Killer Is Dead is an action video game for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Windows platforms. It was initially released on August 1, 2013. The game was directed by Hideyuki Shin, written by Goichi Suda at Grasshopper Manufacture and published by Kadokawa Games, XSEED Games, Deep Silver and Sony Computer Entertainment Asia. Considered an amalgamation of the storyline depth demonstrated by Suda in killer7 and the high-speed action gameplay used in No More Heroes, Killer Is Dead follows government-sanctioned assassin Mondo Zappa as he eliminates opponents of his execution office clientele. When his clients and targets begin frequenting his own childhood memories, Zappa grows determined to find answers. The game is meant to illustrate the "dark side" of secret agents, and like James Bond, contains a slew of love interests mirroring Bond girls. Suda went on to describe Killer Is Dead as, "the story of a man who doesn't show himself much in the public world but still worms his way into society and mercilessly eliminates the evil dispersed in it. It's a personal story, not one that's conscious of the chaos going on in the real world at the moment, but you might get more than a taste of that in the end anyway."
Rain falls in a dim alley as two figures confront one another. Tokio, a deranged criminal whose right arm has been replaced with an automatic weapon, identifies the other man as an "executioner." This man stalks Tokio down the alley, effortlessly reflecting a flurry of gunshots using a katana. When he exits the alley, Tokio ambushes and seemingly kills his pursuer. Tokio's relief is cut short when the man silently rises and hacks away his firearm limb. Bleeding out at the bottom of the alley, Tokio realizes that his opponent is aligned with "the darkness," and with that the man slices off Tokio's head. A purple aura rises from the body and coats the Moon above.
Two years later, Mondo Zappa's morning begins with a letter of acceptance into the office of Bryan Roses, whose government-sanctioned organization employs hitmen to execute villains across the globe. Zappa's roommate, Mika Takekawa, is disappointed that her request has been denied, but cheers up when Zappa offers Takekawa a position as his assistant. Zappa and Takekawa meet with Roses and his colleague Vivienne Squall, who is initially hard on the pair. After a brief explanation of how the office functions, the group welcomes its latest client, an artist named Robert who claims an arthropod is responsible for a series of recent disappearances in his area. Robert signs a contract for the execution of this monster, and Vivienne dispatches Zappa and Takekawa on their first hunt.
Inside the client's house Zappa discovers not Robert but a woman named Alisa, whose older sister Alice has not been herself since being tricked by "a scary-looking man." The client's house morphs into a caricature of the popular tale of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland as Zappa rummages the site for Alisa's sister. When Zappa does find Alice, he realizes she is actually the owner of the house and that all along she has been posing as Alisa. She begins complaining of back pains, which have plagued her since returning from a visit to the Moon. This piques Zappa's interest and he presses her for the name of the man she encountered there. Her pain grows as she tries to remember but she soon recalls the "scary-looking man" as David. Alice's back pain climaxes as her body erupts in a flurry of blood; she appears to levitate upside-down as her neck snaps her face rightside-up. Looking into Zappa's eyes, Alice asks if she is a tortured soul, as he gazes on the arthropod horror her body has mutated into. Knowing now that Alice is the monster described by Robert, Zappa is forced to kill her. When Zappa delivers his client Alice's head, to everyone's surprise Robert identifies her as the woman who killed him. A moment later Roses, Squall, Zappa and Takekawa find themselves alone in the room, with Squall lamenting that the phantom will not be paying for the execution as promised in the contract.
Two weeks later, Zappa is on date when his phone begins to ring; Roses has organized a mission to oust the executioner Zappa has been hired to replace. Takekawa keeps Zappa's target, Damon, distracted in a lavish hotel room while he tears through a number of Wires, cyber foot soldiers from the Moon who are surfacing on Earth in a time where space-travel and cybernetics grow ever more commonplace. Zappa discovers Damon, partially transformed into a Wire himself, ready to assault Takekawa for spilling wine on his suit. Addressing himself as Damon's replacement, the decrepit assassin advises Zappa only that in their business men are always vulnerable to the darkness and must combat this with "a beacon of light that may never succumb to it." In another room Damon confronts Roses, who over a glass of wine explains that Damon's going "against the state" supersedes his perfect execution record. Damon warns Roses that Zappa is dangerous, then ponders if his life was worthwhile. Within moments a fountain of gore forces through his throat, before Roses concludes that everything in life is worthwhile.
The agency's next client is Moon River, the last member of a lunar royal family which was overthrown. When River confesses that David now rules over the Moon and she seeks vengeance against him, Roses respectfully declines her as a client as the Moon is out of the American government's jurisdiction. Zappa however lobbies to take on River's case personally, as the encounter with Alice has left him curious about David. Zappa locates David's lunar palace, where he hacks through a number of more ferocious Wires guarding his halls. During his search, Zappa begins hearing David's voice beckon him, and at last encounters him perched upon his throne. David offers Zappa the opportunity to conquer Earth together, though he is refused. He then briefly puzzles Zappa by mentioning his love for soft-boiled eggs. While David accepts Zappa's insistence that they cross swords, he vanishes from battle before Zappa can execute him. Zappa and Roses apologize to River profusely for letting David escape, and as River must remain homeless, Zappa extends his own home to her in the meantime.
After seeing David, Zappa experiences an odd dream. He encounters himself as a child, laying motionless as the Moon, Sun and Earth levitate in circles around him. Zappa hears his mother's voice, which prompts his child-self before him to awaken, and the objects floating above to disappear. A dining room appears and he sees himself as a child, eating eggs while lamenting that his mother did not cook them over-easy. Another plate of eggs sits by an empty seat at the table. Zappa deduces that this may be one of his memories. Stranger sights follow, such as a masked woman seeping a purple aura into the sky, himself and Moon River playing tag as children and a unicorn. Zappa comes to a dock where his child self is trying to rescue a drowning River, but the masked woman invades the scene and attacks Zappa himself. When Zappa wakes from his nightmare, he asks River about when they first met, though she denies they knew each other before she visited Roses' office.
In addition to close-range attacks with his katana, Zappa can alter his cybernetically-enhanced left arm, Musselback, into various forms including a gun and a drill earned as gifts from his love interests. His left- and right-wielded weapons can be upgraded throughout the game at any time. Slashing away at and killing Wires or other foes allows Zappa to absorb blood, similar to killer7's Blood mechanic, which can be used to launch an "Adrenaline Burst" attack which instantly dispatches Wires. Zappa can also transform Wires into Dark Matter, before using the Adrenaline Burst to transform the resulting Dark Matter into pure energy.
Killer Is Dead was planned as early as the end of 2009, but did not enter development until the spring of 2011. The title of the game is a nod to the 1986 Smiths album The Queen Is Dead, while protagonist Mondo Zappa's surname references musician Frank Zappa. As of April 2012, a prototype of the game was near completion, while the game's scenario had only just been written. Suda told Famitsu that keywords for the game included "Moon," "Earth," "brilliant game" and "love." Suda initially likened the game's love theme to the concept of how far someone will go to protect the person who is important to them, though unlike Grasshopper's Shadows of the DAMNED, Killer Is Dead does not demonstrate as strong a bond between its male and female leads. Zappa is loyal to his roommate Takekawa and confident in earning the affection of Moon River, but his duty to his country and occupation form the larger focal point of the finished game. Furthermore, while Killer Is Dead shares its name with killer7: Killer Is Dead, a story Suda previously wrote to explain Dan Smith better than killer7 had, the game is not a precursor or sequel to killer7.
In August 2012, a trailer for Killer Is Dead was shown to attendees at the Lollipop Chainsaw Summer Appreciation Festival. According to Famitsu, the trailer featured "a man with a cyborg left arm and a katana in his right hand," with a cel-shading art style similar to that of No More Heroes, while attempting "a new style following Shadows of the DAMNED and Lollipop Chainsaw." Around this time, Suda explained that he wanted to create "a new hero" for Killer Is Dead, one whose story would draw inspiration from killer7 and No More Heroes.
On January 17, 2013, Famitsu published the first screenshots from Killer Is Dead and details regarding its settings, characters and gameplay mechanics. The screenshots depicted a throwback to earlier Suda titles such as Moonlight Syndrome, The Silver and killer7, as it was seen that the moon would play a prominent role in the story. The following day, the game's trailer was made public and its website was published online. Kadokawa Games confirmed that XSEED Games would be responsible for publishing Killer Is Dead in North America, while Deep Silver would publish the game in Europe and Oceania. Kadokawa also revealed that the game would receive a simultaneous worldwide release later that summer. Ultimately, Kadokawa published the game on August 1, while North America received the game on August 27, followed by Europe on August 30. A deluxe edition of Killer Is Dead was also packaged for these regions with a hardcover art book, the game's soundtrack and downloadable content.
Before Killer Is Dead launched, Suda noted that while the game was "self-contained for the moment," a sequel could be designed if there was enough demand for a second game. However Killer Is Dead ultimately had trouble finding success on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, though this did not deter a Windows version from following on May 23, 2014. The resulting Nightmare Edition includes a less forgiving Nightmare difficulty level, the Smooth Operator Pack and the ability to replay cinematics.
Killer Is Dead received generally mixed reviews from critics, many of whom cited its predictability and graphic flaws as disappointing. Its characters were described by Game Informer as "so outlandish and bizarre that they are fascinating," while another commentator called Killer Is Dead "a hymn to the multifaceted creativity of a game designer still capable of enhancing the vision of the Japanese video game industry." Reviewers were generally satisfied by its combat system, which some described as great while others felt did not meet its full potential. IGN criticized the game's reliance on loading screens, its tendency for screen-tearing, writing and voicing which "jump back and forth between passable and downright silly," and the gigolo challenges which were frustratingly required in order to unlock valuable weapons throughout the game. Commenting on these controversial missions, IGN went on to explain, "On paper, these interludes had potential [...] In theory, if these had played out with the interactivity of a BioWare RPG, or the grounded realism of a game like Catherine, I could see how these could've been some really interesting moments. Instead, Killer is Dead goes for the lowest, most rotten hanging fruit."
Game Informer criticized aggravating camera angles and lack of locking onto enemies as a compromise. VideoGamer noted that while the game had entertaining moments, "Killer is Dead will only appeal to players who enjoyed Suda51's previous titles, particularly Lollipop Chainsaw. If you're not convinced by now, this will do nothing to alter that mindset" Other reviews accepted the bizarre storyline, one summarizing that the game "raises more questions than it gives answers; Killer is Dead is a typical Suda51 game."
- ↑ Killer Is Dead Dated For August 1 In Japan. Spencer. Siliconera. May 13, 2013.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 Grasshopper's Suda51 gives first details on his latest game, Killer is Dead. Kevin Gifford. Polygon. January 16, 2013.
- ↑ Killer Is Dead Coming This Summer From Grasshopper Manufacture And Xseed. Spencer. Siliconera. January 31, 2013.
- ↑ Killer Is Dead Will Be Published by XSEED in North America and Deep Silver in Europe. N4G. January 31, 2013.
- ↑ New From Grasshopper and Suda 51: Killer is Dead. Anoop Gantayat. Andriasang.com. April 4, 2012.
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 Killer is Dead Detailed. Anoop Gantayat. Andriasang.com. April 4, 2012.
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 EGM Exclusive: Suda51 Explains Origins of Mondo Zappa. Ray Carsillo. EGM. March 28, 2013.
- ↑ Lollipop Chainsaw Summer Appreciation Festival Yields Information about Killer is Dead. Ryan Taylor. Gaming Unwrapped. August 27, 2012.
- ↑ Killer is Dead Is Self Contained but May Have a Sequel, Says Suda 51. Giuseppe Nelva. DualShockers. July 9, 2013.
- ↑ Suda 51's Killer is Dead Takes Fifth Place in Japanese Charts. Stephen Daly. Gameranx. August 13, 2013.
- ↑ 11.0 11.1 Killer is Dead. Joe Juba. Game Informer. August 27, 2013.
- ↑ Killer is Dead - Recensione. Francesco Fossetti. Everyeye.it. August 27, 2013.
- ↑ 13.0 13.1 Killer is Dead. Joe van Burik. Gamer.nl. August 29, 2013.
- ↑ Killer Is Dead review: Drunk on the moon. Sinan Kubba. Joystiq. August 27, 2013.
- ↑ 15.0 15.1 Killer is Dead Review. Marty Silva. IGN. August 27, 2013.
- ↑ Killer is Dead Review. Nick Akerman. VideoGamer. August 27, 2013.