Killer Is Dead Review
"The job... Killer Is Dead." These are the words uttered by protagonist Mondo Zappa before he goes to assassinate his target. I use the word "assassinate" lightly because where the word means to silently murder someone, Mondo does the complete opposite. With his trusty beloved katana "Gekkou" (Moonlight) and his cybernetic left arm known as "Musselback", Mondo proceeds to slaughter anything in his path in order to accomplish the job. Enter the world of Killer Is Dead where strange is the norm and executioner Mondo Zappa indulges in a life of "assassination and amour".
This is the most recent title to come from the mind of Goichi Suda AKA Suda 51. Just as one would expect from Mr. Suda, Killer Is Dead turns out to be completely bizarre and wacky right from the start and fits right in place. Don't expect to get the same type of treatment from previous works such as No More Heroes, Lollipop Chainsaw or Shadows of the Damned. Just like each of those respectable titles, Killer Is Dead comes off as its own and should be treated as such. I forewarn anyone that has not experienced a Suda 51 title or expects a cohesive story told because you will most likely come away disappointed. Killer Is Dead most definitely does not apply to everyone on the spectrum (hence the mixed reviews) because of the cryptic and often confusing story, gameplay which could border on the mediocre for some and the bizarre nature. Visiting a twisted representation of Alice In Wonderland struck me as odd but it gets even weirder when Mondo must assassinate the Alice lookalike after she sprouts legs from her back; altering to a very... specific position.
A lot of complaints were made concerning the gameplay of this title. Hearing about the questionable gameplay, I was skeptical and nervous. After all, I've been waiting so long for this game to drop. While playing through the first couple of missions, I'll admit I wasn't sure what to do. Then it hit me like a bolt of lightning and soon I was weaving between enemies, cutting them to ribbons while making use of the more advanced skill moves. Killer Is Dead is a true hack and slash title at heart. Mashing on the square button never felt so good. Players have use of the standard attack buttons for slashing and punching; using these two in tandem with one another is key especially for later fights. Now the main objective during fights is to build the combo meter and avoid getting hit since damage resets the counter. The higher your combo goes, the faster and stronger Mondo gets with his attacks. A high combo also leads to one of four rewarding Final Judgement kills. Along with different animations for each, players can net items that boosts Mondo's stats permanently, restore health or purchase new abilities.
The gameplay is rarely broken up, consisting of only point A to point B mindless hack and slash antics. There are a couple of turret scenarios and one on-rails motorcycle mission but these are few and end quickly. Personally, I didn't mind the mindless violence part; in fact, I welcomed it! I was getting much better at disposing of enemies and doing it in a really stylish manner. The more practice, the better in my opinion! This was a game I anxiously waited months, if not a year for; I definitely want to be the best that I can here. The one huge fault I noticed immediately was the terrible camera. A hack and slash title cannot have a bad camera especially with how crazy this game gets. I often had to babysit the camera and focus on enemies, while moving Mondo out of harm's way. I shouldn't have to worry about a camera obscuring my vision during fights. I've gotten the hang of how to manipulate the camera just right but that doesn't exclude the terrible camera.
There are mainly three types of missions one can expect to run into: story, side quests and the debatable Gigolo missions. Players must first complete the prologue mission, which flows into the rest of Killer Is Dead. At any point afterwards, players can choose which mission they want to undertake; provided the missions are unlocked first. 12 story missions are available and take about 40 minutes to complete each. These were my favorite because as confusing as the story is, I found it interesting on a certain level and basically understood what was transpiring. Each mission is intense, hectic and beyond bloody as I tore through the enemies known as "Wires", essentially taking their BLOOD. This BLOOD I refer to is the source of energy that powers Mondo's cybernetic arm. Without it, the sub-weapons and abilities collected later on are useless. Each mission concludes with a boss fight that requires some spot-on reflexes mixed with plenty of button mashing. Players are graded after a mission based on a number of variables and given the payment for completing the job. The cash can be used to buy various "gifts" for the gigolo missions.
The addition of these missions caused quite a stir because of their sexual nature. Where some see an oversexuallization of women, I see a play on the James Bond nature. Mondo could easily be mistaken for a Japanese James Bond and the way he operates towards the ladies... well, James Bond himself would be pleased. Playing through the eyes of Mondo, the goal for each gigolo mission is to seduce the "Mondo Girls" with enough gifts before you can win their hearts. This all goes down like a staring contest of sorts but instead of staring into the lovely ladies' eyes, you focus *ahem* elsewhere. Do this long enough and Mondo's gauge will reach its peak and this is the chance to offer a gift. Not every gift will wow the ladies, so by making use of the "Gigolo Glasses", Mondo can see what she really wants. Also, by using the glasses, players can see what the lady is wearing underneath her clothing. This may annoy and even anger some but just remember; this is a game and a weird, quirky Japanese one at that. I would say doing these missions are helpful because each lady will give you a sub-weapon the first time you please them. At first, I was completely clueless on how to properly play since there is no clear instructions but by maybe the third or fourth try; I had it down to a science.
Side-quests are just another excuse to kill Wires and score more cash for gifts. The variety changes at times; whether Mondo must find a model train or sneak past haunted grounds to located a cursed doll. Other than the mission objectives, these missions have the same style as the story ones. I'll admit I'm slightly disappointed in the lack of stuff to do here. I completed Killer Is Dead within 10+ hours and the only incentive to go back is the hard mode. This is purely just to see if I can beat it on a higher difficulty but others may not feel the same. One playthrough is more than enough to get the full experience. Besides the bothersome camera, I experienced some screen tearing but not enough to ruin the momentum. Killer Is Dead turned out to be a good game for me but I was hoping for it to wow me. Instead, I got my cheap thrills which lessened after I finished beating the game.
- Not enough replay value
- Bad camera setup
- Screen tearing issues
- Mindless hack and slash fun
- Crisp anime-styled visuals
- Signature Suda 51 feel
My final thoughts regarding Killer Is Dead? If you are a hardcore Suda 51/Grasshopper Manufacture fan, full speed ahead in purchasing this. For everyone else (including hack and slash fans), proceed with caution. This just might not be the game you were looking for. Ultimately, it all comes down to taste and how much players are willing to deal with. Like weird Japanese games? Give this title a shot. If not, then at best, give it a rental playthrough. I however, enjoyed the latest from Goichi Suda and look forward to his future endeavors.