Killer is Dead is a third-person action slasher from the creative mind of Goichi Suda (Suda51) from Grasshopper Manufacture. The game’s tone is highly stylized and its plot outrageous enough to ruffle some feathers causing a sort of online debate between an XSEED employee and a guy who made a video dissing Suda 51. There were probably more discussions on Killer is Dead in a similar light (sexism, objectification of women) but honestly I wouldn’t focus on it so let’s get past that and get into everything else about the game as “Gigolo mode” is not the only thing going on for the game.
You play the role of Mondo Zappa who works for an “execution agency” which fulfills job requests to execute killers. Each main episode will take you to different places from a dinky back alley to the moon and face off against weird and freakish monstrosities called “Wires” who were once people but corrupted by an energy coming from the “Dark Side of the Moon” (he he he). Each plot character helps you out during the course of certain missions. Mika Takekawa, your plucky live-in assistant revives you when you run out of health for a price which you pre-pay by purchasing a “Mika Ticket” from the gift shop. Simply put, these tickets are continues. Vivienne Squall, is your boss who gives you a ride when chasing mobile targets or provides you with suppressing fire in dicey situations. Bryan Roses, a full fledged cyborg, is the chief of your execution office, when he isn’t taking on clients who end up skipping the payment portion of an execution contract, he brings in the heavy artillery by setting up a Gatling gun to take out targets from a distance in certain missions. Mondo doesn’t seem to remember too much about his past but slowly regains his memories as the plot unravels his unmistakable connection with the dark energies coming from the moon.
You have two modes of attack in Killer is Dead, your katana and your cyborg arm which can turn into a machine gun, drill arm, freeze gun, and charge pulse rifle. Mondo can unlock attack skills by gathering moon crystals from killing Wire minions. Speaking of crystals, while they drop randomly from underlings, you can force a specific type of crystal to drop upon killing them by executing them. The execution sequence triggers when you have a high chain combo and knock an enemy’s HP to zero, you will then be prompted to select the Square, Triangle, Circle, or X button each of which will force a copious amount of crystals to drop from each bad guy. Mondo’s left arm is powered by blood crystals so you will need a blood resupply every now and then so you’ll definitely want to keep your chain combos up to maintain a seemingly endless supply of blood (like there is any shortage of that in the game). There really is a lot going on the screen when you get into the meat of the game so you’ll be mashing buttons in a certain pattern like crazy which is what I believe such action games are all about. If you’re not mashing buttons enough, you’re probably playing a crappy action game.
Killer is Dead has a very rewarding combat experience when you get a hang of the game’s combo and defense system. Mondo’s attacks increase in speed and flare when you start stringing up high number combos (20 hits and above) and that’s when everything goes wild. You will be facing enemies from all directions and some of them will even shoot your from a far. Getting the hang of executing “dodge bursts” and “just guards” will treat you to a string of bloody-cool finishing moves and make you feel a million times cooler than you are in real life (obvious exaggeration may have to be pointed out here). You can tell that the game is developed for anybody to have a real blast because you can score in a lot of lucky dodges and guards simply by mashing buttons. It’s a good thing that mashing buttons can get you through a stage, but only mastery of the game will net you a highest possible rank in a mission so the game is still challenging even if complete noobs can enjoy the game.
The music of the game is a great accompaniment to the mash-ups of locations, Suda 51’s inspirations for the game (Bayformers, James Bond, and Samurai Champloo), and even specific situations (like the intimate scenes with the Mondo girls). There is a healthy mix of music genres in the game to keep it refreshing all through-out the game.
There really isn’t anything to get behind the fragments of the game’s plot. Not like I was expecting extensive back stories on characters or anything but aside from the cool fight mechanics in combat, the plot of the story is barely fascinating or amusing and the punch lines for the jokes in the game were weak, very weak. A lot of things just simply didn’t make sense even if they are being tied up to the main story line but hey, unicorns! Let’s not bother explaining why they exist in the game, I guess Suda 51 and the rest of the team were taking LSD when they thought of that.
Display issues. Frame rates drop frequently when there are a lot of elements or particles on screen and on top of that there are times when the camera angles would mess up your view causing you to lose track of your targets or surroundings that would break your combo chain and possibly cost you the highest rank in a mission. I get hit with bad angles a lot and they tend to become very frustrating.
The mechanics for “gigolo mode” in Killer is Dead are extremely awkward for people who’ve gotten past the “curiosity” stage of growing up. I believe there is no need for an in-depth discussion on why would one feel uncomfortable with having to stare at women’s breasts, crotch, or hips (without the woman taking notice of your blatant eye-banging) to muster enough courage to present gifts to women to gain affection and eventually make her agree with sleeping with you. The Gigolo glasses that come as DLC with every launch copy allows you to see the women in lingerie (just like every boy’s dream of having “x-ray specs). The reasons you’ll be doing gigolo mode (hopefully) is to acquire new left arm attachments and for trophies. If you’re motivated by anything more than that, I would seriously recommend that you seek #help. For the record, the Gigolo Glasses increase your courage at a higher rate so I use them in the game so I get to see them in their lingerie all the time.
While we’re on the topic, I might as well touch the part were you get intimate with the Mondo Girls, specifically (Natalie, Koharu, and Betty (bonus DLC vampire.) There are three intimate scenes which just get more risque. Betty is basically a re-skin of Natalie whose scenes are pretty much your generic Hollywood movie scene while Koharu’s scenes play on men’s fantasy of a traditional Japanese girl with a hidden beast locked away inside her. When you get intimate with Koharu, there are taiko drums banging in the background and then you know why there is a hard, banging, and rhythmic beat going on right? I don’t know if I’m just wired the wrong way but I found it funny because it was obviously intentional and people, haven’t you not all done some kinky stuff in your lives?
If its any consolation to those who would be deeply offended by this mode, one Mondo girl (Scarlet) does not operate within the confines of said gigolo mode but rather is the issuer of challenge missions where you have to beat regular bad guys with certain conditions such as (kill one type of enemy only, killing anything else means mission failure) and they’re not exactly easy. That’s more replay value right there.
Things That Swing Either Way:
Playing the game is easy but mastering it is hard. You can play through the story and the side quests without having to master the game and/or have mad twitch skills. However, I believe that people who like challenges should purchase this game and aspire to score a platinum trophy. I’m telling your right now getting a “plat” in this game would be a big achievement.
You will simply look too damned cool in this game. If stylized violence is your thing (not if you want to murder people IRL, okay?), you need not look further.
In line with scoring platinum trophy, the game’s main missions are very short (6-7 hours tops). If you wanted to, you could finish the game in one sitting and it’s not even going to be that hard. If you don’t like exploring side quests or finding hidden items within stages, there isn’t going to be much value for you especially if you think that the story line jumps into any sort of deep or existential discussions and similar (pretentious crap) themes people will gush about.
I have yet to find Juliet Starling in the game so that is more reason to go back to the game and the mere fact that a game crossover is included in the game as a secret rather than a DLC is certainly something refreshing to see in this day and age. Then again, an exuberant chainsaw wielding cheerleader may not be for everyone. So there’s that too.
Killer is Dead has core game mechanics which rewards players who learn them with a fun time hacking, slashing, and shooting people in style. The game’s over-the-top treatment of everything points to the obvious that things are grossly exaggerated in the game so there is little merit to attack the game because of the Gigolo Mode. While possibly done in poor taste, they may have lost sales but let’s not start a revolution over it. While not being one of those “serious games”, the humor in the game is severely lacking so the game barely got a chuckle out of me even though some parts were meant to be funny. The music of the game sucks you into the mood real good whether you are busting through a Japanese fortress, dueling on the moon, or getting intimate with the Mondo Girls which sets a pretty good bar in terms of musical score for games. The violence and sexual content of this game however will make me think twice about letting kids (and immature people in general) playing this game. Killer is Dead is one of those games you don’t want to buy for your kids or if you do, better give them “the talk” and set them straight because if this is their reality for dating women, help…
If you’re going to pick-up Killer is Dead, I suggest you wait for the R1 version of the game which includes a 25 track OST and an art book for all launch copies. The R3 copy I bought just has the “Smooth Operator” DLC which is also included in the R1 copy of the game.
Oh and the game is in dual audio so you can go English voice or Japanese voice. I prefer the English voices but Mondo sounds nothing like a James Bond in both audio options.