The Games That Made Us Gamers: Killer7

“The Games That Made Us Gamers” is a series of special-edition retrospectives running throughout the week of this year’s Celebration of Games. The BnB team and fellow guest contributors are sharing their origin stories as they look back and remember the interactive experiences that turned them to the world of joysticks and keyboards.

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What other game looks like this?

“Ah Garcian… how long has it been?”

Back in the days when gaming magazines were still popular, Killer7 caught my eye. Something with such a striking look and such a cool title? I had to know more about this! I read the review, but the magazine hated it. At the same time, a friend was absolutely incessant about me needing to play this game. I only had a PlayStation 2 at the time, so I bought my copy with nervous excitement, lest my friend bring a trident to school and exclaim that I buy it or he strike me down to hell.

What I found was a level of depth and weirdness that was absolutely unparalleled to anything I had ever played before. Upon your first playthrough, Killer7 is the type of game that will make you stupid by completely detonating all mental faculties, before slowly rebuilding them in its own image, not unlike Saddam Hussein.

I begrudgingly acknowledge that most people reading this have never played Killer7. I recognize that I have to pause for a brief explanation. Killer7 is the brainchild of Suda Goichi, whom you might know from No More Heroes and the soon-to-be-released Lollipop Chainsaw, and was written by him and Shinji Mikami from Resident Evil.  Killer7 stars Harman Smith, who can “transform” into one of 7 personalities, all of which form an assassin syndicate. They are originally assigned a mission to take out the “Heaven Smile”, people that were originally human, but turned into monsters by the Heaven Smile virus. The real plot is about the state of U.S.-Japan relations, with a standoff ending in either the U.S. or Japan surviving. The plot then takes off in completely insane directions. Even if you don’t follow it, the gameplay, with 7 different characters, upgradable techniques, and all manner of cool other attacks kept everyone, especially me, constantly engaged and on my toes.

This game somehow manages to retain an utterly bizarre and absolutely hilarious sense of humor. As much as I want to describe it myself, I would rather let one of the targets, named Andrei Ulmeyda do it for me:

How is this not the most awesome cutscene you have ever seen? Everything about this game is like that. Everything.

There’s a funny thing about this game. A whole lot of reviewers love and treasure Killer7. I happened to read a bad review from someone who probably fired dynamite-strapped seals out of a shotgun into babies and dropped kittens on to acid-laced spikes in his spare time, but that wasn’t everyone’s opinion. Jim Sterling? Loved Killer7. Yahtzee? Loved Killer7. But ultimately, it didn’t matter what the critics gave it. It was way more than “worth a purchase”. I’ve actually bought the game three times, one copy for the PlayStation 2, and two for the GameCube, one of which didn’t work. It’s the kind of game that you want to keep in its own display case. The kind of thing where if someone stole your copy, you would hunt them down in the middle of the day with no shirt, war paint and at least two rocket launchers.

It has been the only game I’ve completed more than once (I’ve played it three times) just on the sheer joy of loving it. Technically, by this point in my life, I was a “gamer” already, but Killer7 was a huge step forward in making me realize that this is what I wanted to do with my life. I started telling everyone who would listen, I started writing about it, I may have sprayed “KILLER7 RAWKZ” on one of my teacher’s cars. With bullets.

Yes. There is even a fight against the Power Rangers.

“This is too easy”

Killer7 isn’t even my favorite game. There are absolutely games that are much better. But Killer7 was Metal Gear Solid mixed with humor and insanity. Everything that came out of Garcian or Dan’s mouth (especially Dan’s) charted whole new worlds of badass. Then there was the music. Masafumi Takada’s music did what all great soundtracks are supposed to do. Bring the world alive. It jumped constantly from being stuck in your head to being such a part of the world that you couldn’t separate it, as all good composers do.

Sadly, none of Suda Goichi’s later works quite matches up. I loved No More Heroes in all its craziness, but it wasn’t nearly as deep, cool or funny as Killer7, and its follow-up was incredibly disappointing. I personally reviewed Shadows of the Damned and thought it was a great game, but numerous bugs kept it from being really fantastic. Perhaps Suda realized that he had to trade in something creatively brilliant for something a little more relatable, but I know that I’m sad to see it go.

In all honesty, I would do just about anything to persuade more people to give Killer7 a shot. There’s something for everyone, even if those somethings aren’t necessarily connected. It is a magnificent work that stands on its own as one of the most underrated games of all time, Psychonauts be damned. Killer7 didn’t teach me, but it stimulated my mind; it was a truly fantastic story that I could play through with slightly ridiculous, but entertaining and crazy gameplay.

Killer7 is the 2001: A Space Odyssey of gaming. You may not understand it completely the first time, or for some people, at all, but you cannot deny that this game is absolutely incredible. And for the small few that do understand it, it will change your life. You want to know how this game changed my life? I still walk up and down stairs like they do in this game. I’ve been doing it all of my life. I carry a briefcase because Garcian carried a briefcase. It’s more than just life imitating art, it’s more like life adoring it.

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