I played NeverDead a couple of times at various Konami press meet ups and every time it struck me as a funny… in a B-movie way. I mean this is a shooter where you use your arms as grenades and Bryce Boltzmann, an immortal demon hunter, cracks more one liners than a ’90s action hero.
Wacky third-person shooter where you throw your head into sewer pipes, right? (This isn’t a joke, you actually throw your head into a pipe to go to another area!) Wrong, according to director Shinta Nojiri.
"It’s definitely not a joking around or comical game," Nojiri said when I was talking to him about NeverDead. "But, usually Konami, at least in America, promotes the game with trailers of Bryce tossing his head and ending with snappy lines, like it’s a comical game. I’m curious what you have to say about that," I asked.
"Yes, it’s difficult to communicate the message and I might have failed at explaining this," Nojiri openly replied. "I think I can those who purchase this game will understand. It’s rather complicated because the game started with a character who believes in justice and hated jokes. You’ll see in the flashbacks, he is so different from the way he is presented. He was a demon hunter and after 500 years with no hope it changed him into a sarcastic guy."
"Arcadia [a human cop that travels with you] understands Bryce slightly, but she doesn’t understand him completely and Bryce is always annoying Arcadia with jokes. If I had no hope, I think I would hide within jokes because I can cry when I feel sad, but there is a limit to when you have to stop crying and start joking," said Nojiri.
Curious at the revelation, I asked another question. "How do you feel about the fact that gamers may not understand that Bryce is a character people should emphasize with rather than a shooter with humor?"
"I understand people may think it is a silly game and even though we put serious work into gameplay too it is difficult to communicate that," Nojiri answered. "Bryce doesn’t need to evade or avoid [attacks]. If you get shot, it’s OK. It’s also hard to show this to the audience because it would change the way they play the game. It’s complicated just like trying to explain the story. It might be my fault, I’m not sure, but I’ll tell you honestly I tried to make the E3 trailer to show Bryce’s true personality. I’m not sure if it’s a success, but in the middle of the story it becomes more serious. He comes back to his young self, in his mind. NeverDead when you look at it, is a story of vengeance. I need to make more effort to communicate this need your help. I want people to know it’s a serious game with a guy who has a lot of bad luck."
Got it… I think! NeverDead may not be the silly game it’s presented to be (even though it has joke DLC as a pre-order bonus) and Bryce expresses his sadness through dark humor. Now I’m interested to see how all of this works out when Konami releases NeverDead for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on January 31.