Friday, May 8, 2020

Diving Into "Kill the Past"

Kill the Past. The first time I heard these words I didn't really understand what they meant, nor did I realize what it would ultimately become. It was just a simple sentence coming out of a game that would confuse me for years... And now I'm finally going back to it.

Back when I was in high school the Nintendo Wii released to great success, and pretty much everyone I knew owned one. We'd go to school each day, talk about the new games releasing on it, talk about how great the new Zelda was (which sadly I was unable to play), and we'd look forward to the upcoming release of Super Smash Bros Brawl. It was fun. Every time a new Wii game came out we all had something new to talk about, and we were all so hopeful for the Wii and motion control's future. Really it was a pretty exciting time to be a Nintendo fan! Of course most of us mainly only knew about the "mainstream" games, and the ones that were either brought up non stop over at Nintendo Nsider, or mentioned in Nintendo Power, but every once in awhile someone would find something new to share. That's exactly how my friend Ryan introduced the rest of us to the world of Suda51's No More Heroes.

Honestly when I first heard about No More Heroes I thought it was a really cool idea, but I also knew there was no way that my parents would allow it. This was a crazy blood violent game where you used the Wii Remote to hack people to pieces, and watch the blood spray everywhere. You recharged your energy sword by making obscene motions with the Wii Remote, and you saved your game by taking a dump. Pretty much nothing in this game would be something my family would've been okay with, and that's not to mention the non stop f bombs and other profanities that flew throughout the adventure. It was a very crude game, that was also stylish in it's on way. Yeah, I never did get that game -- at least not on the Wii. I knew a lot about it thanks to Ryan, but because of that I also knew I'd never play it.

Jump ahead a few years later and once again I was reliving this very same past. Now in college, I still remember the day me and Ryan were sitting in the campus's Math Building cafe area as he pulled up the news concerning the newly released No More Heroes 2. He was bringing up videos of the new gameplay and explaining to me the differences between it and the original game -- such as the removal of the hub city and the addition of new mini games, and the fact that now Travis (the game's lead character) could use two swords rather than one. He was pretty hyped for it to say the least, and I'm pretty sure that night he stopped by GameStop on his way home and bought it. After that he'd bring up the game pretty often, and once again I thought the whole thing sounded pretty cool. Still didn't think I could get into it though (considering I didn't play the original), but it was something I was going to keep in mind -- and keep in mind I did.

A few months after the release of No More Heroes 2, No More Heroes: Heroes Paradise was released for the PlayStation 3. Being a new PS3 owner myself looking for exclusives to play, this was the perfect chance to not only get a new PS3 game, but also finally get into the series. And so I did. I went over to GameStop with my dad (we car pooled as he worked next door to my college), bought the game, and then spent the rest of the night (and the next day) playing it. Really I'm still not sure how I feel about the game.

I think the biggest issue I had with the game was the fact that I didn't understand it. I wasn't familiar with Suda51's work, nor did I quite understand everything that was going on. Playing with a controller was also a little bit of a pain because they had to replace all of the Wii's unique actions with standard button prompts. Instead of being able to pull off combos and then finishing off enemies by physically slicing upwards, I was being forced to hit specific buttons to land the killing blows instead (mainly with the analog stick). It just felt like it killed the momentum for me because I was constantly pausing to finish off "already dead" enemies just so that I could move onto the next one. It wasn't bad by any means, but it would've been a lot better if I had a move controller. Even so I pushed on with the game and eventually finished it, but a lot of what happened is now mostly a blur. Sure I remember the basic's of the story, but it's something I want to return to.

After finishing No More Heroes, and never getting No More Heroes 2, the next Suda51 game I'd experience was Killer is Dead. Sure Ryan would go on to buy his other games like Lollipop Chainsaw, but for me it didn't interest me too much. Sure it looked like it was crazy over the top fun, but I honestly didn't feel like going through another No More Heroes type game. So I gave it a few years and one day I saw Killer is Dead's limited edition go on sale on Amazon, so I bought it as well. Still to this day I never finished it (mainly due to my backlog of PS4 games), but I did have fun with what little I had played. It was an interesting game that fixed the issues I had with the PS3 port of No More Heroes, but I just never found the time to sit down and give it a proper playthrough. Around this time however is when I started realizing the connections between Suda51's games, and it's what eventually lead me to look into the little game known as "The Silver Case." This is what brought me to the words "Kill the Past."

When I first saw the news of the Silver Case remake I was excited. I love visual novels, love crime dramas, and seeing Suda51's name on it made me want to play it. It was the Japanese exclusive PS1 I had previously learned about thanks to the internet, but never expected to actually play. It in itself was a sequel to Suda51's previous series Twilight Syndrome (which my only experience with was in Danganronpa 2 funny enough) and Moonlight Syndrome, but also acted as a beginning to what would be dubbed the "Kill the Past" series. This dialogue appears in The Silver Case multiple times, and actually refers to destroying one's past. Cutting yourself off from it, and moving forward after the past has been erased. The Silver Case goes on to deal with a lot of complex and unique ideas, while telling a story that will leave you with so much confusion your only option is to really replay it from the beginning with your new insight and knowledge gained from your initial playthrough. It's a very unique experience, and it's one that you won't forget. The first time I beat this game that's exactly how I felt, and it made me want to continue on with it to fully uncover the truth. Sadly this was easier said than done.

The follow up to The Silver Case was a Japanese PS2 exclusive called Flower, Sun, and Rain. This game would eventually receive a DS port and be released outside of the US, but stupid me completely blew this one off. I would see it in GameStop and even on Amazon being recommended to me often, but I just passed it off as a "Hotel Dusk" knock off. Yeah I'm still kicking myself for that one. Now days the game is quite rare, and I had to resort to importing a used EU copy to even get my hands on it. The third game to be tied directly to The Silver Case also received a remake a few years ago, and is actually why I am writing about this today. The 25th Ward is a direct sequel to The Silver Case, but also takes place after the events of Flower, Sun, and Rain. Of course it isn't quite as simple as that. The game features multiple main characters, some new and some old, and deals with themes and ideas that were originally brought up in past games, but also greatly expands upon the "truth" you'll eventually come to realize. It's not an easy game to explain, and by the time it's all said and done you might come out more confused than when you first went in -- prompting yet another playthrough of The Silver Case to hopefully come to terms with these new facts. Again, it's a complex series, and I love it. And that's what brings me to today.

After recently going through the 25th Ward finally (multiple issues kept me from playing it back when it first came out), I'm finally going to set aside the time needed to get into this series properly. While I've completely finished The Silver Case and The 25th Ward, I'm taking a look back at the rest of what I missed and never finished. My EU copy of Sun, Flower and Rain is my next target, but thanks to Steam I was able to get Killer7 as well. While Killer7 isn't technically a part of this series' timeline, it's still a connected game with callbacks and references scattered throughout. No More Heroes: Heroes Paradise is another game I'd like to replay through (possibly this time with the move controllers), and Killer is Dead is currently sitting on my "queue" shelf waiting to be played. Once I've completed these I plan on hopefully getting No More Heroes 2, and moving forward from there with Travis Strikes Again and the upcoming No More Heroes 3. Sadly many games still remain Japanese exclusive, but I'll do my best to get through what we have access to. It really is a unique and interesting series as a whole, and it's something I really look forward to completing. That being said, I also recommend everyone else to check it out as well. Every entry in the series is vastly different from the previous, but in the long run that just makes it all the more interesting. No single game out stays it's welcome, and you're constantly moving into something new. Not many series do this, so it's a nice change of pace.