Monday, 22 September 2014

The day he stops smiling, is the day we remember his smile

Greetings, dreamers!

Today I'm going to talk about the first M rated game I ever played, and while I have a few misgivings about talking about it, I wouldn't want to leave one of my favourite games and stories out of this blog.

Warning: Disturbing content, sexual themes, blood and implied gore.

I'm going to talk about the mind trip that is...

Killer 7, developed by Grasshopper manufacture, led by Suda51 (Goichi Suda), and released for Gamecube and Playstation on 2005

It also has the honorable mention of having the only enemy in any game that migrated to my nightmares.

Seriously look at these monsters
Now... the story is VERY HARD to describe (as most of Grasshopper Manufacture's games tend to be), but I'll try to do my best without too many spoilers and without leaving it too vague.

The story is about a group of assassins known as the Killer7 (whose last names are all Smith) who are given contracts by some unknown party by means of a proxy, Their latest assignment is to eliminate the leader of a terrorist group that calls itself Heaven Smile. This group has disrupted peace talks by means of kamikaze human bombs, and have disrupted peace meetings, as well as several other important meetings.

And... that's around the point where the story becomes harder to follow.

The leader of both the Killer7 and the Heaven Smile know each other, and at the end of the first stage/prologue, share a dialogue on the nature of the world, and how their rivalry has been going for too long. From this point on, each target becomes a political move to take power away from Japan, who is struggling to gain power by means of a political document known as the Yakumo, while also tailing behind the leader of the Heaven Smile.
Kun Lan, leader of the Heaven Smile
As the game progresses, more information is revealed about some of the members of the Killer7, their leader, and their involvement with Kun Lan, through means of dialogue, cutscenes and the occasional ghost of previous targets that come back from the dead to taunt you, thank you or give you more insight as to what their role was in life.

The problem is that, not only is this information scattered and hard to piece together, but sometimes all information is downright contradictory, making it even harder to figure out what is going on, who is lying and why the Killer7 are sent to murder specific targets.

Killer7's target from before the start of the game's story, here to taunt you
The story is convoluted, difficult to follow, and has led to many long texts trying to decode what this is all about, along with a book that offers many different possible explanations, all mutually exclusive.

Once again, I must warn that there are mentions of sexual abuse, cruel and unusual punishment, extreme violence and themes that require a certain maturity not just because of the theme but because of their complexity.

Now, let's go for gameplay.

In the name of Harman...
Killer7 is a peculiar kind of rail shooter, where you have one mode, where you run forwards in your rail by pressing a button, and turn around by pressing other button, and another mode, where you enter first person, and are able to aim and shoot at enemies. Furthermore, the game is heavy on puzzles, requiring thought and thorough exploration to progress further through the game (to the point where, for instance, the only way to reach the end of one level is to talk to an NPC in every place he appears throughout the level, and then use the items he gives to solve a puzzle at the end).

Furthermore, the enemies I mentioned at the start of the text do not appear until you enter first person mode, and 'scan' the area, rendering them visible. Thankfully, their presence is always betrayed by a creepy laugh, motioning the player to enter a defensive stance.

You can also shoot off two the following per monster, and they won't stop: Arm, leg or head.
Navigation follows a rail, up to intersection points, at which a player can choose any of the branching paths, making this the main point of the exploration aspect of the game.

The game also has a minor leveling element, wherein each of the characters the player can control (six of the Killer7) can have their abilities upgraded, from the wavering of the reticle, to the power of the shot using "Thick Blood", which enemies release upon having their limbs or head shot off, or hitting them on their weak spot, releasing a larger amount.. Leveling up provides not only the simple benefit of having more accurate shots, but also unlocks abilities depending on the character used. The weaker characters immediately lock onto an enemy's weak spot, while more powerful characters get shots that can bring down the strongest foes in the game.

One would think that with a team that has a scoped gun, twin semiautomatic pistols, grenade launchers and modified magnums, the enemies would be a piece of cake; however, their sheer numbers and the fact that most enemies will halve your health in the easier difficulty, and take out all but the strongest character in the higher ones with a single hit, it means you'll lose characters often. And that's where the final Smith comes in. He's the weakest, cannot be upgraded, and has medium-to-slow movement speed. His purpose is to reach the places where any other Smith fell, recover the corpse, and bring it back to life. The drawback? If he dies, it's game over.

Second in command, the one who receives the assignments, and a mystery to the world and the player
The game has a complicated gameplay to match its convoluted story, and while it suffered at the time of its release, it remains an interesting piece that will keep the player wondering for the longest time about the true nature of, well, everything within!

Now, this has an M rating, and I hope that what I've written was enough to show why. I played it when I was a late teen, and still have issues with some of the more gruesome moments in the story, and every single time I've replayed it, I've had nightmares concerning the enemies. This is NOT a game for the faint of heart, and should be seen as such.

All my warnings are not meant to push you away from it, but to make sure that you approach this piece with an appropriate mindset, for despite all the warnings, it is an interesting game and story, in the visual, gameplay and plot aspects.

If you can find it, give it a try.

For similar mind trips, I recommend pretty much anything made by Grasshopper Manufacture.
I hope I interested you in at least reading the book!

Have a nice week, and keep on dreaming!


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