Tuesday, March 8, 2016

VGR Lollipop Chainsaw

Sweeter than candy on a stick, huckleberry, cherry, or lime. If you have a choice he'd be your pick, but Lollipop is mine~

Let's celebrate International Women's Day with gaming's most badass chainsaw-wielding gal!

Flowers, sun, rain, some guy named Mondo and people killing the past? Time for a Suda51 game!

VGR: Lollipop Chainsaw
From Goichi Suda & James Gunn/Grasshopper Manufacture/Kadokawa Games/Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Played on Xbox 360
Also available on PS3

Type 3rd Person Action/Beat 'em all/Hack 'n' slash/Horror-comedy game
Year 2012

Following the critical success of the first No More Heroes game, you would expect to see Suda51 and his team at Grasshopper Manufacture going strong with all kind of new hits but due to the second game's financial failure (despite being Grasshopper's most positively-received game to date) he tried something a lot more basic combining his efforts with another famed game director on Shadows of the Damned. Which also failed to gain much success as well.   

So the studio went on working on several handheld titles and digital downloads for a while.

That is, until Suda came back with a direct "spiritual successor" to the NMH series, quite a surprising title...

Lollipop Chainsaw was released in 2012 for both Xbox 360 and PS3. It plays, looks and feels fairly similar to No More Heroes. But it uses even more outrageous over-the-top stylized visuals.

The game was partially imagined with Suda's "brother from another mother", one of my favorite American filmmakers, James Gunn! That's right, the one and only James Gunn - a long time Troma alumni, writer of the Dawn of the Dead remake and the live-action Scooby-Doo film, director of Super, Slither and mostly known these days for the successful Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy - collaborating with Japanese video game designer Suda51 on a video game. Part-crazy Japanese hack 'n' slash arcade game, part-crazy grindhouse-style bloody teen movie parody.

The story of the game follows this zany cheerleader Juliet Starling. It's Juliet's 18th birthday! She goes to this school San Romero High School. She planned to introduce her boyfriend Nick Carlyle  to her family today, for the very first time.

But today also happens to be the day this whole zombie outbreak took place! Soon the whole school is overrun by zombies! And what's worse, Nick even got bitten by a zombie while trying to protect Julie... so she decapitates him to save him from an infection! Nick wakes up as a disembodied head, very much still alive and now attached to Juliet's waist-chain. And he soon finds out Juliet's really a zombie hunter!  

In this universe, the world is divided in 3 realms - there's the Earth realm, a supernatural land between worlds and the Rotten World where zombies and demons come from. Apparently somebody opened a portal between these plans of existence through black magic. 

This adventures will take Juliet and Nick all over the city to locate where it all came from. From the classroom to the rest of the campus, from outside the school grounds to a farm outside town, a shopping mall and finally a skyscraper in the middle of the city. 

But five demons entered our world, Juliet must face these bosses one by one, each's style based around a different kind of rock music: metal, acoustic, vintage pop, etc.

And Nick finally gets introduced to Juliet's family including her sisters Cordelia and Rosalind while finally getting accepted into the family business! But who's the zombie overlord... don't tell me it's some goth kid behind it all...!

Gameplay in Lollipop Chainsaw is fairly close to the No More Heroes series. Juliet basically controls like Travis Touchdown.

Juliet can slash her way through hordes of zombies by using her trusty chainsaw like a sword. Like most hack and slash games you can perform high and low blows with the usual melee and distant attacks. You can also dodge. Zombies have to be beaten first before you can perform an instant kill.

The game takes most of its basis from No More Heroes actually (which is the main reason I truly believe this game originally started life as a spinoff of sorts, possibly playing with Travis' sister from NMH1).

You can even earn money similar to that game to buy ingame store upgrades. You can upgrade the chainsaw for longer rage attacks.

Lollipop Chainsaw is slightly much more combo-oriented if you're able to trigger bigger kills combos you can take out several zombies at the same time.

Juliet can do a few acrobatic light attacks, use her chainsaw for heavy attacs, and perform super attacks once her star meter's full.

And even the disembodied Nick has a role in the gameplay! The head of Juliet's boyfriend is always around her waist, waiting to come into play. You do get to control Nick... sorta...

You see, Juliet can attach Nick's head to decapitated zombies, which turns into a quick rhythm game to action a special move. It's called "Nick roulette" and allows you to do various type of attacks similar to, well, the slot machine system from No More Heroes 2.

Throughout the game you will be able to find and save several people. Helping everyone through the course of the game will get you access to the true ending.

Juliet can collect lollipops for health. And medals for currency to buy new music tracks, costumes, power-ups and to unlock artwork. There was a whole controversy at the time of the release due to Japan receiving some special anime-inspired costumes as DLC (such as Rei Miyamoto and Saeko Busujima from Highschool of the Dead, Shiro from Deadman Wonderland, Manyū Chifusa from Manyū Hiken-chō and Haruna from Is This a Zombie?) but all these costumes can actually be bought in the in-game store. It's just goes to show how little people looked into this when complaining about it. There's about 20 costumes unlockable in game, no DLC, quite surprising in this day and age! Including my favorite, a costume inspired by Ash Williams from Army of Darkness/Evil Dead!

As you would expect from a game from James Gunn (!), the game features the type of cast Gunn would hire in such a project with Juliet Starling being voiced by the legendary Tara Strong in English (and Eri Kitamura/Yōko Hikasa in Japan), Nick Carlyle voiced by Michael Rosenbaum (Kenichi Suzumura in Japanese) as well as Michael Rooker as one of the bosses, Vikke, the evil goth named Swan voiced by Sean Gunn (Nobuhiko Okamoto in Japanese), Cordelia Starling voiced by Linda Cardellini (Mayumi Asano in Japanese), and the first zombie overlord Zed voiced by noneother Jimmy Urine! How about that!

Lollipop Chainsaw has a really fun story playing with the usual tropes of the genre and our expectation, as you'd expect from a James Gunn project. It's not a particularly long game not really short either for a total of about 7 chapters with a big bad boss at the end of each episode.

The game was specially directed by Suda51 and Tomo Ikeda, and written between James Gunn and Masahiro Yuki.

Usually Suda games often explore the same type of topics and themes despite different styles of games (see Flower, Sun & Rain, Killer 7 and No More Heroes...), but for once gameplay seems pretty similar to a prior game, NMH, while offering a completely different aesthetics close to Japanese anime and American comics. A little bit of both worlds, truly showing each creator's hand in the project.

It's a pretty stylish game with frantic action, a fun story with lot of twists. You can definitively see James Gunn's mark all over the project since he had a hand in the story and the characters. He even brought several of his friends from films and other stuff.

Illustrator NekoshowguN designed the final look of these characters and Juliet's chainsaw.

The game has hilarious dialogues, it's a colorful game with loads of references that really shows.

From the overall comic book style approach for all the game menus and presentation.

You can also see some clear references to Night of the Living Dead and George Romero, pop culture and all kinds of allusions to other games including my favorite the "fun center" Pac-Man sequence which feels completely random ("Pac-Man Fever"!!) and is probably here because of James Gunn rather than Suda.. although from the looks of the retro games in NMH2 it wouldn't surprise me if that was his idea..

Lollipop Chainsaw is a funny, sexy, sweet game. It's fun and enjoyable enough you might want have some replays and go back to a few certain stages.

It's kind of reminiscent of the Onechanbara titles from D3 Publisher, although it's not as rough in the animation, visuals, controls and music. It's like a proper version of those games.

There's several difficulty settings but they mostly adjust the health, life and tenacity of your foes.

There's enough replay value between the unlockable stuff (using different costumes you can even get to play with Juliet's sisters!).

In Japan the game was rereleased for Valentine's Day Feb. 14, 2013 with a special edition, "Lollipop Chainsaw Valentine Edition" which contained a special limited code that unlocks everything as well as bonus DVDs, a Valentine's Day comic and other cool stuff!

Finally let's not forget to mention the game's great sountrack lead by Akira Yamaoka and composed by Mac Nobuka with Jimmy Urine.. It just gives the game as much personality sound-wise as the entire American-Japanese co-production behind the game. It's pretty varied and contains some great 80s metal to 80s pop and other funky tunes. The main title is the cult classic Lollipop from The Chordettes! You can definitely see James Gunn's hand in the soundtrack, with the likes of The Runaways' "Cherry Bomb". And unlocking new music tracks you can even alter the music of the different stages in-game!

Overall, Lollipop Chainsaw is a pretty kickass game! I recommend you Check it Out if you're interested by any of the creatores behind the game!

Whilethe  game received pretty great feedback back in Japan, we can't say the same for the reception in the rest of the world which was mixed at best. People loved the tone, the look and the feel of the game but were pretty harsh against the fairly standard gameplay. Personally I just love the premise and personality of the game, it's such a fun world. Gameplay works fine, I specially love the boss battles. It's simple, intuitive  and if you played through Suda's NMH games you will feel right at home.

It's a really fun experience I recommend everyone. And in fact it remains to this day Grasshopper Manufacture's most successful game, and sold over a million copies worldwide!

It's kind of what you would expect from a co-production between game designer Suda51 and filmmaker James Gunn - it's pretty fun and evokes the best parts of both creators!
I give it:
2 / 3 Quacks!

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