or as you attack enemies, and these allow you to use any of Mondo's four different sub-weapons(Normal Shot, Freeze Shot, Drill and Charge Shot). You also get access to an instant-kill move that works on any normal enemy, although there are a couple of armored enemies that must be dizzied first. When killed, enemies will drop a mixture of 5 different items: Moon Ore, used to buy upgrades, Health refills, Blood Refills, Health Upgrades, which grant permanent Health boosts, or Blood Upgrades, which provide permanent Blood boosts. As stated, you can upgrade a couple of Mondo's moves and even buy a couple of new ones. There's not a whole lot of them, but you'll probably be missing many of them after the game ends.
 Besides the story missions, before tackling each new chapter you can play and replay a few Sidemissions. These are based on parts of previous stages, but they task you with different objectives and enemy placement. Sometimes they'll even be minigame-ish in nature. Why would you want to do them? Besides to upgrade Mondo, that is, well, because they give you money. Money is used to buy Costumes(No DLC costumes, all of them unlockable, besides the limited edition, Kudos Grasshapper Manufacture) and gifts. These gifts are to be used during the infamous Gigolo Missions. Gigolo Missions are pretty much SideMissions, however these don't involve any bloodshed(Except Scarlet's...). During this missions, you are placed in first person and must win the heart of a beauty. How? By looking at their breasts and crotch areas while they are looking away, you can even use X-Ray glasses to see their underwear. Tacky? yes, Awkward? Even more so, Needless? TOTALLY. They are pretty dumb, and while most of them can be ignored, you must do at least three of them to earn all your subweapons. Clearing the same Gigolo Mission up to three times extends the final, very awkward, sex scene. I was actually embarrassed to have these play on my television, I live with other people after all. Hilariously enough, they are not really all that sexist, as the prostitute here is Mondo(they are called GIGOLO missions after all) and the women pay him, so yeah, the object here is Mondo.
 Speaking of Scarlet, her Gigolo Missions are a bit different. During most of the 12 main chapters you can run across her, if you find her as she is hiding, and she will unlock different challenge missions. Challenge missions offer a nice variety, and they get quite challenging by the end. Besides the money you get after completing each challenge, you also get points towards unlocking the scenes with Scarlet, should you want to watch awkward 3D sex. While all of these sound plentiful, the game is a bit on the short the side, particularly if you don't plan on replaying side-missions for the money.
 Visually, this is Suda's finest by far. It's really hard to describe, but it looks like Killer7. Character Models are cell-shaded, but they have no black borders, everything is also painted in very strong, solid colors giving it a very surrealist look. There are also a lot of solid-black shadows that give it a bit of a comic-book vibe. Stages fare just as well, even if straightforward in design, most of them are very pretty to look at, notably the Japanese one with the cherry blossom trees. As with Suda's finest, the bosses are pretty memorable, both due to how great they look and their off-the-wall dialogue. While the story can, at times, feel slightly confusing, things do make sense and there is a lot of foreshadowing and pretty cool revelations. Voice-Acting is excellent, with a couple of well-known voice actors voicing some of the characters, and the lines they get to deliver are nothing short of awesome. And hilarious. And sometimes both. While the music is not necessarily catchy, the score really fits the game, and the closing credits music is unexpectedly good.
 It's easy to tell thatI loved this game. I have almost no gripes at all. Maybe the insanity of the game might take people not familiar with Suda by surprise, as characters hardly react when coming across aliens or ghosts, they treat it as nothing out of the ordinary. There's also the tacky Gigolo Missions that the game could've been done without. Still, despite everything, I had a blast with it, I had planned on playing a bit yesterday before going to bed, next thing I know it's 9:00 AM. It's really good.
 9.0 out of 10.

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