If you couldn’t tell when I gave up on the final boss in Persona 2 and watched the ending on youtube, I’m not a completionist. I played nine hours of Killer7—at my play speed, a little less than 40% of the game—before giving up to watch someone else play it. Thankfully every fucking game in the universe has a set of playthrough videos these days.
A good analogy for my experience with Killer7 is my experience with some of Takashi Miike’s films, specifically the likes of Dead or Alive. I love the moments of batshit violent intensity and over-the-top holyfuck, but it always seems to punctuate long stretches of boring who-gives-a-shit. In Killer7’s case, the boring who-gives-a-shit is the gameplay.
Some will love the mechanics of this game and be totally great at it. The guy who’s playthrough I watched made me look like a gigantic chump, and he claims to “not [be] good” at it and hadn’t played in 3 years. If he watched me play, I’m sure he’d re-assess his skills. I fucking suck at this game—but more notably, the way that I could make things easier on myself would be to grind and use the levelling system to my advantage—except that I hate the combat system and already have to fight more battles than I want to, so the thought of fighting even more just makes me shudder.
Yahtzee Croshaw’s write-up on this game says all that needs to be said about why the game is so compelling as well as everything that’s wrong with it and why it’s not for everyone—I’m only confirming here that even among people who find the game’s story and style completely fucking awesome, indeed, it isn’t. I find it entirely too frustrating and cheap (though it may only be as cheap as I am unprepared). Yahtzee recently came up with a system for judging games based on the categories of “Challenge, Context, and Gratification.” Killer7, despite the plot only providing a bare minimum of real “context” for what’s going on, is very compelling in that aspect, having driven me to play it for nine hours solely through my desire to watch it unfold. But I find playing it completely ungratifying, and the challenge fluctuates too much and is too dependent on things like grinding to interest me.
As for the story; people love to say things like, “if David Lynch snorted Quentin Tarantino’s skull off of a Gamecube, you’d get this game,” but I think quite simply, this is the game version of a particularly batshit Takashi Miike film. I felt similarly about Suda 51’s No More Heroes, which actually name-dropped Takashi Miike in-game, though Killer7 would be like a Visitor Q or Gozu to No More Heroes’ Happiness of the Katakuris. Obviously Suda 51 has plenty of other influences though, as evidenced in his love of making references. My favorite overt reference in the game is its use of The Smiths song titles for a series of notes regarding… the Smiths.
Killer7 sells on great dialog (which is where the Tarantino comparisons are validated) and awesome things happening, regardless of why. One of my favorite scenes, while not a champion of the game’s dialog, is one early in the game wherein a bunch of politicians are playing mahjong and bad-mouthing each-other until they all draw guns into each-other’s faces at once and everyone gratuitously dies. This kind of shit just happens in this game and I see no reason to question it.
Of importance to how well the scenes work is the game’s plethora of excellent voice acting. Most of the actors are common names in the video game and western animation industry, but all of them are bringing their A-game here (no doubt because it’s so much fun). My favorite performance is the smooth-yet-gravelly voice of Dwight Shultz playing Harman Smith. He’s one of a few actors who’s voices I’ve heard in kids’ shows a lot (he plays Mung from Chowder; Greg Eagles, who plays Garcian, also plays Grim from the Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy) and so the profanity-laden dialog becomes even more fun. As soon as I found out that Kaede was played by Tara Strong, I couldn’t unhear Raven from Teen Titans saying, “Shit. Fuck it.” (she uses almost the same voice for both characters). Stretch her voice a little, and you get to hear insane murderous rambling from the voice of Twilight Sparkle from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. (Or even Bubbles from the Powerpuff Girls if you wanna go older. Tara Strong is in fucking everything.)