killer7 (Gamecube) Review
Killer7 was one of the 5 Capcom titles which were originally announced exclusively for Nintendo Gamecube. Of all the titles, Killer7 was definitely the most intriguing of the bunch, with it’s unusual adult and mature themes and cel-shaded graphics. It was seen by many originally as a game similiar to Resident Evil, but cel-shaded, but we couldn’t have been more wrong…
Thought up by Japanese mastermind Suda Goichi (or Suda 51) of Grasshopper Manufacture Inc. and Shinji Mikami (of Resident Evil fame), Killer7 is a surreal adventure game that features heavy psychological tones. And believe me, when you see the M on the box, it actually means something this time around. From the start I will tell you right now that this game is NOT for children. It is one of the most graphic games I have ever played with heavy psychological and sexual undertones. Killer7’s storyline is a strange one. It never really plays out completely and leaves a lot to think about. Taking place in the USA, where nuclear missiles and all weapons of mass destruction have been successfully made contraband, Killer7 really tries to set itself apart by creating controversy.
The protagonist, Harman Smith, a decrepit old man bound to a wheelchair, is the head of an enigmatic assassin group, the Killer7. Here’s the catch though, all of the assassins within the Killer7 are figments of Harman’s imagination – nothing more. You see, Harman has multiple personality disorder (not to be confused with schizophrenia.) Weird enough for you yet? Well, here’s more. The “Killer7” have been contracted to destroy the “Heaven Smile” a group of terrorists whose only distinctive feature is their smile. They are invisible to the naked eye. Heaven Smiles are somewhat of a suicide bomber, laughing and cackling to their heart’s content as they embrace enemies and destroy them with one explosion.
These Heaven Smile are controlled by “Kun Lan” a terrorist known otherwise as God Hand. It is implied that this name was bestowed upon Kun Lan because of his ability to turn anyone into a Heaven Smile with his golden hand. The Killer7 are the only ones who can see the Heaven Smile because of a magical ring they possess – more on that later. The Killer7 themselves are a diverse bunch, none you’d ever want to meet in a dark alley.
The leader of the Killer7, Garcian Smith doesn’t favour combat too well, as he is only equipped with a pistol which does meagre damage. Garcian is the only one who can contact Harman as well as speak with the other members of the Killer7. As mentioned in the game, Garcian is the ’cleaner’ and is integral to your survival. When a character dies, they will leave behind a paper bag with their head in it. It is your job as Garcian to retrieve this paper bag, so he can bring it back to life. Not only that, but Garcian also possesses the “Vision Ring” which is the only known item that can unmask the Heaven Smile camouflage.
Dan Smith is the all-rounder of the group. He doesn’t have as obscure special abilities as Garcian (and the others) and bears a strong and handy magnum. His special move, Collateral Shot has the benefit of one shot kills to nearly any standard Heaven Smile in the game, however, Dan is a very brash character and dislikes Harman very much. Why Harman would create a personality who hates Harman himself is beyond me. Kaede Smith is the only female member of the Killer7, and is very shy and doesn’t normally speak a word that isn’t an obscenity. Being a woman, she is the weakest of the group however bears some of the most interesting “special abilities”. Her first, which isn’t anything groundbreaking, is her weapon, a high calibre magnum with a scope attached to it, allowing layers to zoom in and pick Heaven Smile off from a distance.
Her second and more ’interesting’ power is the ability to summon a spirit, known as Mizaru to break down barriers to reveal secret areas. How does she do this? By slitting her wrists and spraying the blood all over the barrier, of course! Con Smith is a blind boy, the youngest and smallest of the group. He wields dual automatics and is the fastest of the group. Due to his size, Con can fit into areas that the other members cannot. He is also able to move at lightning fast speeds to evade the Heaven Smile. Coyote Smith is a latino thug who used to be a thief before contracted by Harman to join the Killer7. Due to his prior experience, he is able to pick locks as well as jump high distances to infiltrate buildings from above.
Kevin Smith is an albino man who has never spoken a word in his life. He wears stylish sunglasses and also uses lethal throwing knives, which never have to reload. When he takes his sunglasses off, however, he is able to evade the most complex of security systems. Mask De Smith was an ex-wrestler who joined the Killer7 on Harman’s request. He wields two grenade launchers and can destroy anything in one hit, but won’t receive the usual bonuses that you would receive if you killed the Smile with any other personality. As others have said before me, Capcom and Grasshopper have really devised 7 extremely intriguing characters of which you want to play as all of them, for each have humorous personalities. Killer7 itself is presented to the player beautifully. Although cel-shaded and thus prone to being shunned and called “kiddy” Killer7 is far from it. The main colours used in the games are a myriad of reds, as blood is the prominent feature displayed throughout. Killer7’s thought provoking story is told through absolutely stylistically amazing cut scenes, which consist of a mix of japanime and in-game shots.
The cel-shading for some obscene reason, really adds to the effects of the game despite it being so adult orientated. Blood is perfectly drawn on screen and movement is fluid, as if motion capture were employed for the creation of this game (even though it wasn’t). Killer7 is a surprisingly simple game to play, and although simple, it is enjoyable. Your character is on a set path the whole time, and only one button is required to move forward. Hold the button down, and you move forward. Press another, and you turn around. There is no moving off this set path that developers have created for you, and this can be a tad frustrating but you will eventually get used to it. When faced with a turn in the path, the screen splits and you are able to choose the path you wish to take using the control stick.
This simplistic approach to the game is, in my opinion, much needed as the game is so surreal that players would be lost without a designated path to follow. Combat in the game is particularly easy and simple, much like movement. When a member of the Killer7 hears laughter, they immediately go into first person mode with the help of the shoulder button, and with the press of a button, utilise the “Vision Ring” to scan the area, removing the camouflage of the Heaven Smile and exposing them. Shooting is easy and is merely aiming at the right spot, indicated by a clump of yellow cells on the bodies of the Heaven Smile. Killing enemies yields blood, in two forms. Thin and Thick. Thin blood is more common than thick blood and is used to heal your characters and also to power special abilities, such as slitting of wrists or speed intensifying. Thick Blood, however can be taken to save rooms and harvested into serum, which is then used to upgrade the persona’s abilities. It all sounds very strange and trust me when I say, it is.
Each level bears a specific “Target” normally the one who the Killer7 is contracted to kill. Each level varies quite a lot, and feature rich amazing atmosphere which makes you feel immersed in the “dystopian” world of Killer7. Throughout the game you’ll come across what the game calls “Remnant Psyches”, which are ghosts of the Killer7’s previous targets. Although they were killer by the Killer7, it is unknown why they appear to help you along the way. They vary a lot too, with the first being a GIMP in a leather suit with pink skin, a young blind boy with a ball stuck in his mouth, a severed head of a young woman, a young man who wears t-shirts exclaiming “bad girl” and “hustler” and of course, the targets you’ll be taking out throughout the game.
The inclusion of these ghosts are welcomed, but it is irritating listening to them speak to you, for they don’t speak in English, but have a more “voicebox” effect where they just sound like drones. I would’ve preferred them to be silent with just subtitles. It is a very cool feature though, as it’s nice to speak to former enemies and see what they think of you. Killer7 also features puzzles too, but they don’t require much thought and are really only blatantly easy to complete. Entrusted to you by Suzie, the severed head, are special rings which enable the Killer7 to interact with objects. These rings are very important as they allow the group to proceed forward and solve the simple and mediocre puzzles presented. An example is a curtain, blocking the next area. Use the Wind Ring and it’ll blow the curtain away, allowing you to proceed. Why the characters couldn’t just lift it and walk through is beyond me.
What really shines about Killer7 is the fact that it’s somewhat of a pretentious game, but in a good way. Killer7 presents many different conspiracy theories, strange plot points and even a strange ending. When you are done with Killer7, you’ll wonder why everything that happened did as the ending really makes you wonder what the hell you were doing all that time, as nothing that happens in the game is justified properly, but rather left open to interpretation by the player. As mentioned previously, there are many heavy psychological undertones in this game not intended for children, including an implied rape scene, the skinning, crucifixion and selling of body organs of young girls, a mild sex scene, necrophilia as well as sexual references.
There is only two extra difficulty modes and an extra personality to unlock, but Killer7 makes up for what it lacks in unlockables with the innate desire to play through it a second time, to really understand what’s going on. In closing Killer7 is really one of those games that you either love or hate.
If you hate it, there’s probably little doubt that you’ll ever like it, but if you love it, you’ll be glad you do since it’s one of those games that doesn’t get made every once in a while, and will surely go down as a cult classic in video gaming history. It’s the breath of fresh air that gamers have been longing for, and definitely should not be missed.
+ Engrossing Storyline
+ Mature Undertones/Setting
+ Simplistic Gameplay
+ Compels you to play through
– Can be Pretentious
– Sometimes VERY confusing
– Remnant Psyche’s voices can frustrate you
– Reviving Fallen Killer7 Members can be tedious
– Hardly any unlockables