While Killer is Dead has some humor and quirkiness like Gigolo Mode, it’s one of Grasshopper Manufacture’s darker games. Set in the near future, you play as an executioner who has to kill other criminals. In this interview, we asked director Goichi Suda about the kind of character Mondo Zappa is, who he has to kill, and how the game flows.
Suda-san, we’ve seen a couple of games from Grasshopper Manufacture like No More Heroes, killer7, and now Killer is Dead which have assassins as main characters. What makes assassins interesting protagonists?
Goichi Suda, Director: I think going back to the core essence, I used to be an assassin and that really reflects on what kind of games I want to make. [Laughs.]
I’m sorry, that’s me just being jetlagged. When you defeat an enemy, that equals death. If defeat equals death and you’re thinking about the fine line between living and dying, to express that in an action-oriented game an assassin [as a character] makes it much easier to express that.
killer7 was a really dark game while Lollipop Chainsaw was more of a parody. What’s the difference between making a comical game compared to a dark game?
When it comes to violence, Lollipop Chainsaw was something you can laugh about. It was sort of a party game theme when I was coming up with the concept. Going up against zombies is comical in a way when you think about it, but when you think about death I wanted to have a different way to look at it which is why I came up with killer7. When I create something dark, as a desire I want to see what happens when I swing back to the lighter side.
When I first saw Mondo is he reminded me of a salaryman because he had to execute because it’s his job and in Japan you have to "execute" your job whether you’re an assassin like Mondo or you’re a banker.
For every game I design, I want to players to be able to relate to the characters the play as. Especially for Mondo because people work at an organization or company or for shareholders, there is always something you are working for. In that case, I wanted to have that relate to players so they can understand why Mondo does the things he does and act the way he does.
One of the other themes in the game is Mondo being a protector and in this future world on top of cybernetic enhancements there is lunar tourism too. Why did you add that in?
When I was creating the script had to do with the moon, earth, and sun. I started with a plot that related those elements, but it wasn’t working out so I took that out. I still wanted to have some kind of focus with the moon. You know the latest Transformers movie? Nobody has seen the dark side of the moon. There could be a house there with somebody living in it and the main character needs to kill that person, but how do you get over there. That’s how I started creating this game.
One of the themes in Killer is Dead is you want to protect what’s dear to you. I think that relates to everybody and that’s one of the inspirational parts to put all of the pieces together.
Killer is Dead will be Grasshopper Manufacture’s second title developed with Kadokawa Games. [Yoshimi] Yasuda was from Tecmo which created a lot of action games like Ninja Gaiden. How has the relationship with Yasuda-san affected Killer is Dead. Did he give any ideas about the action part?
We have meetings with Grasshopper and Kadokawa regularly and Yasuda-san will be present there. Basically, we brainstorm and pitch ideas to each other. Yasuda-san will give out an idea and then we’ll figure out what the best ideas are. There are elements in the game that were refreshing that came from Yasuda-san and we implemented those.
Mondo Zappa has to kill killers and other criminals. What kind of heinous crimes have these underworld people committed?
There are a lot. Just an example, there are people rounding up missing people and then feeding them to tigers. Another one is a noise complaint that doesn’t sound human. It all starts with a client coming in because there is something wrong, something is abnormal and they ask Mondo to look into it. That’s when a mission starts.
We saw a boss battle, but what’s the gameplay between the cutscenes and the boss battle?
When you start a mission there are these small fry enemies called the Wires that come from the dark side of the moon. They are starting to affect the Earth and underworld. After those, you fight small bosses, mid-bosses, and reach the final boss of the mission.
I think Grasshopper Manufacture’s darkest game is Michigan and the lightest game is Contact. Where does Killer is Dead fit on this scale?
Hmm… Contact over here and Michigan over here [Suda shows the difference with his hands.] If this is the center, Killer is Dead would be in between the center and Michigan. Somewhere around here.