Monday, 18 November 2013

Killer Is Dead Review

   This generation we have seen a good many franchises and series take a firm foothold and become hugely successful, so much so that sequels have become a common order of the day. We have seen new IP in the form of Gears of War and Uncharted trilogy’s, both becoming hugely successful and significantly raising the bar in standards for each respective genre they’re in. We have also seen series from the previous generation such as Call of Duty, Battlefield, Halo and Killzone all go from modest success to global dominance, while other series like Tomb Raider, Medal of Honor and Resident Evil have had to fight it out to stay relevant and fresh with varying degrees of success.

   Fortunately there are still plenty of original and down right quirky games being released, more so than the amount of sequels filling shelves this generation if only gamers would dare dig each consoles library a little deeper. So at the tail end of the longest console generation on record, and at the twilight of a new one set to be even longer, ask yourself whether you’re satisfied that you have played and experienced all this generation has to offer before moving onto the next? Bored and choked with disinterest with the same old sequels, are you sure there aren’t any other types of games and genres left to discover and tap into from this generation, before spending in excess of £400 on the next to try and fill your waning interest?

   Well here is a suggestion, try playing Killer Is Dead as it might just put a smile on your face and more than likely result in a raised eyebrow or two, as its unique over-saturated cell shaded look and sheer quirkiness will keep you going back for more. This is a game set in a familiar genre (hack-n-slash,) that happens to be less hardcore combo heavy in its gameplay than say Devil May Cry and Bayonetta, but rather more easily accessible to a wider audience without falling into the trap of being mind numbingly boring and hemmed in by genre constraints. While other games in the genre like the aforementioned are extremely over-the-top flamboyant and exuberant in their gameplay elements, relying on multiple combos and quick time events in dramatic succession to pummel and pound enemies into submission, Killer Is Dead is more reserved in that respect. While this game does have its combos, they are simple and nowhere near the extreme as other games, as the gameplay in this game is fashioned more towards block, avoid and counter attack to fend off multiple enemies, dance around them, and hit their weak spot to take them out as quick as possible. But rest assured that Killer Is Dead is just as action packed and bloody as any other game in the genre as enemies get dispensed and impaled on your characters katana.

   This reserved approach to the gameplay transfers to the upgrade system in the game to as its all kept simple and minimalistic in its approach. Your Characters Health and Blood gauge (the latter used when replenishing health or using the arm weapon) are upgraded automatically as you work your way through the game, while the upgrade menu allows you to buy or upgrade certain abilities. Upgrades and gauge replenishment come from crystals and gems emitted from dead enemies and destructible scenery, Moon Crystals are collected and used as currency to buy upgrades while Blood Roses and Health Gems will slowly increase the blood and health gauge.

   The game is split into four different game types for you to choose from on the world map which acts as the mission menu screen; these are the main story missions, sub (side) missions, gigolo and challenge missions. The main story is 12 acts long and probably lasts somewhere between 8-10 hours long if that, but when you add all the other different missions to choose from it can far exceed this in length. Sub missions are off-shoots from the main story though not necessarily related to it; they become unlocked and are set in an area of the game you have just completed. Sub missions all tend to vary from one another, some are very small story’s unto themselves, others mere challenges such as fighting through an area within a certain amount of time or finding various hidden items throughout a level. Scarlett, a Nurse in a skimpy revealing outfit holding a giant syringe can be found hiding somewhere within a level of each act of the main story, finding her will not only rejuvenate your characters health and blood gauge, but unlock various challenges. These challenges take part in an arena where you will have to meet certain criteria to win such as defeating only one type of enemy out of a swarm or killing a certain number within a time limit and so on. Finally gigolo missions are basically where your character meets up with various women he has met during the story and it is your job seduce them to receive a reward. This is achieved by staring at various parts of a woman’s body like her cleavage for example, the longer you stare without her catching you, the more points you acquire to fill a gauge. Once the meter is filled you can offer her a present (bought from the gift shop,) and you will receive more points towards another gauge depending on how much she likes the gift, fill this second gauge up and you have successfully seduced your lady. Honestly I’m not making this up; it really is in the game!

   In Killer Is Dead you take control of Mondo Zappa, a suave and sophisticated ladies man who is as sharp with a katana as he is with his one liners. He is part of a state sanctioned executioner’s office run by Bryan and Vivienne who take on contracts to hunt down and execute various monsters and creatures that have begun to inhabit Earth and the moon. The story, the way in which it is presented to the player and the style of it for that matter is quite different to your conventional game, its nothing new by any means, but certainly one some will like while others will not. The story will not be altogether clear at the start of the game, sometimes confusing even especially at the beginning as you try to wrap your head around the sheer quirkiness of it all. But this distinctly Japanese story becomes clearer the further through it you progress, as it slowly unravels and opens up with each mission the less perplexed you will be with a firmer grasp of the bigger picture.

   Grasshopper Manufacture (Suda 51) has done a great job with this game and don’t let anyone persuade you any different, as this game is just as good in its own right as any other game from this company. If you have played any other recent Suda 51 games such as No More Heroes or Lollypop Chainsaw then you should know just what to expect (or not to expect) here, and if you enjoyed them then you should enjoy Killer Is Dead. However if you have played a Suda 51 game before and ended up not liking it for one reason or another then there is a strong chance you wont like this game. What I like about Killer Is Dead is that they chose to make a hack-n-slash game without the pomp found in other games of the genre, with gameplay focused on avoid, defend and attack rather than constant super combos. By taking this direction in the gameplay they have managed to make the game stand out and stand tall on its own merits rather than following the same tried and tested formula and becoming lost in the genre. Yet the game hasn’t lost out, it packs a punch just as much as Bayonetta does with crazy bosses and swarms of enemies, Killer Is Dead just follows a more subtle yet quirky path with a different approach, this game is without doubt a must have for fans of the genre.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Wii Classic Controller Pro

   With the Wii now being discontinued by Nintendo and the Wii U on store shelves (which is still to hit any kind of stride though there is plenty of time yet,) some may think it a bit odd to be talking about the Wii’s Classic Controller Pro. But with so many great games in the Wii library (yes there are a great many of them,) there will ultimately come a point, at least there did for me anyway, when certain games will come along which will make you carefully consider whether to buy this particular controller or not?

   I like the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, and don’t have a problem with using them because as a Wii owner, I know that not all games will make me wave my arms about nonstop all day long. I also believe that they (Wii Remote/Nunchuk) still have great potential as a control method, and when utilised properly they can really add to a game and make the overall gaming experience a whole lot better, the Wii version of Resident Evil 4 is a prime example. Unfortunately we all know that for every game that got the controls right, there are probably two or more that didn’t for one reason or another. One issue with the Wii Remote is that it was never as sensitive or precise enough than Nintendo would have us believe all those years ago, and for some genres it wasn’t the revolutionary control method it should have been. It seemed the Wii Remote, Nunchuk and the first person shooter genre were going to be a match made in heaven, surly this was the perfect control method for such a genre? I still believe it is, or at least it was, if only coders had worked their magic better, and it still could be in the future if the tech was redesigned and beefed up somewhat. But as time has shown, it has never really panned out all that well with the odd exception that is, with many games in the FPS genre feeling as though they had received ported mouse and keyboard controls.

   This is the point where you start lamenting the lack of a second control option (at least I did,) and wished there had of been one right from the very inception of the console itself. Eventually a more traditional controller did appear in the form of the weirdly shaped Classic Controller, and then later with the much better shaped Classic Controller Pro. But the question for any Wii owner is whether it is worth buying one considering how they still seem to hold their price like any coveted Nintendo product? The answer really lies in the number of games you want to play that actually support this controller and whether or not you frequently use a moded Wii for emulation. If there are enough retail, virtual console and WiiWare releases that will outweigh the cost of buying one and you do use the console for emulation, the Classic Controller Pro is essential. Its worth pointing out that any game which supports the Classic Controller also supports the Classic Controller Pro as they are essentially the same product in different shells. 

   As a general controller goes, or a traditional controller in Nintendo’s case, this is in my humble opinion, the best the company has ever produced. I have never been that struck on Nintendo controllers, even when I had a SNES when I was younger, I always preferred to use a third party pad instead of Ninty’s very own. As for their other controllers through the generations, I find the NES pad extremely uncomfortable to hold for any length of time, I didn’t like the feel of the N64 analog stick and found the general design of the GameCube pad just weird. So for me at least, I find the very by-the-numbers design and button layout very comfortable and pleasing, especially when playing a game for several hours.

   The grips sit neatly in the palm of each hand and the shape lets my fingers naturally curl around the top of the pad onto the shoulder buttons while I find the two analog sticks perfectly placed apart for the thumbs. The face buttons are quite large and have a nice pop to them, and thankfully the d-pad is rather large for a Nintendo controller which gets a big thumbs up from me. That’s another complaint I had with the N64 and GameCube controllers, the d-pads on them were tiny and felt just something awful, so I’m very pleased Ninty didn’t do the same on this pad.

   This pad isn’t without its quirks though, and while I understand the reasoning behind them, it would have been nice to have had a pad featuring the rest of the bells-and-whistles we have all generally become accustomed to over the last two generations. This controller is not wireless, so to pass its inputs onto the console it plugs into the bottom of the Wii Remote and piggybacks off its wireless signal. It’s better than plugging the pad into the console and stretching a lead across the room, but annoying all the same as going down this cost cutting route means it also lacks rumble and a built in speaker. I’m sure the mandate behind the Classic Controller Pro was to produce a traditional style controller that would meet the needs of the target consumer it was aimed at, yet be produced for significantly less by stripping its features back to the core basics.

   This controller is well worth getting even if it does feed off the Wii Remote and lack several features, especially if you can find one cheap enough, though they do tend to hold their price. If you plan on playing The Last Story, Xenoblade Chronicles, Call of Duty games or the madcap No More Heroes 2 then you will find this controller a worthwhile investment and hard earned money well spent.


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