Kagero: Tecmo’s Deception II2Q2014 issue

Pho­tos cour­tesy of Gamefaqs.com and GameSpot.com

At death’s door

Some­times, games require dif­fi­cult moral choic­es that we aren’t pre­pared to han­dle. Tec­mo’s Decep­tion II wheels and deals in this dilem­ma, and it does­n’t shy away from ask­ing you, the play­er, to make some grue­some deci­sions that may just scar you for life.

Tec­mo’s Decep­tion series, as a whole, is a unique beast that requires care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion about whether you even want to start play­ing it. Most of the games in the series, Kagero includ­ed, work on the premise that you are a per­son giv­en the abil­i­ty to set traps to defend a cer­tain area from invaders. Your moti­va­tions for defend­ing the area vary, but you’re tasked with this objec­tive alone. In Kagero, you’re a young girl who was kid­napped by a group of aliens who train you to fight in their stead. To prove your worth, you’re sent to a few places in the king­dom to defend the premis­es with traps. Traps, which are pro­gres­sive­ly learned through­out the game, are your tick­ets to death. Your goal is to keep folks out of the castle/mansion/wherever. You accom­plish this by cre­at­ing com­bos of death with the traps. If there’s one thing about Kagero that’s awe­some and fas­ci­nat­ing, it’s the com­bo and trap sce­nar­ios. I’ve man­aged to kill my way through the game with some seri­ous­ly devi­ous com­bos that have to be seen to be understood.

While Kagero is tech­ni­cal inter­est­ing, the back­ground isn’t exact­ly going to set the world on fire. The graph­ics are your typ­i­cal­ly ear­ly PlaySta­tion blocky polyg­o­nal night­mares until you’re actu­al­ly in game and set­ting traps. That’s when the game real­ly shines, in terms of its look. The same thing goes for the sound­track; it’s not great but there’s a few inter­est­ing tracks that you might hum for a lit­tle while (edi­tor’s note: The track for nam­ing a char­ac­ter is one of my ring­tones), and there’s a few that will imme­di­ate­ly make you won­der if some­one was watch­ing soft­core pornog­ra­phy late at night while cre­at­ing the game’s soundtrack.

Moral­i­ty comes into play from the begin­ning. Those hard deci­sions we men­tioned before? Those are going to come in the form of who you let live and you let die. It takes a lot to kill off an entire fam­i­ly that’s man­aged to stum­ble into the cas­tle you’re guard­ing, and it takes a lot to let them escape. Full dis­clo­sure: In the 14 years that I’ve been play­ing var­i­ous runs through the game, I have nev­er killed the entire fam­i­ly, and thus, I can’t get the end­ing that involves per­fect kills. I could­n’t do it because that ques­tion being asked of me, I could­n’t answer. It’s a per­son­al choice that can’t sim­ply be solved. For some, it’s a no-brain­er; for me, it’s a deal-break­er. By the point that I’d got­ten to that choice of deaths, I was ful­ly involved in the game and thus I con­tin­ued play­ing. But, maybe if I’d known that was a fac­tor in play­ing, maybe I would­n’t have picked it up or maybe I would­n’t have tak­en the time to under­stand the depth in the game that comes from this choice. The depth is what will draw you in and keep you com­ing back, long after you’ve com­plet­ed your final mis­sion and the cred­its roll.

And that moral­i­ty clause some­times trig­gers anger with­in me. Hav­ing played numer­ous times through to the lat­er mis­sions of the game and the even­tu­al final mis­sion, I’ve had the chance to learn the nuances of the game. My anger stems from the fran­tic pace at which you must act and some­times make that moral choice. Maybe I don’t want to rush and kill a per­son (or fam­i­ly) because I need time to think about the con­se­quences of my actions. This phan­tom dead­line — usu­al­ly trig­gered by some­one’s health get­ting low — adds an unnec­es­sary time ele­ment to the pro­ceed­ings. Some­times, it caus­es pan­ic to set in and makes things worse. And your con­trols may or may not be of help then. A num­ber of things are pos­si­ble: Traps may miss, area effects will hurt you or the cooldown of a trap is too long. All of these are built into the game sys­tem, and they’re all equal­ly annoy­ing. I’ve lost count of the num­ber of times that I man­aged to die by elec­tro­cut­ing myself and my foe. Or, the num­ber of times I died because I could­n’t run fast enough in Chap­ter 23 to get away from the robots that are eas­i­ly twice as fast as I am.

And my biggest gripe comes in the lat­er chap­ters of the game. Once you’re com­mit­ted to a trap com­bo that works, you’re not real­ly encour­aged to exper­i­ment. Why exper­i­ment when it’s prob­a­bly going to get you killed? Because, make no mis­take, you’re going to die. A lot. In the lat­er chap­ters, the dif­fi­cul­ty is so high that if you weren’t cor­rect­ly set­ting your­self up con­sis­tent­ly toward the bet­ter traps, you’re going to be stuck until you can build up enough mon­ey to pur­chase the good stuff and move for­ward. The rep­e­ti­tion and stag­nan­cy becomes glar­ing­ly obvi­ous deep into the campaign.

Over­all, there’s loads of replay fac­tor in Kagero. There’s dif­fer­ent trap routes to unlock, mul­ti­ple end­ings depend­ing on who you let live and a decent sound­track and sto­ry­line that explains the method to the mad­ness of death and destruc­tion. Be fore­warned, how­ev­er: You need to be ready to play judge, jury and exe­cu­tion­er if you want to sur­vive the emo­tion­al onslaught of Kagero.