Goichi Suda, popularly known as Suda51, is known for his weird and twisted games. If you’re a fan of his games, you’ll be delighted to know that Killer is Dead is just what you would expect from Suda51. However, the game is not perfect. Suda51 has given us an outlandish game, but if a little more effort was put into it, Killer is Dead would have been a lot more enjoyable.
The star of the game is Mondo Zappa, an anorexic assassin with a cybernetic left arm. He is hired by Bryan’s Execution Firm which is funded by the state. The firm receives clients who want monsters or dangerous people killed. Mondo has lost most of his memory and doesn’t even remember how he got his cybernetic left arm. He just remembers waking up one day and having it. Mondo is accompanied by his assistant Mika, who is a freakishly retarded girl. She lives with Mondo for the sole reason of cooking soft-boiled eggs – Mondo’s favorite food.
Other primary characters include Bryan, a muscular guy who is half man, half machine, and Vivienne, who also works at the firm and takes Mondo to where he is supposed to ‘execute’ his mission. Bryan looks a lot like Cyborg from the DC Comics, and Vivienne closely resembles Eva from Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. Heck, she even drives a similar bike. It’s hard to tell the two apart. Both these characters will show up at a specific part of a specific mission to offer some support.
As you may have already guessed, the game takes place in the future. Suda51 does not put a lot of emphasis into his world since a lot of things are unclear and freaky – but that’s something you’d expect from a Suda51 game. Nonetheless, sometimes I felt like I needed a little more insight, and was left confused. The game’s story is quite convoluted at times, and the ending is a kind of a cliff-hanger (sequel, perhaps?). You’ll need to think over the ending to properly understand it. The story isn’t extraordinary either. Most missions weren’t even following the main story since each client wants you to kill monsters that are totally unrelated to one another. Killer is Dead has one weird story, I can tell you that.
Now, when I say ‘weird’, I really mean it. I mean, this game has unicorns, tattoos that come to life, a house made out of candy, going to the moon and breathing without oxygen. On top of all that, Mika is as odd and peculiar as Japanese girls can get – or maybe just a little more. She acts like a five-year old and has an annoying voice. It’s a good thing she only appears for short periods of time. Apart from Mika’s ‘funny’ attitude, the game does have some pretty good humor. I can’t reveal much for fear of spoiling the fun, but you can expect a good laugh here and there.
The game makes use of some very solid voice acting to deliver it’s story. Normally, in my opinion, Japanese games are better with Japanese audio, but this time around, I preferred the English version. The voice actors are very talented. Mondo is voiced by Patrick Seitz, while the game’s main antagonist is brought to life by Liam O’Brien. Both of these voice actors have a lot of experience and are well-known for their roles in other video games. Other than voices, other sound effects in the game are quite good too. The background music deserves most of the praise though; it was really well done and sent adrenaline rushing through your veins most of the time. Okay, maybe that’s an overstatement, but you get my point. The background music in the last boss fight was pretty good. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to hear much of it…
Killer is Dead has really cool gameplay, but the game is incredibly easy. The final boss fight was particularly childish. Each boss fight has about three segments. I completed all three segments of the final boss in 90 seconds! I was playing on normal of course, but I felt like I had selected the (unavailable) “Very Easy” mode. Sure, I died a few times in the entire game, but that was mostly due to my carelessness. The enemies were quite generic and simple. All you have to do is keep slashing at them or trying to break their defence, while occasionally blocking and dodging when you see them raising their weapon. Of course, there is some diversity offered in the game, but we’ll get to that later. My point here is that adding a bit of a challenge in the game would have been a good thing. I think I should also point out that I only died while fighting a large group of enemies. No boss ever took me down. Seems a little unusual, doesn’t it?
Nevertheless, the gameplay is a lot of fun. Basically, Mondo is equipped with a Katana that can absorb blood from the enemies you attack. A red bar, below your health bar (which is represented by diamonds), is needed for a few things such as performing the Adrenaline Rush or Healing – both of which are very important. Each time you attack an enemy, you gain some blood. Other ways to get blood include collecting Enery Cores or finding Scarlett – a nurse that is hidden in every level.
Combat is very fluid and fast-paced. You need only press one button for attacking. A few combos are available, but most of the time, they’re redundant. Mondo can also dodge attacks and break defenses using this left arm. If you dodge an attack at the right time, you have the opportunity to mash your attack button as time slows down, in order to perform a series of slashes and deliver heavy damage. As you may have understood by now, the game carries the basic hack and slash mechanics. Mondo is also able to use his left arm as a gun for long ranged attacks. The arm can also turn into other weapons such as a drill or a freeze ray, which have to be unlocked via minigames. A certain drawback to the game is the inability to jump. Yep, that’s right, Mondo can’t jump! He can move at a very high speed, but he can’t jump. That was a total let-down. Therefore, in order to reach enemies that are on elevated platforms or out of your reach, you have to use your arm as a gun and shoot them down. This gives significance to the gun and gives you a reason to use and upgrade it, instead of forgetting about it halfway through the game because of it’s comparatively low damage.
A unique addition to Killer is Dead is the Adrenaline Rush. If you have enough blood and don’t feel like taking out enemies the usual way, you can simply use Adrenaline Rush to take out an enemy instantly. Performing the Adrenaline Rush repeatedly will take out all enemies quicker than usual. This requires a good amount of blood though. Some enemies (including bosses) cannot be defeated this way though. You’ll need to attack them the regular way and finish them off with an Adrenaline Rush. The Adrenaline Rush, although efficient, is another thing that makes this game too easy. Also, it doesn’t require you to do anything except press two buttons together which isn’t really a good thing. It makes the game feel like it’s playing itself. Overall though, the combat will make you want to keep playing this game even after you finish it. Do note that the combat is sometimes so fast that anyone other than the player will not be able to keep up with what’s happening on the screen. If anyone is watching you play, they’ll be wasting their time.
As I mentioned before, Boss battles have three segments. Once you deplete the boss’ health bar, it will refill itself after you perform a required Adrenaline rush. That marks the end of one segment. For example, in the second boss battle, once I dealt enough damage to the boss, I had to perform the adrenaline rush to chop off one of it’s legs. The bar emptied, refilled itself and the battle continued until I chopped off the second leg, and finally the head. Hence, three segments. Boss battles are fun and fast, but the bosses end up feeling like regular enemies after a while.
Each battle makes you want to keep playing because of how cool the game looks. The animations are very fluid and combine vibrant colours to give a very stylish look to the battles. Even the simplest of combos look very cool. When you perform an Adrenaline Rush or a quick series of strikes, the screen goes red and black, making the gamer feel ‘powerful’. Mondo’s Katana sometimes glows blue as he fights and you can see the blue swirling around, causing blood to splatter everywhere. Speaking of blood, the Katana causes the enemy’s blood to splatter on the ground or on the walls every time you land a hit. The blood in Killer is Dead, unlike in other games, stays where it is for a very long time, if not for the entire duration of the level. You can clearly see it just splattered there on the ground, all bright red and thick. Though a minor point, but one that I found interesting since blood in most games disappears almost immediately.
The game uses cell-shaded graphics which initially look horrible. During the first hour, I hated the graphics, especially in dark areas where it was impossible to make out the faces of characters. Soon after, the lighting improved and the game looked a lot better. However, at times, the visuals do seem to disappoint. There’s a lack of detail in most environments, even by cell-shaded standards. Sometimes, the game looks pretty, while at some stages, it is like a plate full of ugly, burnt flesh served with fries.
The gameplay does overshadow the game’s problems though, so it’s not all bad. If you’re tired of the regular combat, the game provides some diversity. For example, in some stages, you are able to use turrets to take out enemies quicker. Also, there are minigames that you can play for extra cash. And finally, you have the Gigolo missions.
The Gigolo missions are basically minigames in which Mondo tries to impress women. You are required to stare at a woman’s face, chest or thighs in order to get your blood pumping. Once you get enough blood pumping, you are able to give the woman a gift to impress her. If you impress her enough, she’ll ask you to stay with her for the night. She will also give you presents in return, such as variations for your left arm or moon crystals which you can use to buy upgrades. Later on, if you get special glasses in the game, you can look through women’s clothes.
Killer is Dead also lets you take on Scarlett’s challenges. As I said before, Scarlett is a nurse that appears in every level of the game. If you find her, she’ll unlock a new challenge such as a time attack, which you can attempt later on. Completing all her challenges will make her available for Gigolo missions.
Other side missions are available as well, but most of them involve killing enemies, sometimes in different ways. One side mission, for example, lets you kill enemies by running them over with a bike. You can’t drive the bike of course; it’s all automatic. Therefore, side missions are fun, yet very simple and can lose their charm. Even with the the side missions, the game is no longer than 8 hours. The story missions take up about 5 to 6 hours. In order to keep you playing, Killer is Dead features leaderboards. Once you complete a level, you can upload your score and see where it stands on the world leaderboard. If you feel competitive, you can try to improve your score and see where it stands.
Overall, Killer is Dead is a good experience, especially for a Suda51 game. It’s nothing too phenomenal, but still worth playing at least once if you have the time and money. The game has a lot of style, but doesn’t carry just as enough substance – you must keep that in mind so that you don’t get into it expecting too much. Fans of Suda51 and “No More Heroes” will definitely like Killer is Dead as it is a spiritual successor to the former.
Killer is Dead is out on August 27th and 30th for North America and Europe respectively.
Killer Is Dead Review