The one remaster the industry needs right now
I imagine most visitors to PAX West this year don’t even know about NIS America’s suite at the Sheraton in Seattle. In a small room on the second floor of the hotel, a half-dozen NISA employees in “Dood” jerseys direct those who stumble in over to their recent and upcoming offerings. Most of them are some sort of JRPG and I have some experience with nearly all of them, having covered NIS events all year. They’re all titles worth watching out for, especially SNK 40th Anniversary Collection, but I’m there for something a bit more sinister.
Earlier this year, Suda51 announced killer7 would receive a PC port. NIS America is publishing and in their suite is a single screen dedicated to the game. It’s been years since I’ve played the original on my GameCube and, with a headache nearly driving me to the point of tears, it takes a few minutes to familiarize myself with how this thing plays.
For those fresh to the experience, killer7 is a single-player shooter featuring seven assassins targeting a criminal organization known as Heaven Smile. The storyline and characters of the game are quite fucked up and complex, coming across as Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There if said looking glass was located in the shit-stained bathroom of an S&M club. It’s an absolute bonkers tale and for many, the same can be said about the controls.
Killer7’s gameplay is difficult to describe in a way that makes it sound appetizing. It’s very much a deconstruction of an on-rails shooter. My assassin moves on a set path, occasionally coming to forks or puzzles in the road, but I have full control of when they move. Moving forward isn’t done with the control stick but with the press of a button. If I need to turn around, that’s another button. When confronted by an enemy, I must first scan to actually see them and then try and kill them before they reach me. The PAX demo is set so I can never die, which leads to a few hilarious moments where several Heaven Smiles in a row explode the moment they touch me.
Seeing these creatures burst into hundreds of little red bits is amusing, but also mesmerizing. Suda51 promised killer7 on PC would have improvements to bring the title up to “modern standard” and it truly feels like Grasshopper is making that happen. The port takes the stunning art direction of the GameCube original and enhances it with native widescreen support and a picture that leaves no detail looking dated. The team has spent the past six months getting the PC port ready for release and has routinely referenced back to the original release to ensure everything is as exact as it can possibly be.
My only issue with the preview is with the controls. I’m using an Xbox One controller, something I only ever pick up when I attend trade shows and private previews, and the reticule is a bit too sensitive to pull off those easy kills I get hitting their weak points. Mouse and keyboard support will be in the final build of the game, it’s just not available to me at PAX.
Beyond that, the game is exactly as I remember it, for better or worse. It’s hard to argue whether the controls are good or if the story makes complete sense, but the deviant nature of killer7 is what sets it apart. This isn’t supposed to be a game you rush through or relax with after a long day of work. This is something that needs your undivided attention to fully grasp every aspect of it. killer7 is Suda51 at his most reckless and pure, and if you truly consider yourself a fan of his because you like No More Heroes, Let It Die, or Lollipop Chainsaw, you owe it to yourself to see just how unconventional his creations can be. Because all of those titles look like casual, mainstream games compared to killer7.