Much can be said about the convergence of standardised entertainment mediums such as television and video games, and Killer is Dead throws its own two cents on the matter by blending tried and true anime staples with rather conventional video game elements.
Killer is Dead follows the story of executioner and hired goon Mondo Zappa who, along with his bosses at the Bryan Execution Firm, must carry out hits on various targets. There is an underlining story here about Mondo and the cybernetic characters he comes across that remains somewhat hard to pass as coherent.
Perhaps it’s the over zealous use of the catchphrase “killer is dead”. This is something that seems to be niche in certain anime productions, but in this setting — to have the characters constantly citing the fact that “killer is dead” without any underlying meaning — is just confusing.
And the voice acting isn’t helping matters either. Whoever was in charge of localisation should probably get a visit from Mondo himself because the tone of the game is thrown all over the place with the brooding but generic Mondo’s voice combatting the high pitched squeals of his over-excited sidekick, Mika Takekawa.
When it comes to playing the game, things are just as schizophrenic as the story.
Players will undertake 12 missions of increasing difficulty which are broken up into two basic segments: exploring and fighting. The fighting elements are thankfully satisfying with many combos and skills available. Players can collect ‘blood’ from their downed enemies to unleash special skills and to upgrade and ultimately customise Mondo as they wish.
Killer is Dead Review
The customisation is subtle but deep enough to satisfy the curious. You’ll want to make sure you’ve explored every corner of each stage to be able to afford the upgrades. Unfortunately, for a game that seems to focus such lengthy amounts of time on exploration, doing so is not that difficult or complex.
Exploration involves going from room to room in search of an item, solving ridiculously simple puzzles along the way to ultimately unlock the final door which hides the boss. Although I, for one, can appreciate this nod to the nostalgic days of video game yore, in the year 2013 it feels incredibly underwhelming.
The game uses confusion to take your mind off the boring levels by constantly throwing bright colours and trippy environments in your face. It’s almost as if the developer just went nuts and threw in literally every idea for level design they’ve ever had. It doesn’t sound like a bad thing, but playing through the game you’ll find the somewhat serious nature of the plot at contrast to the actual gameplay, though seemingly not on purpose.
Then there’s the Gigalo Missions.
Whatever credibility Killer is Dead might have gained in its rather excellent battle system it loses completely in the Gigalo Missions. Here you are charged with peeving on women in the pursuit to make eye contact where, if successful, you’ll immediately go home and have sex.
Killer is Dead Review
Bringing up the games’ depictions of what it feels every woman on Earth looks, talks and acts is probably a little near sighted: after all, this isn’t a philosophical lesson of ethical standards, it’s a video game developed for adolescent boys who aren’t going to care about the real world. But the Gigalo Missions are probably a step too far down the smutty rabbit hole and comes across as incredibly immature, even in context.
Which is a shame because Killer is Dead is promising. Anime fans will identify with the storyline, at least in how it’s rolled out and told and the battle system is top notch. It may be a case of a game once again being lost in translation but even so, the level of quality in general has taken a few step backwards from its spiritual predecessor, Killer 7.

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Ty Muddle

Ty Muddle

I cut my gaming teeth on a Commodore 64 my siblings and I found stashed under my parents bed. It was the early 90's and the strange computerised images were a novelty for a young kid living in a rural Australian town. It would be some years before I was introduced to a simple word processor powered by a Apple II my grandfather found at the dump but it didn't take much to spark a love of writing and video gaming that would continue through my life. My first "modern" console was, like most people in Australia at the time, a Sega Master System II. In those days you'd hire games from the local video store. I always loved flipping to the back of the game manual to see the cheat codes other players would scribble in the "Notes" section.

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