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Death Come True Plays With Bad Ends as a Means of Progress

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There’s only so much we can say about Death Come True without breaching spoiler territory. After all, Death Come True isn’t a traditional video game. It isn’t even a visual novel! Death Come True, the full directorial debut of Danganronpa writer Kazutaka Kodaka, is a movie. Straight up, it’s a whole-ass film. But there is an element of interactivity, initially presenting the experience as a sort of “choose your own adventure” type of experience. But it isn’t really that, either. Nor does it feel like “FMV game.” It’s simple on paper, but Death Come True is an exploration of its form. And its primary navigational tool is the Bad End.

Death Come True is cut from a similar cloth of movies like Memento or Edge of Tomorrow (aka All You Need is Kill). The protagonist wakes up in an unfamiliar hotel room with no idea how he got there, who he is, or anything really. It’s super amnesia, the kind that leaves our hero completely lost, until he sees himself on TV branded as a wanted serial killer. Before he even has time to process that or start panicking, there’s a knock on the door. From then on, It’s up to you and the main character to figure out what the hell is going on, and what to do about it. And the best means for that is to collect Death Coins.

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Death Coins are simply an outside marker of your progress, a way for the player to keep track of all the different Bad Ends they can run into. This isn’t a story with multiple paths that lead to different endings per se; it’s a movie. The story is mostly linear, but on the way there you will see the “You Died” screen over and over. All the different Bad Ends were filmed just like the main plot thread, which makes making the “wrong” choice entertaining.

It has that signature Kodaka feel to it, the way it presents death as a hard exit from reality–the Death Coin notification pops, the You Died screen is loud and colorful. It’s a live action movie that is mostly grounded and human, until something bad happens. Then the video game of Death Come True kicks in, and just as the protagonist is killed, the player is ripped out of the illusion of living in the story’s established reality.

Obviously, we can’t get too much into it because we don’t want to spoil anything. But getting a Death Coin isn’t just a trophy in the menu, or a pass/fail state. Like in Memento or All You Need is Kill, the mystery unravels in a linear fashion, even if the narrative’s presentation doesn’t. Most Death Coin scenes reveal another small piece of the puzzle, or provide some clue to help you and the protagonist decipher the mystery. A Bad End in Death Come True isn’t just a gimmick to make losing fun, or to shock the audience. In Death Come True, getting killed is its own form of progression in an otherwise passive experience. It’s a trope for sure, but used in a way that distinctly drives the narrative home.

Death Come True is available now for the Nintendo Switch and mobile devices, will appear on July 17, 2020 for the PC, and will appear later on the PS4.

Lucas White
Lucas writes about video games a lot. Sometimes he plays them. Every now and then he enjoys one. To get on his good side, say nice things about Dragon Quest and Musou. Never mention the Devil May Cry reboot in his presence. Backed Bloodstained on Kickstarter but all his opinions on it are correct regardless.