Follow TV Tropes


Video Game / Killer7

Go To
The Smiths (clockwise from top-left): Dan, MASK de, Garcian, Coyote, KAEDE, Kevin, and Con, with Harman in the center.

Harman: You're awake from your dream?
Kun Lan: Harman, the size of the world has changed. It's changed to the size where you can control it with your hands just like a PDA. The world will... keep getting smaller...

Killer7 is a 2005 action-adventure game for GameCube and Playstation 2, developed by Grasshopper Manufacture, and written and directed by Suda51 (with Resident Evil alum Shinji Mikami co-writing), that combines unusual gameplay mechanics and conspiratorial themes in a techno-thriller setting. In an alternate timeline 20 Minutes into the Future, worldwide peace has finally been achieved after a total ban on nuclear weapons and research.note  The remaining warheads are fired into space, where they collide and destroy each other.

However, this peace was not to last, for a group known as "Heaven Smile" soon appeared. Led by the enigmatic Kun Lan, this group of ambiguously human terrorists began to carry out a number of suicide bombings across the world, with no discernible purpose other than to create terror for the sake of terror.


To combat this supernatural threat, the American government calls on the services of the Smith Syndicate, a.k.a. the Killer7. Led by the elderly and wheelchair-bound Harman Smith, a man who carries a history with Kun Lan, the Killer7 are a group of specialized assassins trained to deal with high-level threats to the stability of the United States of America. And with each mission completed, they slowly draw closer to the truth behind the Heaven Smiles and Kun Lan.

While this plot summary appears clear and concise, it only scratches the surface of the story of Killer7. As the Smiths keep getting called in to deal with each new threat from Kun Lan, a deep conspiracy with ties to the origins of both Killer7 and the Heaven Smiles comes to light, and dozens of twists and turns follow.

With that, we depart from the realm of sensibility. Killer7 can become an exceedingly confusing game, thanks to its multiple layers of metaphor and symbolism, its vignettes and non sequiturs, and its tacked-on plot threads that don't come together until the ending—and even then, you're likely to have more questions than answers. Themes of war, religion, personal conflict, and politics all weave into one gigantic Mind Screw, wrapping around each other like the bondage straps around Iwazaru.


In contrast to the Mind Screw storyline, the developers uniquely streamlined the gameplay of Killer7: a character moves along a set of predetermined paths, so all a player can do is choose forks and turn around. When attacked, players hold down a button to switch into first-person view and aim crosshairs manually (similar to Resident Evil 4). The Heaven Smiles remain invisible until players use another button to scan for them; as they approach, players can see an obvious glowing spot upon them, and while shooting this spot results in their instant death, players will find it difficult to do so. Any enemy who gets in too close to the player will laugh at the player before exploding and causing damage. Death Is a Slap on the Wrist most of the time — as Garcian can retrieve the severed heads of the other Smiths and revive them — but if Garcian himself dies, the game ends. The Killer7 themselves are as follows:

     The Killer7 
  • Garcian Smith: The Cleaner. Uses a silenced pistol called ELECTROLITE. His special ability, as mentioned above, is to retrieve the dead corpses of his allies and revive them. A reserved Consummate Professional and The Stoic. In gameplay, he's the weakest out of all of the Personae (which makes since given that he's a "cleaner" rather than an assassin).
  • Dan Smith: The Hellion. Uses a magnum revolver known as HANDSOME DEVIL. His special ability is Collateral Shot, which fires a powerful destructive blast to clear obstacles and destroy Heaven Smile spawners. He's a slightly unhinged Jerkass with a Deadpan Snarker attitude. Notably the only member of the syndicate to have nothing but negative relations with the other Personae. In gameplay, he's Boring, but Practical, having high stopping power and reliable aim in exchange for little in the way of interesting tactics.
  • KAEDE Smith: Barefoot. Uses a scoped magnum pistol called CONNECTION. Her special ability is breaking invisible barriers, and she excels at sniping from long distances. The only female member of the group, and is usually quiet and reserved. In gameplay, she's the only long-distance fighter, and has difficulties fighting at close ranges.
  • Coyote Smith: The Thief. Uses a revolver called FREAK SCENE. His special ability is infiltration, with him being able to leap tall heights and pick locks. Coyote is aggressive and vicious, and this is reflected in gameplay, with him being about as strong as Dan but lacking in self control, giving his weapon heavier, more random recoil and a slower rate of fire. He has a faster running speed, however, meaning he can back out of a sticky situation easier than Dan.
  • Kevin Smith: Four-eyes. Uses a set of throwing knives and a larger knife for stabbing known as DEBASER. Cannot speak. Kevin can turn invisible at will, allowing him to evade enemies. Kevin is incredibly fast in gameplay, and his subtle knives are quite fast- while he is bad in a close quarters fight, his lack of a gun means he never needs to reload or adjust his aim between throws, and can be quite dangerous if you're skilled.
  • Con Smith: A blind punk with an attitude problem. Armed with two automatic pistols called DISARM. Con can run exceedingly fast for a price of thin blood, and his rapid agility combined with his automatic pistols and quick reload times make him quite dangerous in close combat. His style isn't suited for subtlety though, and as a result he is extremely bad in fights at range.
  • MASK de Smith: The Mask. Armed with dual grenade launchers known as DREAM ALL DAY. A Mexican wrestler, MASK can use his super strength and powerful weapons to open holes in places the other Smiths cannot get through. He can also charge his grenade launchers for powerful effect, and is quite slow. He's a Mighty Glacier through and through, though he's a soft-spoken Nice Guy if you can get to know him.
  • Harman Smith: The Master, or God Killer. An enigmatic wheelchair bound man who uses a powerful anti-tank rifle known as GLIDER. Only comes out in set circumstances where his powers are needed. Much about him is unknown.

While players can practically count the polygons in the characters' faces, the game makes excellent use of shading and shadows to create a unique graphical style. Two levels also feature anime cutscenes, both done by different studios.

The game was developed by Grasshopper Manufacture, and published by Capcom. See also earlier Suda games The Silver Case and Flower, Sun and Rain, games in the "Kill the Past" universe that contain thematic links, as well as Killer Is Dead for a later Grasshopper game with a similar visual style and premise.

On May 26 2018, Suda and Grasshopper Manufacture announced an HD port of the game to PC, with NIS America in charge of publication. This version released via Steam in November.

In the name of Harman...

  • Abstract Apotheosis: Each member of the Killer7 represents an inversion of one of the traditional Japanese values. Each one also has a moment where the irony disappears and they display their corresponding value.
    • KAEDE has various bloodstains on her dress, which signify betrayal (like the Camellia Smiles), so she represents Loyalty. She is also able to sacrifice herself for her teammates (such as with her self-harm).
    • Dan, who kills for fun, represents Honor. Rather than killing Curtis Blackburn straight away, he agrees to a duel with him.
    • Con, who is a teenage punk, represents Respect. He is shown to have an admiration for the Handsome Men, and according to the manual and "Hand in Killer7", he really looks up to Coyote and MASK.
    • MASK, who has the power of a hero but still works as an assassin, represents Benevolence. Jean DePaul refers to MASK as a hero to children.
    • Coyote, who is a thief, represents Honesty. In Cloudman, Coyote suddenly reveals some of his past on the TV without any prompting.
    • Kevin, who can run away and hide from battles, represents Courage. Kevin is brave enough to have perfect aim and always pull out another knife; he also manned the front desk of the hotel in the past.
    • Garcian, who hangs back and lets others take the leading role, represents Self-Control. At the end of the game, after other Smiths are killed, he assumes complete control of himself.
    • Young Harman, who is brutal, represents Justice. He kills Kun Lan and the older Harman for the way they treated the rest of the cast.
  • Action Bomb: The Heaven Smiles.
  • Adult Fear: This scene (warning: NSFW) basically sums up a most horrifying scenario for any parent. (It's Pedro coming to the realization that his shady business partner Curtis has killed Pedro's family.)
  • Aerith and Bob: On the same team, there's KAEDE, Garcian, MASK de, and...Kevin.
  • all lowercase letters: killer7 is usually written like this in the Japanese version. The English version, on both Gamecube and PC, capitalize the K.
  • All There in the Manual:
    • It's recommended to read the actual manual, as it will tell you about gameplay features that the game itself either mostly doesn't or puts in Iwazaru's Tips, which most players aren't going to go out of their way to sit through.
    • Hand In killer7, which actually makes the story even more complicated; for an informational book, it ends up being a Jigsaw Puzzle Plot of its own, relying on you to cross-reference different sections of the book (and the game) to put together what it's trying to tell you. Some of the information in the book completely contradicts the game, and the book is not even completely consistent with itself. There's even an early prototype version of the Encounter chapter, with game graphics and screenshots arranged in comic format, one of the few pieces of early-version content present in the book.
  • Alternate History:
    • The story follows a timeline quite a bit different from ours. This seems to stretch a way back, if we take at face value the claim that the first president of the United States was the headmaster of a school in Seattle.
    • While how far back America's history diverted is unknown, Japan's history's divergence can be traced to somebody (likely Kun Lan) calling Toru Fukushima after World War II, as the Liberal Party that Fukushima was asked to split off from really did exist.
    • It's also an alternate history to The Silver Case and Flower, Sun and Rain, as Killer7 goes out of its way to mention that the Internet (necessary to the plot of The Silver Case) and airplanes (necessary to the plot of Flower, Sun, and Rain) were banned the year before The Silver Case takes place.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Travis Bell, Harman's first hit. Appears in a variety of suggestive poses with flamboyant, sometimes innuendo-laden tank tops, usually in hot pink print ('Bad Girl', 'Sexual'). In a library area in the first level, he describes himself as 'the Chief's first catch', then describes his death like it were an orgasm: 'To be honest, that shit felt good'.
  • Amnesiac Dissonance: Garcian Smith, aka Emir Parkreiner, in Target 05: Smile.
  • Anti-Grinding:
    • You can only process a certain amount of Thick Blood per level, though that amount is usually high enough that you can make use of some grinding.
    • Smile, Part 2 allows a lot more blood than other areas, though it's balanced out by only having a few Camellia Smiles, as well as Mithril Smiles and Broken Smiles, the latter being incredibly hard to get blood from, as regular, respawning enemies.
  • Apocalyptic Log: Holbert's cassettes in Smile Part 2 are full of exposition, and predictably, end with him being killed by the very man he was researching.
  • Arc Number: Seven, in many different ways. Not only are there seven assassins in the Smith syndicate, but also seven major targets to pursue and kill, seven rings to find and use, and the game's story is divided in seven chapters. There are also seven visits to the Vinculum Gate, as well as the Union 7 group in the backstory.
  • Arc Words: Most of the Remnant Psyches have their own recurring words: Travis has "chief" and "straight up", the True Mask has "tomorrow, it could be you", Iwazaru has "in the name of Harman", and so on.
  • Art Shift: The animated cutscenes in Cloudman and Alter Ego are different from the game's art style and from each other. Alter Ego is straight-up anime, while Cloudman is done by a western animation studio. Earlier, Sunset also has a single extended cutscene by the same studio as Alter Ego's.
  • Asshole Victim: Pedro Montana was, along with Curtis Blackburn, one of the heads of the organ smuggling operation in Encounter and the backstory before betraying Curtis, which leads to Curtis getting his revenge. Interestingly, Pedro's death isn't about bringing justice, but showing that Curtis is far, far worse than Pedro could have imagined.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: MASK de Smith is the strongest character in the game, and his grenade launchers can one-hit kill almost any enemy (except for certain bosses), and he gets mask upgrades across the game that boost his power further and speed up his reloads, eventually to the point he doesn't need to reload. Unfortunately, his use of explosives means he can't hit weak points, so unless it's an enemy that none of the other Smiths can damage, his kills grant you little to no blood.
  • Awesome McCoolname: Large swaths of the cast, usually to the effect of "mundane first name, insane last name that synergizes with the first name in a badass way". The Killer7 themselves already sound awesome, but then there's AYAME Blackburn, Kess BloodySunday, Trevor Pearlharbor, Greg Nightmare...
  • Badass Family / Badass Crew: The Smiths.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: Dan and Garcian both wear tasteful suits when out killing. MASK also starts off with a flashy suit, but changes into various wrestler costumes later as he gets upgrades.
  • Badass Normal: Andrei Ulmeyda is able to hold off on becoming a Heaven Smile for a surprisingly long time, and when he does it's far from a mundane transformation.
  • Bad Moon Rising: Done in a rather odd fashion - the moon shown at the start of every chapter starts out appearing in odd colors, including red. As the finale approaches, the moon here starts appearing completely normal.
  • Beat Them at Their Own Game: That's why they call Emir the Ace of Aces:
    • Kevin, the master of disguise, was identified instantly and gunned down.
    • Con, the blind gunman, was taken by surprise in his own room.
    • Kaede, who finds hidden paths, could not hide from Emir.
    • Coyote, who can get to hard to reach places, is out flanked.
    • MASK, the superhero, was struck down when he was unmasked and most vulnerable - in the shower.
    • Dan, hard boiled Badass, can't beat Emir in a one-on-one stand off (doesn't help that Emir's immortal).
  • BFG: Harman's anti-tank rifle, GLIDER.
  • Big "NO!": Pedro has one of the the most horrifying examples, ever, courtesy of one Curtis Blackburn.
  • Black-and-Grey Morality: The Killer7 is a team of sociopaths, their master may or may not be perpetuating combat and war as much as his enemy, and even he's regularly being raped or otherwise physically abused by the maid. On the other hand, their targets include a pedophile working in the organ trade and a comic author who, knowing that the stories he writes play out in reality, continues writing stories wherein many people die - there are very few outright good characters.
  • Bookends:
    • Lion ends almost exactly the same as Angel, with Harman shooting Kun Lan onto a tower; Suda has identified this as representing the futile nature of war.
    • A minor one in Cloudman. "The name's Andrei Ulmeyda." Crowning Moment of Funny the first time, Tear Jerker the second time.
  • Boring, but Practical:
    • Kevin Smith's knives aren't the most exciting weapons to use, but using them draws more blood from your enemies. And they don't need to be reloaded, and their aiming doesn't waver.
    • Dan Smith is another example. He has decent power and accuracy with his revolver and a relatively quick reload, moreso with his Collateral Shot letting him be one of only two Smiths who can destroy red cores on a Duplicator Smile (and being able to do it much sooner and for much less Thin Blood than MASK) and upgrades to his inherent abilities to let him reload faster and finding a double-barreled revolver to hit harder. This makes him one of the best and most well-balanced at overall combat, in return for not being good for much else - he doesn't get any special abilities for puzzles like Coyote's high jumps or KAEDE's ability to break barriers, and he doesn't get any really flashy and powerful combat abilities either like MASK's Macross Missile Massacre or Con's ability to lock onto an enemy's weak point.
  • Boss Battle: Played with heavily. While the game has its fair share of traditional bosses, there's also bosses like Julia or Curtis which play by their own rules. Once you enter Alter Ego, relatively few boss fights are even fought by the player, if they're fought at all, and when they are, they tend to have foregone conclusions.
  • Breather Episode: The animated cutscenes, the beautiful scenery, and pleasant music of Alter Ego make it a lovely little interlude set between the horrors of Encounter and SMILE.
  • Button Mashing: How you revive dead Smiths. The more stamina the higher the bar you have to fill (try not to die as Harman).
  • Call-Back: This scene from "Alter Ego" is notorious for not making sense, even in the game's context... unless you've played Moonlight Syndrome, a previous Suda game which has never been officially released outside of Japan.
  • Calling Your Attacks:
    • Dan calls his "Collateral Shot" Charged Attack every time he uses it.
  • Carnival of Killers: The Smith Syndicate is a rare protagonist example, but one fitting enough that it adorns the page image.
  • Chasing Your Tail: Fighting the Ceramic Smile.
  • Catchphrase: Everyone has a special one for when you hit an enemy in its One-Hit Kill spot, when you deliver a counter attack and when you kill a nearby enemy when he's crawling towards you.
  • Cel Shading: The game uses a style that focus on shadows and silhouettes, providing the vibe of a noir movie.
  • Central Theme: The absurd and destructive nature of the tensions between the U.S. and Japan, and how both Western and Eastern cultures have affected each other, for better or worse.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The screaming in Garcian's Trailerhouse. Turns out there's a Smile living under it.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Emir to a staggering degree.
  • The Chessmaster:
    • Kun Lan and Harman, since many events in the game were set in motion by them. Also literally.
    • According to Hand in Killer7, somebody named Jaco Checkbox orchestrated a lot of the protagonists' actions through Samantha. Despite this, he also claims that unknown individuals had already decided the whole plot through a secret conspiratorial meeting long ago that "maligned history".
  • China Takes Over the World: The ending implies that by the 22nd century, China has succeeded the USA as the world's dominant superpower.
  • Continuity Snarl:
    • Seemingly invoked by Hand in Killer7, a setting book which contradicts itself all over the place to represent how history can get muddled and rewritten over time. This is eventually lampshaded by Jaco, who mentions that nobody really knows what happened in the Smith Syndicate Incident, one of the most confusing points in the timeline.
    • That Smith Syndicate Incident deserves special mention, because at least three separate versions of it exist between the game and the book, sometimes at wildly different points in time, and it's not possible to reconcile them no matter what you do. That would be fine if it was an isolated event, but it's the focal point of the game's backstory, so it's impossible to ignore.
  • Cosmic Chess Game: Played by Harman and Kun Lan.
  • Cosplay Otaku Girl: Ayame Blackburn.
  • Creepy Child: Kess, Susie and Ayame. Susie especially—not only because she's only a head, but because holy crap she's murdered a lot of people! Often for little reason, at that. Love as well, according to Hand in Killer7 which describes her as an "extreme sociopath", although she acts fairly normal in-game.
  • Developers' Foresight: If you somehow manage to go to the final floor of Union Hotel at the end of Smile's second half as any other persona than Garcian (most definitely through hack or glitch), there is a camera at the entrance to force you to transform back to Garcian.
  • Dark Messiah: Ulmeyda. But he's actually not that bad a guy.
  • Daylight Horror: Several of the stages take place in the middle of the day. And the bright lighting emphasizes the bizarre, cel-shaded, technicolor palette, making the world around you only look that much more alien and hostile.
  • Dead All Along: Before they were alternate personalities, the members of the Smith Syndicate were individual people who ended up being killed and then resurrected through assimilation. This even applies to Harman and Garcian/Emir.
  • Deader Than Dead: The Black Smiles are capable of rendering the Smiths impossible to resurrect.
  • Death Is a Slap on the Wrist: Dying as Dan, Kaede, Kevin, Coyote, Con or Mask simply transports you back to the last Harman's Room you visited. You can then switch to Garcian and make your way back to the place where the persona got killed, retrieve their head, get transported back to Harman's Room and resurrect it by repeatedly pressing A. You even get to keep all the blood you've collected. However, this means playing through the same stretch of level at least three times: 1) the original run before dying, 2) as Garcian up to the spot where you died, 3) a third run with the restored persona. And if Garcian himself dies, it's a definitive Game Over.
  • Decoy Protagonist: The Smiths aren't Harman's split personalities. They're Garcian's.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Essentially the entire point of the game: the whole game revolves around the conflict between American/Western and Japanese/Eastern values.
    Garcian: What is 'United States'? What is the purpose of the President?
    Matsuoka: I'm Japanese, how the hell should I know?
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Sure, what Pedro did was terrible, but Curtis's response (raping and killing Pedro's wife, murdering his son, and tossing his daughter's severed head to Pedro while going into detail about what he did to them) is overkill for anyone.
  • Door to Before: Through the form of padlocks, which have to be unlocked on the other side.
  • Downer Ending: No matter which option the player takes in the game's Sadistic Choice between America or Japan, an entire people gets wiped out, and it is implied that the entire process will begin again in another century. The only main character who receives a somewhat optimistic conclusion is Emir, since he manages to free himself from Harman and Kun Lan's machinations and psyches and be an individual again.
  • Drone of Dread: The music that plays over the shots of the moon at the start of each chapter.
  • Duel Boss:
    • Curtis insists upon a fair duel with Dan.
    • Happens again with the Killer7 taking on the Handsome Men, one by one.
    • Julia's boss fight simply consists of you two pointing your weapons at each other and firing as fast as possible.
  • Earn Your Title: Garcian is the Cleaner, he retrieves dead bodies and brings them back to life; Dan is the Hellion, because of how reckless and violent he is; KAEDE is named Barefoot, because she never wears shoes, and so on. Emir's titles of the Bloody Heartland and the Ace of Aces are the most reflective of his past.
  • Easter Egg: Hopper 7, where the regular Smiles become HopperMen. Only the first level is available and all the enemies die in one hit.
  • Eldritch Location:
    • If taken literally, then Harman's Room and the Vinculum Gate are this, since they make appearances behind so many otherwise ordinary doors and seemingly can make connections throughout vast distances of space.
    • By the end of the game, it becomes obvious that Garcian's trailerhouse follows similar rules, though again, potentially non-literal ones. Not only is it simultaneously linked across the world to Harman's Room, which might be under the Colosseum on Battleship Island, and the Forbidden Room, which might be a suite on the top floor of the Union Hotel in Pennsylvania, but it also has a winding basement tunnel. Yes, a basement, in a trailer.
    • The Forbidden Room is more or less confirmed to be this, as Kun Lan states that "time here is warped".
  • Everything's Deader with Zombies: One of the boss fights consists of two elderly Japanese gentlemen who had their heads blown open. You have to blow their brains out, literally, to kill them... again.
  • Evil Laugh: Heaven Smiles are this trope embodied. Their sole existence is to blow people up a la suicide bombing and laugh bloody murder as they're getting ready to do so. Their creator Kun Lan has a very impressive one as well.
  • Expressive Shirt: Travis' shirt text changes every time you see him.
  • False Roulette: Benjamin Keane thinks he's won at Russian Roulette. Contender Garcian pulls the trigger on him a 6th time. It goes click. "This gun holds seven bullets".
  • Fan Disservice: Samantha has one (thankfully not graphic) sex scene. It's with Harman. In his wheelchair. While he's near-comatose.
  • Final Speech:
    • Subverted; Dan kills Curtis partway through his.
      Dan: Trying to die in style? Give me a break, you sick old man!
    • Every Remnant Psyche has an ominous and conclusive speech before vanishing forever.
  • First-Person Ghost: For some reason, the animated cutscenes in Cloudman work this way, with characters addressing the camera as if it were the Killer7 (but sometimes the camera shifts, and sometimes when that happens the person doesn't look towards the camera's new angle so...who knows?). The Killer7's dialogue is also unheard here too. In one instance ("we don't get many black folk around here"), it's explicitly directed at Garcian.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • At the end of the Handsome Men fight, Garcian's counterpart Handsome Pink reveals her real identity as Love Wilcox, and explains how she wrote the story of this battle, implicitly making her the leader and not Handsome Red, Harman's counterpart. All of this foreshadows Garcian's true identity as Emir and his position as the host personality of the Smiths, not Harman. In addition, Garcian is the one holding the anti-tank rifle Harman usually uses during the game-esque credits following the fight against the Handsome Men, once again hinting at his link to Harman.
    • In the very first level of the game, Travis calls Garcian "Emir". Garcian being Emir is the big endgame plot twist.
  • For the Evulz: The Heaven Smiles are viewed as causing "terrorism for the sake of terror".
  • The Four Gods: At one point you have to match them to their directions.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: In the famous Russian Roulette scene, when Keane pops out the cylinder for his revolver, if you count the amount of holes in said cylinder you can see the gun holds seven bullets, not the usual six. Nice attention to detail.
  • Friendly Enemy: Harman and Kun Lan may be archenemies, but they're also best friends.
  • Gainaxing: Handsome Pink and Handsome Light Brown display it with their chests. Handsome Purple, with his belly.
  • Gainax Ending: The ending of the penultimate chapter, Smile, has a very bizarre reveal about the true nature of the Smith Syndicate. It even has the protagonist undergo a tearful breakdown at the end. The chapter that follows clears none of it up and instead offers up an even more bizarre reveal.
  • Gambit Roulette: The entire game, as revealed in the supplementary material, Jaco's Report. An FBI agent who lost his family to the Heaven Smiles uses a machine that predicts the future to predict the Last Smile, which will eradicate the Smiles entirely once defeated. As the probability of the predictions happening increases with each one that comes true and eventually reaches a point that a prediction will come true even if the machine has to bend reality to make it happen, he sets the events of each mission in motion to force the Last Smile into existence.
  • Gambling Brawl: In the second chapter, a group of diplomats are playing Japanese Mahjong. One declares a victory for the round, only for another to realize the win broke the rules (which the former seems to have been unaware of) and points it out. They all immediately declare everything over and shoot each other simultaneously.
  • Gameplay and Story Integration: Relating to the Central Theme above, the gameplay is designed to be a "best of both world" approach to Japanese and Western game design philosophies. Japanese gamers prefer linear games, while Western gamers prefer games that are open-ended. In turn, the gameplay of Killer7 can be described as exploring a wide open environment (the Western approach) with on-rails controls (the Japanese approach).
  • Gangsta Style: Con does a variation with Guns Akimbo, where the right sides of both guns are facing up, rather than the left-hand gun having its left side up. Coyote has an especially bad case - he does not merely hold his gun sideways, but diagonally over his head. He also has serious kickback and is one of the most difficult characters to aim with.
  • Genre-Busting: Both the story and gameplay are nearly impossible to neatly categorize. In terms of gameplay, the limited movement, fixed camera angles, and light Adventure Game elements suggest a Survival Horror game (not surprising, seeing as it was produced by Shinji Mikami), while the combat resembles a Rail Shooter and the powerup system is more reminiscent of a traditional action game with RPG Elements. The plot, meanwhile, plays out like a bizarre lovechild of Hideo Kojima, David Lynch, and Quentin Tarantino, having heavy elements of politics, horror, satire and crime drama.
  • A God Am I: Trevor Pearlharbor is utterly confident in his ability to write the future with his comic books. He's wrong, though, as he can only predict the future, not change it.
  • Go-Karting with Bowser: Harman and Kun Lan and their chess games.
  • Government Conspiracy: There's one regarding federal elections in the United States. Specifically, since most polling places are at public schools, the Department of Education can easily switch out the ballots before they're counted. Thus, the Secretary of Education decides who becomes President.
  • Gratuitous English: The phrase "Change the Wold" is written on a chalkboard at Coburn Elementary.
  • Guns Akimbo: Con and Mask, with respectively handguns and grenade launchers.
  • Handguns: What most of the characters are armed with. Two of them (Dan and Coyote) have revolvers, three (Con, KAEDE, and Garcian) have automatics. Garcian later switches from his automatic to a gold-plated revolver after the other personalities are all defeated.
  • Hate Sink: In a cast full of deranged and villainous characters, Samantha manages to come across as especially despicable despite simply being an extremely abrasive nurse. It helps that she's a rapist.
  • Have a Nice Death: Your player character's head rolls over, opens its mouth and bellows a bloody Kanji.
  • Heal Thyself: Using the blood of their enemies, no less.
  • High-Pressure Blood: KAEDE, Andrei Ulmeyda.
  • Hints Are for Losers: You don't want the expanded hints. Trust us. (If you want them, it will cost you precious blood. And Yoon-Hyun will explicitly call you a loser. While flipping you off with both hands at once.)
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Dan finishes Curtis off by activating the machinery in the room they fought in — Curtis is subsequently cleaned and hung up to dry.
  • I Cannot Self-Terminate: Ulmeyda.
  • Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels: This game's hard mode is called Deadly. killer8 forces you into a harder difficulty named Bloodbath, while hopper7 gives the joke Face the Swarm difficulty, which is a variant of Deadly.
  • In Medias Res: Angel throws you straight into the game without a single bit of exposition. Additionally, the screen summing up the objective of it indicates it's the thirty-third job undertaken by the Smiths.
  • In the Name of the Moon: "Ayame Blackburn, Survive!"
  • Jigsaw Puzzle Plot: In the end, it's incredibly easy to miss the connections.
  • Karmic Death: Oh boy.
    • Dan can talk, but can't back it up. In death, he has the strength to back it up.
    • Coyote is outwitted by Emir. In death, he has the ingenuity that could have saved his life.
    • KAEDE tried to save herself by placing a barrier between her and Emir. In death, she can commit suicide in order to break barriers.
    • Con could not hear Emir coming nor could he escape. In death, he gains super hearing and super speed.
    • MASK presents the image of an invulnerable superhero with his mask, but is killed effortlessly whilst not wearing it. In death, his mask grants him incredible powers, making him the strongest of the group.
    • Kevin's lackluster disguise fails to prevent Emir from detecting him. In death, he gains the ultimate means to avoid detection.
    • Last but not least, Garcian (Emir) kills the others, and then commits suicide out of guilt. In death, he can revive the other personas.
    • Less ambiguously, several targets including Curtis being killed by his own organ harvesting machines, and Trevor Pearlharbor having a hole blown through him by Handsome Black's Handsome Wink.
  • Kick Chick: Kaede's counterattacks, ironically tying in with her status as Barefoot.
  • Knife Nut: Kevin Smith.
  • Laughing Mad: Kun Lan and the Heaven Smiles, of course.
  • Level-Map Display: Each level has one that highlights what room you're in and several other features. On Normal, Harman's Rooms, characters and rings needed for puzzles, and Soul Shells are shown. Deadly removes all but the Harman's Rooms and Soul Shells, and killer8 removes the Soul Shells.
  • Let's Play:
  • Limited Wardrobe: Harman only ever wears Jesuit priest clothes, Garcian a white suit, and Kevin nothing but sunglasses and chinos (although he does change the former). MASK changes his clothes exactly three times in the game, and in each case it's a plot point; on the other hand, before finding the blue mask, he wears a different mask in each level. In contrast, Dan, KAEDE, Coyote, and Con wear different clothes in each level, albeit always of the same style.
  • Locked Door: And Coyote's a thief; do the math. Coyote's lockpicking skills are so great that he can pick a padlock by just casually manhandling it with one hand.
  • Long Song, Short Scene:
    • Rave On, with a total length of five minutes or so, plays exclusively in the short staircase between the Vinculum Gate and the Colosseum.
    • "Geopolitics", the theme that plays when the player transitions between locations, is about a minute long, but the player is lucky to hear more than 10 seconds of it (and it's mostly covered up by sound effects).
  • Losing Your Head:
  • Lost in Medias Res: Invoked by Angel, which gives no explicit introductions to anything; however, this forces the player to, through gameplay, get acquainted with the workings of the game, and Angel is actually very light on plot for this reason.
  • Lunacy: There're some disturbing shots of the moon quivering and pulsating to an ominous soundtrack whenever a chapter starts or a file is loaded. While the moon inserts are never formally addressed, they form a sort of analogy with the Laughing Mad Heaven Smiles. (They're also a recurring image of Suda's, as explored in Moonlight Syndrome and The Silver Case among others.)
  • MacGuffin:
    • Soul Shells, which are required to advance to the next stage. The exceptions are the chapters Cloudman and Alter Ego, which require collection of Ulmeyda-themed bottlecaps and color samples, respectively.
    • The Yakumo. Several major factions in the game want it, but nobody explains what it is and what it can do. Hand in Killer7 says it is a founding document of the United Nations Party which outlines its foreign policy, but nothing explains why something like that would be so powerful. A fragment of it (or possibly an imperfect copy) is what allowed Andrei Ulmeyda to build a highly successful company that doesn't actually produce anything.
  • Magical Girl: Ayame Blackburn is an homage to the genre, having an introduction sequence and wearing an animegao mask.
  • The Magnificent Seven Samurai: A very, very weird version, but technically still follows the archetype of a team of seven being called on to defend the populace from an evil threat. In particular, it resembles the Exaggerated version on the playing with a trope page.
  • Mask Power:
    • MASK de Smith, pro wrestling god, who even powers up by finding new masks.
    • Another example: Ayame Blackburn, who wears a kigurumi mask with exaggerated anime-style facial features.
    • Yoon-Hyun's mask absorbs blood and can seemingly activate his alternate personality.
  • Meaningful Background Event: When Mills summons Garcian at the start of Cloudman, Ulmeyda's challenge to Garcian turns into a non sequitur rant about someone with type AB blood whose parents have A and O, which Ulmeyda finds pretty cool since it's biologically impossible. Come the end of the game, and Garcian turns out to be Emir Parkreiner, who has type B blood while his parents have A and O; again, impossible. Ulmeyda was basically telling Garcian that he knew the truth of who he was, but in a way Garcian couldn't pick up on.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • The verb "Smith", aka "to hit" (i.e. metal). In Killer7, the Smiths are assassins, i.e., "hitmen". It can also be seen as a declaration of anonymity and allegiance to America, as the killers are of many different ethnicities but all have a generic American last name as personalities of Harman, the hero of the west.
    • Trevor Pearlharbor is ultimately killed by one of his own sentai heroes; the word "sentai" literally refers to a Japanese military unit; for example, the one that bombed Pearl Harbor.
    • Yoon-Hyun was the owner of the Union Hotel Group; sound out "Yoon-Hyun".
    • Ayame Blackburn, an assassin - "Ayameru" means "to kill", as pointed out in The Silver Case.
  • Metal Slime: Camellia and Mini Smiles.
  • Mercy Kill: Ulmeyda specifically hired you to kill him when he becomes a Smile.
  • Mexican Standoff: Subverted with the Mahjong table; it looks like one, but then everyone opens fire.
  • Militaries Are Useless: The only case you see of the military being mobilized in the game is the worst case possible. They storm Andrei Ulmeyda's outpost, not because he's a dangerous criminal, but because he produces miracle cures by overcoming deadly diseases and are hoping he can do the same with Heaven Smile. Nevermind that Andrei has been taking absurd measures to avoid Heaven Smile, including "hiring" the Killer7, because even he thinks he can't handle it. He ends up being right, and his transformation is so extreme that the entire military unit is wiped out, leaving only the Killer7 to put down the mutated Andrei.
  • Milkman Conspiracy: The United States government is controlled by Japan through a Seattle elementary school... really.
  • Mind Screw: One of the most infamous examples to people who've played it, up there with the likes of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. Imagine walking in a straight line for hours with four people talking at you about completely different things. Cryptically. And every five minutes, you have to stop and think really hard about the first thing you see. When you've finally finished that, you discover that 50% of what you just did was All Just a Dream, yet 75% was real.
  • The Mole: Toru Fukushima has two: his secretary Julia Kisugi and apprentice chef Jean Depaul. Also, one of the theories spawned from the Last Shot Smile is that Iwazaru is one for the Killer7.
  • Monkey Morality Pose: Iwazaru, Mizaru and Kikazaru all represent a variation. Iwazaru is, ironically, your Exposition Fairy who is constantly making the "shush" gesture. Mizaru points out obstacles that KAEDE can remove and always has her eyes covered. Kikazaru is completely silent, disappears when you draw near and highlights the locations of Soul Shells.
  • Mook Maker: Mother Smiles, Duplicator Smiles, and Greg Nightmare.
  • Motif: Masks appear all over the game, tying in with the theme of deception.
  • Mr. Exposition: Travis and Iwazaru.
  • Multi-Gendered Split Personalities: KAEDE is one of the many split personalities of Harman Smith and the only female one. Of course, the personalities don't originate within the host.
  • New Game+: "killer8" mode, which makes the game much harder in general but grants access to the powerful Young Harman.
  • Not So Stoic: Garcian has a difficult time coping with the final reveal.
  • Off Like a Shot: Con's speed-up power.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: Garcian can travel around the country with unexplained ease. Over the course of Sunset he travels across the country, between Seattle and Washington D.C., five times, all within less than eighteen hours. In a world without air travel.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: Remnant Psyches, the lingering consciousnesses of the dead who have found themselves sucked into and attached to Harman's mind.
  • Our Souls Are Different: Harman and Kun Lan's essences reincarnate, but each one of their reincarnations has its own unique soul to the point that Harman was able to enslave one of Kun Lan's past lives as a Remnant Psyche in the form of Iwazaru.
  • Out of Focus: After Sunset, main villains Kun Lan and Matsuoka (along with the whole main plot of the game) just kind of take a back seat all the way until the climax.
  • Pastel-Chalked Freeze Frame: How most cutscenes end before fading out.
  • Pop Quiz:
    • The "Presidential Loyalty Assessment" on the way to Ulmeyda's lair.
    • Another, much harder one is required to get into the gym in the Smile chapter.
  • Post-Final Boss: Emir Parkreiner and the Last Shot Smile. Both are Zero-Effort Bosses.
  • Power of the God Hand: Kun Lan's power is the God Hand, which apparently allows his right hand to emit a light that turns people into Heaven Smiles, among other things.
  • Pre Ass Kicking One Liner: Harman to the Angel: "Good night, child. It's past your bedtime."
  • The Psycho Rangers: The Handsome Men, who get bonus points due to actually being a Super Sentai parody. In the in-universe Handsome Men franchise, though, the Smiths are this to them.
  • Purposely Overpowered: Young Harman is extremely powerful, having massive health, a large ammo supply, and a fast, powerful machine gun. Given the difficulty of killer8, you'll need these attributes to survive.
  • Rain of Blood:
    • Ulmeyda gives one off when he transforms into a Heaven Smile. His blood is so full of diseases that it kills everyone present except his followers (who regularly partake of his blood) and the Smiths (who are not really human anymore).
    • KAEDE's special ability is this, and it can break down barriers (for some reason).
  • The Reveal: Many in the final chapters:
    • The United States elections have been subverted by the Japanese taking control of a politically important elementary school in Seattle.
    • Harman Smith was heavily involved with said school, which was secretly training children to become assassins. Also, there are multiple Harmans.
    • Garcian is actually Emir Parkreiner, who killed all the Smiths which resulted in his (not Harman's) split personalities.
    • And finally, the final Heaven Smile is Iwazaru, who is also Kun Lan.
  • Revolvers Are Just Better: The revolvers Dan and Coyote use are significantly more powerful than the semi-automatic pistols used by KAEDE and Garcian. Halfway through the game Dan upgrades to the Demon Gun, a revolver with two barrels and twelve rounds in one huge cylinder. Finally, Greg Nightmare's Golden Gun is also a revolver, and it is capable of killing Heaven Smiles in one shot.
  • Rule of Cool: Loaded with it. Any time one of the nonsensical and yet awesome facets of this game makes you ask "Why?", this is usually at least the immediate answer.
  • Rule of Seven: Harman's seven personalities, hence the name of the syndicate. The game is also divided into seven chapters; see Arc Number for just a few of the many other instances.
  • Rule of Symbolism: The game has several examples of this. From The Yakumo references in the early chapters, to the whole plot being subtly developed as a Cosmic Chess Game, to allusions to World War II, to the flag capture allusion in the last chapter, etc.
  • Russian Roulette: "This gun holds seven bullets."
  • Sadistic Choice: Presented to the player at the end of the game: kill Matsuoka, and the US will nuke Japan off the face of the planet; spare him, and Japan will attack the US, triggering World War III.
  • School Setting Simulation: The sixth chapter, "Smile", takes the Smiths to the Colburn Elementary School during the second half. Here, they're looking for the Ministry of Education, Greg Nightmare, but there are no children as the place is being visited during night. Several cassettes can be found, and have the recordings of a deceased FBI agent who was researching about the life of one of the school's former students, Emir Parkreiner (the past life of Garcian Smith). The boss is Greg Nightmare himself, who is revealed to have been Dead All Along.
  • Secret Character: Young Harman.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Two minor characters are from Suda's past games, Edo Macalister from Flower, Sun and Rain and Mithra from Moonlight Syndrome. The entire structure of the game and many of its plot concepts are taken from The Silver Case; it would be futile to try and list every self-reference here, as they quickly leave the territory of Shout-Out and instead start to resemble pieces of the same body of work (although it's easily determined that they can't take place on the same timeline).
    • Some of Dan's suits look like Spike Spiegel's and Lupin's.
    • A blatant one with Harman's "Tricks are for kids, Kun."
    • At one point, Susie references Daddy-Long-Legs.
    • Numerous The Smiths song titles are used at some point in the game, which is natural given the names of the protagonists.
    • Travis' shirts in Alter Ego are all named after songs by the music group Quruli.
    • Although not stated in the game or book, instead being relegated to magazine articles, the weapon names of the protagonists are all also named after songs by punk rock bands, sometimes even tying the character in with the lyrics.
    • Ayame Blackburn's battle theme is titled Sweet Blue Flag. In Ninja Sentai Kakuranger, the leader of the Hanarangers was named Ayame and given the title of Blue Sweet Flag. (In both cases, this is also a reference to the meaning of Ayame.)
    • Johnny's carrier pigeons are all named after Bond girls.
    • The end credits in Alter Ego show Con Smith as a Red Arremer and Dan in a Saturday Night Fever suit and dance pose.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: The ending is quite cynical.
    Kun Lan: Harman, the world won't change. All it does is turn.
  • Signature Laugh: The Smiles' laugh differently pending on their actions (hiding nearby, getting shot, blowing up...) and type (Poison Smiles laugh in reverse when getting up, Cammelia Smiles have a bizarre holler, etc.).
  • Silent Bob: Appropriately enough, Kevin Smith.
  • Smart People Play Chess: Harman Smith and Kun Lan play chess while not engaging in their neverending conflict. Kun Lan only rarely wins, though.
  • Sociopathic Hero: Dan Smith.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: "Greensleeves" over a murder scene, loud techno as you're walking down a completely ordinary hall; it goes on.
  • Solve the Soup Cans: Several instances when it comes to searching for the shells that give access to the boss rooms. Somewhat parodied by the name of the "Odd Engravings", which don't even try to justify their existence in the world.
  • Speaking Simlish: Subverted with the Remnant Psyches. At first, it sounds like they're talking in distorted gibberish, but in the original Japanese it's instead various Synthetic Voice Actors speaking in machine-translated Gratuitous English (as heard here,) and the overseas releases added extra filters over their voices to make them sound more garbled.
  • Split Personality:
    • The Smiths; it's on the box cover. But when it comes to whose personality they split from, Covers Always Lie. However, they're not regular split personalities, instead being examples of something called Multifoliate Personae Phenomenon, which is why they're seemingly able to physically manifest. To make matters even crazier about the history of the Smiths, the supplementary material seem to say that they were already dead when Emir killed them, and Harman had been using them as split personalities as the Killer7 syndicate. So, they've been killed at least twice, can apparently manifest themselves separately from one another, and can be endlessly resurrected by Garcian/Emir. Oh, and Samantha used to be one, but isn't anymore, so it's apparently possible for a personality to leave and regain their body... somehow.
    • Samantha at least comes off as an example, switching between Meido and Alpha Bitch depending on whether or not the lights are on. Same with Yoon-Hyun, who puts on a mask to switch from his cordial demeanor to the abrasive True Mask.
  • Spy Speak: Used by Cristopher Mills, in fear of wire tapping.
  • Surreal Horror: Many parts of the game.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Gary Wanderers, the Steward, who replaces Samantha after she is killed by Harman. Even Hand in Killer7 notes that "fans of Samantha will doubtlessly be disappointed by him".
  • Terrorists Without a Cause: The Heaven Smiles, identified by the opening narrator as "terrorism for the sole purpose of causing terror". In the first chapter there's some talk from the Angel of them being "chosen" and "having a purpose in life", but that purpose turns out to simply be eradicating everyone who isn't one of them; even Suda in an interview described the Angel as merely a "throwaway gag" from Kun Lan.
  • Theme Naming:
    • All of Johnny's carrier pigeons are named after Bond girls.
    • Iwazaru, his handler Kikazaru, and his ex-wife Mizaru. Their names mean, respectively, "Speak no evil", "Hear no evil", and "See no evil."
  • This Is Gonna Suck: Dan's intro has him muttering this trope after he blows the head off a Heaven Smile and realizes that their intel was wrong.
    Dan Smith: Shit! There's more than 14. (spits) Those bastards are breeding.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: All the Smiths are actually Garcian's split personalities. Furthermore, Garcian is actually Emir, the dangerous assassin of legend who killed the rest of the Smiths.
  • Trailers Always Lie:
    • This trailer, from way back in 2003, is particularly interesting as virtually none of the dialogue or cutscenes in it appear in the game itself.
    • An article in a gaming magazine prior to the game's release stated that the characters would each have different abilities than what made it into the game:
      • KAEDE was supposed to be able to kill the Smiles by raining blood down on them, like she does with the barriers. It was supposedly because she had some kind of toxin in her system.
      • Coyote was supposed to be able to preform a roundhouse kick, that would clear a room full of Smiles.
  • Unorthodox Reload: Con bounces empty magazines off his knees and slaps new ones in with his feet. Garcian and MASK appear to manifest new magazines/rounds from their hips. Dan and Coyote seem to use speedloaders, which is fine — except Coyote's spent casings pop right out of their own volitionnote . And instead of slapping them in like the boys, KAEDE carefully slides her magazines into place like a good sniper — but she also fumbles with them when reloading while aiming. Then you get Dan and MASK's upgrades, both of which speed up their reloads by letting them skip the part where they actually put in new rounds.
  • Vicious Cycle: No matter who wins each time, Harman and Kun Lan begin the game again in a hundred years. Worse still, their condescending attitude towards Young Harman and cordial attitude with eachother implies that it's not even vicious for them - they just get bored every few hundred years and decide to play with humanity.
  • Wake-Up Call Boss: Kurahashi and Akiba are quite a bit harder to deal with than Angel.
  • The Walrus Was Paul: Many believe the entirety of the game's plot to be an extreme example of this.
  • Warm-Up Boss: The Speed Smile. Though it's actually slow in its approach, this Smile jerks its head around very quickly and constantly, making hitting the weak point in its head difficult. The trick is that the Speed Smile moves its head to one of three set positions as it approaches, making predicting its next move and lining up a killing shot possible. This also sets up the rules of the Vinculum Gate: the only way to defeat Vinculum Gate bosses is to hit their weak points.
  • Wave-Motion Gun: "Collateral Shot!"
  • Weaponized Offspring: Duplicator and Mother Smiles lay eggs that roll towards the player. They hatch if they get close to the player, or if they're shot, turning into a vanilla Action Bomb Heaven Smile.
  • We Cannot Go On Without You: Garcian is the only character who can revive the others. If he dies, the game ends automatically. Justified, because all of the alternate personalities of the Smith Syndicate stem from him, and his death means they all die as well.
  • Weird Moon: At the beginning of every chapter (or while loading a save file) the moon is shown pulsing and shaking to an ominous soundtrack, often appearing in strange colors like red or purple.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: Smile, Part 1 pulls this at the end. The whole level has various characters building up this chapter as the big climactic finish, and when you finally get to the end of the stage, instead of finding the person you were looking for, you instead find two shadowy figures ( Young Harman and Dmitri Nightmare) who just dismissively tell you he's not here and you should go somewhere else.

Harman Smith: You're awake from your nightmare.

Kun Lan: Harman. The world won't change. All it does is turn. Now, let's dance.

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: