Killer is Dead — the latest from Goichi Suda and his team at Grasshopper Manufacture — doesn't stray far from the Suda51 mold. Like the first trailer revealed, it's at once gory, hardcore, avant-garde, and silly — really silly.
"One thing we got to do with this game," Suda told Famitsu magazine in this week's issue, "is you fighting against a yakuza guy riding a tiger. You're in Kyoto, among all these old-style buildings, and [hero] Mondo is on this motorbike fighting against a yakuza on a tiger! And the game's packed with these sorts of situations, the kind you won't see in any other game. That Kyoto battle got concepted out surprisingly early on, too; I guess we felt like overseas gamers ought to see what Kyoto looks like."
"Silly" is perhaps a good way to describe a lot of Suda's work, from No More Heroes and Killer7 to the more recent Lollipop Chainsaw. "There was a drive within me to make another game in the 'assassin' series," Suda told Famitsu. "Lollipop Chainsaw was a bright, cheery kind of game; if that's the 'yang,' then my aim was to go for the 'yin' next."
KID stars Mondo, an impeccably-dressed man whose job is to kill internationally-wanted assassins. "Mondo's an executioner, not an assassin," Suda noted. "You have that 'execution' nuance added to the act of murdering your foes. The hero's job is to wipe out these serious villains, real AAA-class international terrorists. He's dressed so smartly that you might wonder if he's actually capable of killing, but once the 'work' switch is pulled, his aura completely turns around. The story depicts him as a man who just does his job without putting much of any emotion into it."
"Lollipop Chainsaw was a bright, cheery kind of game; if that's the 'yang,' then my aim was to go for the 'yin' next."
The game was originally announced last April, at which point Suda went so far as to describe the plot as a "darkside 007". "James Bond is a secret agent," he explained to Famitsu, "but generally he's using his secret-agent powers to handle pretty public incidents. I like to think that there's another world out there, a much seamier underworld that doesn't connect to the surface world at all. I like to think there's people who fight day and night in this world without ever registering with the public."
Mondo does quite a lot of Bond-like things in KID, from busting out an arsenal of flashy weapons (his left arm is interchangeable, like Mega Man's) to flirting with exotic ladies in the enticingly-named "Gigolo Mode." But no Bond game ever looked like KID, which marks a return to the high-contrast cel shading last seen in No More Heroes.
"We tried going for more realistic visuals at first," Suda said. "But it just didn't produce the sort of unique expression we wanted with this game. So we turned it all around. I think Killer7 was the best we could do in art expression at the time it came out, but if we just recreated that, it'd merely seem old at this point. So we really pursued an art style that seemed modern with our shading technology. There was a lot of trial and error behind what you see now."
Suda pegged the summer release — which might get published by Xseed Games in the US, judging by recent domain-name behavior — as 70 percent done. "The basics are essentially complete, and now we're just fine-tuning balance," he said. "Being able to make another brand-new action game after Lollipop Chainsaw is something that makes me really happy. Grasshopper Manufacture has a few projects proceeding in tandem this year, but to start out, we're putting everything we got into KID. We want to get people playing it and saying 'Man, I'm glad I bought this.' From the frame-level controls to the visual beauty, we're trying for a game that really sums up Japanese action."
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