Seven years ago, Goichi "Suda51" Suda unleashed his own unique brand insanity with Killer7, an action title that was unlike anyone had ever seen. Suda51's flair for the surreal was born out of game that pitted the United States and Japanese governments against one another as an outbreak of suicide bombers threatened to escalate tensions between the two superpowers. Standing in their way is a group of seven deadly assassins, each with their own special abilities, who find themselves in the middle of a conspiracy. In honor of the game's milestone, a few of us here at Darkstation reflect on the brilliant madness that is Killer7:
In many ways, Killer7 was the first game that made me realise that video games could be more than just a bit of fun. I was only thirteen when I bought it on release (God bless lax British shop staff) and I'd never quite experienced anything like it until then. My favourite game of the moment in those days was Timesplitters 2, and whilst they were both FPS's, Killer7's distinctiveness, lack of multiplayer and cerebral elements inspired me to branch out my tastes into increasingly more adult and substantive games.
In fact, the next game I remember buying after that was Resident Evil 4, which is still my favourite game of all time. I'd probably never have thought to buy a game like Resi 4 were I not massively exposed and diluted to insane gore and weirdness by Killer7 beforehand. Thinking back, I remember hating it quite a bit. But somehow I almost believe that's what the game wanted. So screw that game, I'm going to love it.
Killer7 is like the David Lynch video game that no one ever really ASKED for, but still came into our lives and weirded everyone out immensely. Its oddness exudes from every corner of the game, begged for you to call it pretentious, and at first, it definitely feels like it’s being weird just for the sake of weirdness. But perhaps we just weren’t ready of Goichi Suda and his unique brand of social and political commentary. He and his development team, Grasshopper Manufacture, operate under a banner stating “Punk’s Not Dead” and through the feel of madcap, bootstrap insanity, it’s clearly an idea that’s been taken to heart.
Killer7 is the kind of game that challenges you throughout while still inviting you to find out what’s beyond the next piece of craziness. The meaning behind what’s going on isn’t exactly clear- like with great art, discussions can exist for hours over the symbolism and meaning of so many parts of the game. Even the story challenges you, a tale of mutated terrorists being battled by a man who has 7 split personalities, all with different in-game representations, all of them assassins. Yet this all somehow comes together in a way you wouldn’t expect to form an experience that makes bold statements on society and world politics while showing its own story of a world changed forever by terrorist attacks.
It feels like history has somehow forgotten Killer7, and that couldn’t be more of a shame. As the debate over games as art starts to become more common and we start to discuss how games can move forward as a creative medium, we hear a lot of names thrown around- but never this one. Is it because it wasn’t popular enough? Not simple enough to understand? Undoubtedly there are people who feel its quirks have no point other than to shock or appall you, but Killer7 is more than that. It’s a frightfully original game and, 7 years later, the influence it should have had seems clear to those of us who played it- a sad few, especially considering the status of Suda as a force in Japanese development. The audience that found Killer7 loved it- it’s just a shame how few people it was.
Although he had already been developing video games, Killer7 was the game that brought Suda51 to mainstream attention. The Gamecube and PlayStation 2 action game was a unique beast as the gameplay was woefully limiting and archaic but the wild, unabashed mindfuckery on display was enough to make it a masterpiece of game design, direction and vision.
Talk to most people about the game and you’ll find that gamers either love it or hate it with a passion. Deconstructing the game, there are a lot of elements that play against Killer7’s favor. Archaic gameplay (even by 2005’s standards), an obtuse narrative, repetitive sequences and a bizarre cast of characters make for a very strange experience. However, the game is much more than a sum of its parts. Assuming you stuck with it, Killer7 was a game that stayed with you well after the credits rolled. Mixed media, strange sights and sounds, backwards speaking ghosts in bondage gear...what wasn't there to like?
Teen Services Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.