Getting Started Into The “Kill the Past” Series – Suda51’s Lifework

A guide to get started on Suda51’s Kill the Past series, a thread of commonalities across his games

I’ve made a visual guide if you want something shorter, or want to share it with your friends. The written guide is available below and still up to date.


 

UNDERSTANDING KILL THE PAST

Few things have been as fascinating this decade as the release of several of Suda51’s older works. It revealed that what most fans thought was a disparate and eclectic body of work is actually connected, thematically linked and both deeply layered and personal. The release of The Silver Case and The 25th Ward was akin to give us the key to crack the code, to understand that many of Suda’s games are coming from the same place. A place that has been called “Kill the Past”.

To get there was already a struggle in itself. Grasshopper Manufacture had localized Flower, Sun, and Rain on the DS in 2009, which turned out to be a direct sequel to The Silver Case released in 1999 that was never localized until 2016! Replaying Flower, Sun, and Rain with his new knowledge was akin to receiving a shock of how much is suddenly unveiling in front of you. For most of Suda’s career, all that western fans had were breadcrumbs, fragments of a broader story we could only speculate about. But today the fandom is closer than ever to understand the essence of Suda’s work, by retracing his career in video games, but also by retracing his life.

What is Kill the Past?

Kill the Past is a series of games with similar thematic tones or directly connected to a shared universe. It depicts characters in various walks of life who refuse or are either unable to let go of their past in ways that catch up to them without fail. In Kill the Past, to refuse to face your past is to die. Unable to move on, unable to understand, it is akin to live in a constant purgatory. Facing your past is the most difficult and most important part of a person’s life. It acknowledges the understanding of your self, your struggles, your fears, and your hopes. The past becomes the missing link that bridges every facet of a person’s identity. It is then quite on point that the work of the western fandom to piece things together is to face Suda51’s past head-on.

But Kill the Past is still a bit more than that, it represents a lot of punk essence of Suda and the Grasshopper company. Its dadaist inspirations shine through all these games, many of them being counter-culture, defying established conventions through the writing but also as a game, and carrying an overall sense of anti-capitalism. Common themes revolve around political corruption, rampant urban development and its consequences like the breaking down of communities for a more individualistic society both at a professional and personal level.

A lot of these elements and themes find their main inspiration through Suda’s own life as described in his biography. Starting as an only child from a single mother in an era of Japan where divorce was still heavily frowned upon, from the loneliness of his youth, his emancipation through music and pop culture as well as the various jobs he has taken early in his adult life from handbag designer to door-to-door salesman to funeral service worker. These are all events of his life that ends up coming back in his games in one way or another. He is someone who lived in the urban transformation of Japan, from the then-rural Nagano to the life in Tokyo where the vastness of the city is only matched by the intense loneliness it brings.

Kill the Past becomes a theme that applies as much to its creator than it does to the characters he creates. An ensemble of characters where each of them represents a specific part of Suda’s life that struggles to find a meaning that could exist but is futile to search for. The answer, then, is to learn to face what’s behind you in order to finally move forward. To process what kind of person you are, and to learn what kind of person you want to be. As such, his way of processing it becomes inherently postmodernistic, as if purposefully avoiding what has been done in order to find his own answers through paths that none has taken before. Grasshopper’s games are never strictly one genre, they blend together, sometimes bringing something new, sometimes bringing something old, in order to seek their answers in new and unpredictable ways, as if they themselves are going with the currents, and checking out what is beyond the hill next to the branch they managed to latch on to.

But before going with the flow, Suda’s game philosophy and writing also acknowledge several things in order to bring them the closest to what they want to see such as, but not limited to:

  • Kill the Past games never acknowledges an absolute truth. Truth in KTP is a weapon in itself, used and manipulated by those who can bend it to their liking. As one character in The Silver Case: “Truth and Facts are different”.
  • There is a sense of morality that is more closely attached to the personal than the global. It is something that Suda plays with a lot, such as how he was able to bend Travis Touchdown to be likable despite having an absurd sense of morality, and even more than that, to have a facet of his morality that one can consider as legitimate.
  • The constant rejection of the consolidation of power. Many of Suda’s characters are rogues rather than the elite, they exist as bugs in a system that is made to benefit the few, and to see how far this one bug can wreak havoc in an entire system (often of corruption). Suda even takes it literally, transposing human systems as a set of computer data.
  • This leads to an overall skepticism of the benefits of data, that he sees as a giant backdoor into human lives in order to accumulate power. He compares video games as the opposite, calling it “data with substance”.

This obviously make Suda’s games political by design. Politics are always one of the most important parts of Kill the Past games, constantly talking through its characters to make a point. This can go to the point that one of the characters in 25th Ward is even modeled after former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, and bringing postal workers in the forefront of his story, which was at that time an important topic in Japan as Koizumi sought to privatize Japan’s postal service (and succeeded).  Grasshopper’s games are often surreal, but never stuck on its own time loop. It constantly evolves and reacts to the world turning around them. The past is also always moving.

Similar imagery is also used profusely among Kill the Past games, most notably the moon, being used and reused in a myriad of ways throughout Suda’s games.

The Sudaverse

The connection between the Kill the Past games always brought the question of whether or not there was a broader universe shared by all of Grasshopper’s games. This question was always teased but never confirmed, that is until Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes. The release of this game brought the Sudaverse to the forefront, making many games linked together whether or not they are part of the Kill the Past series, even the ever-elusive Killer7. Examples of non-KTP games that are part of the broader Sudaverse (and as such part of the same timeline) are: Shadows of the Damned, Killer is Dead, Diabolical Pitch and Michigan: Report from Hell. Some are a definite and accepted part of the universe, some others might be more debatable and potentially offer alternate versions that fits the universe more, but all of these are accepted to be a part of the Sudaverse in one way or another.

I will not talk about these games here for the simple reason that they are not a part of the Kill the Past series even though they share the same universe. The purpose of this guide is to focus on Kill the Past only.


THE KILL THE PAST SERIES

Kill the Past has recurring themes in almost all of Suda51’s games. However, some are connected directly through a common timeline that I will try to list as accurately as possible, though some games can be worth arguing due to the sprawling nature of it.

In order to do this, the best option I could find is to have two lists:

  • Kill the Past – Main Series, a string of directly connected games that follows on each other and shares the strongest themes around the games.
  • Kill the Past – Adjacent, a string of games that can be connected, but does not necessarily follow on each other and does not make the themes a specific focus. This is not going to be a playing order so much as an acknowledgment that these games exist.

Kill the Past – Main Series

  • Moonlight Syndrome
  • The Silver Case
  • The Silver Case: Case #4.5 “Face”
  • Flower, Sun, and Rain
  • Killer7
  • The 25th Ward
  • No More Heroes
  • No More Heroes 2
  • Kurayami Dance
  • Travis Strikes Again
  • Red, Blue, and Green
  • No More Heroes 3

Kill the Past – Adjacent

  • Fire Pro Wrestling Special (only thematically)
  • Twilight Syndrome: Search & Investigation (as the prequel of Moonlight Syndrome thus far)
  • Let it Die (through many references worth investigating)

This list might seem weird, as Moonlight Syndrome is a direct continuation of Twilight Syndrome, but most of the game has not been written by Suda, making its link to Kill the Past only relevant through its link to Moonlight Syndrome, rather than thematic commonality.

Now, let’s check each game.


KILL THE PAST – MAIN SERIES

Moonlight Syndrome

  • Originally released: 1997
  • Platforms: PS1
  • Director: Suda51
  • Genre: Adventure, Horror
  • Playtime: ?
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Should I play it?: Yes, but it hasn’t been localized yet.

Why You Should Play it
This was during Suda’s time at Human Entertainment (known for Fire Pro, Mizzurna Falls, and Clock Tower), before he founded his company Grasshopper Manufacture. While he did not have much input in the development of Twilight Syndrome, he was allowed to make a sequel with full directorial control for Moonlight Syndrome. Funnily enough, Suda is self-admittedly afraid of ghosts and was still tasked to work on the Twilight game, a side-scrolling horror game involving supernatural phenomenons such as ghosts. Therefore, for Moonlight Syndrome, Suda decided that he would not focus on ghosts, and rather make a horror game focused on people.

Suda had inadvertently created the first psychological horror game.

Supernatural phenomenons have ended in the city of Hinashiro. Hinashiro High, the center of events of Twilight Syndrome is destroyed to make way for a brand new one. The whole city is going through intense urban redevelopment. But something was wrong, people acted less and less rationally, and soon a string of suicides would happen all over the city. Suda51, being given free reins, took pleasure to bring out an oppressive atmosphere, slowly building up a story that would kill off staple characters of Twilight Syndrome. No one was off the hook and all of it was quite shocking, especially for Twilight Syndrome fans. It had so much of an impact that the writer of Forbidden Siren named Moonlight Syndrome as a huge inspiration for them, even going as far as naming one of the protagonists Kyoya Suda. The complete and utter destruction of the very foundation of Twilight Syndrome into a hellish landscape where the player’s favorite character could go into untold heights of depravity was pretty much unheard of until now.

It is considered as the beginning of the Kill the Past franchise because it brings out many of Suda’s sensibilities as a designer and director with some common themes coming out of it and being constantly developed through subsequent games. Suda had declared that he doesn’t have good memories of the game’s development, but the events of Moonlight Syndrome has been referenced many times, sometimes in important ways. Many fans agree that Kill the Past truly begins here. However, as the game remains untranslated, it is not important to go through this game just yet. Some important references exist, but the formal start to Kill the past will happen in The Silver Case.

What is its relation to Kill the Past?
Suda has got to great lengths to link Moonlight Syndrome to his subsequent games despite not owning the IP of the Syndrome games. There might be a lot we do not know by virtue of it being unlocalized, but we haven’t seen a definite conclusion of these plot threads. It is important, but not mandatory for now.

Best version: PS1
The only version and it remains untranslated. A fan-translation is currently happening.

What should I keep in mind?
It is not of the utmost importance to start with this game if you want to start the series. I have put it for the sake of exhaustivity and its overall importance, but beginning with The Silver Case is a better choice.

Is there a moon in it?
Yes

The Silver Case

  • Originally released: 1999
  • Platforms: PS1, PS4, PC
  • Director: Suda51
  • Genre: Visual Novel
  • Playtime: 14 hours
  • Difficulty: A few hard puzzles that have a built-in cheat function
  • Should I play it?: Yes, it’s the formal beginning of all things

Why You Should Play it
This is the origin of the Kill the Past mythos as we know it. The first game Suda and his team made with his newly formed company Grasshopper and it still informs a lot of the things Suda does 20 years later, permeating the vast majority of his games.

The Silver Case plays mostly like a visual novel, but with a bit more gameplay involved. You are sometimes given the ability to move around, to look up and down, and also to solve puzzles when presented to you. However, the vast majority of your time will mostly be spent reading. One thing that sets it apart is the Film Window Engine, which allows the game to move and resize everything in its interfaces such as text boxes, pictures, and even 3D areas. A horizontal textbox can become vertical, a picture can change its aspect ratio and be resized, and a whole lot of other stuff. It allows for the whole user interface to become a storytelling device, a part of the game design that is offered in front of you instead of just a static picture with a static textbox all the way through the game. It is constantly dynamic.

You follow the Heinous Crime Unit in the special 24th Ward of Tokyo, a ward where the serial killer of the silver case, Kamui Uehara, resurfaces by escaping the hospital he was committed in, dealing with even more murders. The truth of the matter obviously goes deeper than just killings. The escape of Kamui is a sign. He is more than a killer, he is an icon, a symbol that people worship for his actions that have brought up corrupt individuals to justice, especially on the internet. The goal of the Heinous Crime Unit is to capture him again, while still dealing with the politics of the city and the terrible past the city has that Kamui’s own existence is digging back up. The existence of Kamui goes at the heart of what is crime itself, which pushes people to commit crimes and the different facets of society. It is as much about the human condition than it is about the police investigation. At the same time, the game deals with various facets of society before the turn of the millennium. The democratization of the internet becomes a big part of its storyline, becoming the haven of counter-culture, a place to gather for the people who have been excluded from society. From the internet, reality itself is akin to go through the looking glass. Internet becomes data, and the data becomes knowledge that in turns becomes power.

Suda was on point 20 years ago, dealing directly with the dangers of data collection, the aimlessness of the youth flocking to the internet as a safe haven, and the internet itself becoming the real battleground from which things are decided. It spoke about things that would take many more years to be treated again in video games.

The game has two routes, both done by a different writer. Transmitter was written by Suda51, it is the meat of the game, the central story in which most of everything important happens. Placebo was instead written by Masahi Ooka, a writer Suda hired for his fanwork on Moonlight Syndrome. His role is to give more context to the more bonkers and inscrutable chapters of Suda through the lens of an ex-reporter. While Transmitter gets at the heart of the matter, ever-moving, impactful, Placebo is its opposite, more measured, more personal but equally fascinating. Ooka’s work is also one of investigation both inside and outside the game, trying to understand, unravel Suda’s writing and channel its essence to put it into words that can be understood. The Silver Case is a great visual novel well worth playing.

What is its relation to Kill the Past?
Everything. It is at the foundation of Grasshopper as a company and informs the entire Kill the Past series from top to bottom. This is the game to start with if you want to (try to) understand Kill the Past.

The best version: Steam and PS4
Suda released a remaster of the game in 2016 that was finally localized in English on PS4 and Steam. It is the best version available and worth getting. It goes for next to nothing on sales now.

What should I keep in mind?
For some puzzles, there will be a magnifying glass, using it will solve the puzzle automatically. If you want to do the puzzles fair and square, don’t use it. Also, some sequences might require you to talk to characters several times or go through areas you’ve already been. When moving around, a sun-shaped icon means moving there will trigger an event. Also, don’t forget you can look up or down, this will be especially useful if you’re stuck in a mall…

Most importantly, the best reading order is to go Transmitter > Placebo > Transmitter > Placebo except for the prologue chapter of Transmitter. The Placebo chapter deals with the Transmitter chapter from before, so it is best to read them this way.

Is there a moon in it?
Many moons

The Silver Case: Case #4.5 “Face”

  • Originally released: 1999
  • Platforms: Book
  • Writer: Naoko Korekata
  • Artist: Takashi Miyamoto
  • Should I read it?: Yes, after you beat The Silver Case

Why You Should Play It
A book set between the fourth and fifth chapter of The Silver Case, it focuses on a smaller cast of characters from the game after some critical events. It allows for more development from them and is quite a good read. I will not say any more than this since talking about it would be spoilertastic but I recommend it. It is a ~2-hour read so the commitment isn’t too high.

What is its relation to Kill the Past?
It is an interesting side story going further into the psyche of characters that are already interesting enough that you would want to know more. It is worth reading, though not mandatory in itself.

The best version: Fan translation
The book has been translated by FFTranslations. You can check the page here.

What should I keep in mind?
Play it after The Silver Case.

Is there a moon in it?
I couldn’t see it.

Flower, Sun, and Rain

  • Originally released: 2001
  • Platforms: PS2, DS
  • Director: Suda51
  • Genre: Adventure
  • Playtime: ~10 hours
  • Difficulty: A bit of logic, a lot of reading, and a ton more of basic maths
  • Should I play it?: Yes, depending on what you enjoy

Why You Should Play It
This game defined walking simulation as we know it, even taking it to an extreme that still hasn’t been surpassed (potentially for the better). Despite that (or rather thanks to it), it still stands as one of the most fascinating games Suda has made, and for some of its most hardcore fans, the best. It stands the closest to his Lynchian sensibilities as Sumio Mondo, a “searcher”, is tasked to find a bomb in a plane and defuse it. The bomb explodes as the plane is in the air and the mission ends in failure. The next day, Sumio wakes up in his hotel room. He is tasked to find a bomb on a plane and defuse it. The bomb explodes as the plane in the air and the mission ends in a failure. In the next day…

The game exists in a never-ending cycle of searching something that Sumio Mondo fails to find, trying again and again every day, repeating the same actions but still somewhat making progress every day. Sumio is stuck in a limbo he himself does not mind but unveils something new about the customers and employees of the Flower, Sun, and Rain hotel. It dives into its diverse and colorful cast by walking, walking and walking inside and outside the hotel to find clues and solve puzzles.

The particularity of FSR is that all the answers have already been given to you from the start, in the form of the hotel guidebook. Every puzzle the main story provides exists in this guidebook of 70 pages full of reading and pictures, and it is up to you to understand what the puzzle means, what page you should read and what number should you input inside Catherine, a silver case (?) that solves everything with the right number.

Flower, Sun, and Rain is Suda at its most bizarre but equally ambitious by making a large, sprawling map in an early-PS2 era game, all of it accompanied by a soundtrack full of some of the most beautiful arrangements of classical music you’ll hear by Masafumi Takada. The game wears its surrealist inspiration to its sleeve, often enough hilariously, sometimes hauntingly. Its funniest bits can be accompanied by its most impactful in the next moment. The mundane can have an effect on you whereas the exciting becomes utterly meaningless and confusing. FSR is the exploration of a world in which paradise becomes its own kind of hell, where wrong is right and right is wrong. It also has a talking pink crocodile.

An absolutely fantastic game that I would recommend to no one.

What is its relation to Kill the Past?
It is as much of a direct sequel than it is a spin-off. It focuses on a different character, with a new cast, in an entirely new location, but the events that happen there have so much importance and ramification that many fans consider it as one of the central pieces of Kill the Past, but whether or not they understand how depends on the person. Replaying Flower, Sun, and Rain with the knowledge of Kill the Past becomes an entirely new experience that makes you understand so much yet still learn nothing. There is a missing link, but a link that will have its importance sooner or later.

What is the best version?: Nintendo DS
The game was originally released on PS2 and it is still quite nice to play today with its nice visual presentation for its day and a high-quality soundtrack. Unfortunately, it wasn’t released for the west. Instead, we got the Nintendo DS version, which does have a few new tracks and a “lost & found” addition that adds optional puzzles to solve that gives you new costumes and abilities. However, this comes at the cost of severely pared-down visuals and music quality. I believe this does hurt the game quite a bit because a lot about it hinges on how it presents the island and its excellent music. However, it remains a great version and the only one to play in the West.

Suda51 has expressed that a Flower, Sun, and Rain remaster will happen at some point. We just don’t know when, so if you have it in you to wait, something might happen in the next 10 years.

What should I keep in mind?
The game will asks you to input a birthday at the beginning of the game; the manual even has a slot where you can write it with a pen, do not forget this birthday in any circumstance. It is best to input your real birthday so you don’t forget it. Also, if you are playing the Nintendo DS version, do not feel forced to do the lost & found puzzles unless you want to unlock the Travis Touchdown costume, it just makes the pacing of the game worse overall.

Is there a moon in it?

A resounding yes.

Killer7

  • Originally released: 2005
  • Platforms: Gamecube, PS2, Steam
  • Director: Suda51
  • Genre: Rail Shooter, Adventure
  • Playtime: ~12 hours
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Should I play it?: A resounding yes in every possible way

Why You Should Play it
Killer7 is the cult classic among cult classics. The mind of Suda51 with the design sense of Shinji Mikami. It is more than a great game, it is possibly the ultimate realization of the classic Resident Evil gameplay in a game that has nothing to do with the series. The level design, the puzzles, the exploration is stellar and proved it could still be exciting at a time where Resident Evil was, unfortunately, lagging behind with Zero.

The manner you play is very different though, it could be more accurately described as a rail shooter in which you can advance forward or move backward, and you have to manually select a road to take if it bifurcates. The enemies in front of you are the Heaven Smiles, who will blow up the moment they get to you. This means you first have to analyze the area to make them visible and then shoot them with your weapon. If you are confident in your aiming skill, you can even aim their weak spot to kill them instantly. Many skills can be unlocked that provide more situations to benefit from, such as the ability to charge your shot or have a desperation critical move if you react the moment they are about to touch you.

The game puts you in the shoes of the Killer7, a group of seven assassins in the body of one. With Garcian Smith at its dominant persona, you can instantly morph into different characters with different looks, weapons, and abilities. They are hired by the US Government to perform hit jobs all around the world in a climate that is very tense between Japan and the US, as one of the parties seeks to get out of the security treaty between them.

This game explores the real-life relations between the two countries while also exploring corruption and the extent of executive power. It is also absolutely bonkers, featuring an eclectic cast of many different backgrounds, especially the Killer7 itself being a diverse group of many origins, which I thought was seriously cool back then (and still do). You will fight an anime girl in real life, play as a masked wrestler stopping a bullet with his forehead and even fight a sentai group. Between all the talks of politics, it depicts an absurd version of America that just ends up having its finger on the pulse of what America truly is. An entire conglomeration from afar is just a cardboard cut-out that crumbles the moment you enter it, one of the most helpful people is a ghost of someone you killed who still exercises and gives you dialogue that either is nonsensical or downright inspiring. It’s a game where the dead have more power in this world than the living, and it always makes a good point about the state of the world. In Killer7, the best way to understand the world is to stop living in it.

Killer7 is awesome.

What is its relation to Kill the Past?
It is pretty much admitted as a fact that Killer7 is a cornerstone of Kill the Past, at least thematically and in order to understand the series in general. However, its placement in the timeline is the most confusing. Suda had originally developed this game to be a Kill the Past game from the start but decided to change it since he knew this game would be his first one to hit the western market, who didn’t know the first thing about KTP, so the script was rewritten to stand more on its own. At least one character from the series was supposed to make another one of his appearances and ended up being cut (Sundance Shot). Nevertheless, Suda couldn’t scrub everything, so the essence of this game is still distinctly KTP. And as one member of the Killer7 appears in Travis Strikes Again, this might mean that there are some time shenanigans involved, or Killer7 has been transposed in the main timeline in a different way. Another theory is that every subsequent reference of Killer7 is done with the knowledge of the final, director’s cut of the game where it was a formal Kill the Past game, meaning that Suda is playing a hail mary in the hope that he makes his perfect edition of Killer7 with all the content he wanted to add, something he mentioned wanting to do many times.

What is the best version?: Steam
Killer7 was first released on Gamecube and PS2. Avoid PS2 at all costs, it was ported without their involvement so the GameCube version is the one to play. However, a Steam version was released in 2018 and it is awesome and the best version to play right now. The game looks even better today than it did back then thanks to its timeless art style. Very playable with mouse+keyboard too and at a very fair price. Get it instantly and ask Capcom + Grasshopper to make a switch version for the love of god.

What should I keep in mind?
Not much to say. Level-up skills, different characters are used to solve specific puzzles, aim for a weak point, check a walkthrough if you’re truly stuck. There are not many caveats with this game, it is still perfectly playable today.

Is there a moon in it?
An extreme level of moons

The 25th Ward: The Silver Case

  • Originally released: 2005
  • Platforms: PS4, PC
  • Director: Suda51
  • Genre: Visual Novel
  • Playtime: 16 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy except for some puzzles
  • Should I play it?: Yes/No/Maybe

Why You Should Play it
A direct sequel of The Silver Case (and subsequently of Flower, Sun, and Rain) made on Japanese mobile shortly after the release of Killer7. It was referred to as “The Lost Game” since until 2018, it was impossible to play this game. It was only available on Japanese mobile store portals that ended up being shut down. As of today, no one has access to the original mobile game. Some videos of it are viewable online, but they either have the incomplete game (as it was released in chapters) or the phones are not working anymore. Suda51 sought to remedy this by releasing a remake of this game in 2018 with the same engine of The Silver Case’s remaster. The game’s visuals have received an even bigger overhaul, showing a style and identity closer to modern Grasshopper.

The story revolves around the newly built 25th Ward. Another special ward that Suda will use to make even more salient points about the things he hates above all: rampant urban development and big data collection and its intersection between the two. For this, he views every facet of people’s professional and private lives as commodified for the purpose of selling data, and for that, what better than apartment buildings? A building in 25th Ward becomes terrifying, fearsome. It interprets everything about social divide, dehumanization, and compartmentalization of people in one single place. A perfect place to understand how society and people behave at its most dangerous but also most personal. What is interesting in 25W is that Suda posits that this compartmentalization of human lives and behaviors becomes data itself. This is something that can be extracted, used and modified. A building just becomes a pile of data you stack unto each other, and then goes from there.

You follow a new cast of characters from that new ward’s Heinous Crime Unit, trying to solve a string of unsolved murders that pops up in various buildings around the ward. As usual, every chapter revolves around a new storyline that ends up being connected to an overarching narrative. The thing this time is that there are three different routes. Correctness is Suda51’s chapters, Placebo comes back with the same main character written by Masahi Ooka, and a new third route called Matchmaker is written by Sako Kato, following agents from a different bureau on a different case. All of them revolves around the chapters written by Suda, but are also given much more freedom to develop their own storylines further. Each route is also handled by a different artist, meaning you get a very different art style depending on the route.

If The Silver Case can be confusing, The 25th Ward is an enigma box. Dozens of different theories can be made simply depending on where you look at the game. This game is a nightmare to parse, but a very fascinating one. The 25th Ward kept me up at night, constantly thinking about what it could mean. Visiting and revisiting the game trying to find what piece am I missing, and if the truth I am looking for is as shocking as I think it could be. The 25th Ward makes you the detective, and it isn’t hiding the fact. Being a post-Killer7 game, 25W brings the player into the game itself, quite literally. But to know more, you would need to play the game.

What is its relation to Kill the Past?
Crucial. It is the direct sequel to The Silver Case in every way. It is the current flag-bearer that informs much of the future of Kill the Past. Obviously, do not play this as a stand-alone. Its price is only a bit higher than The Silver Case, but the content is higher and it is a full remake as opposed to a remaster. Worth getting without a doubt.

What is the best version?: Steam and PS4
The mobile version is gone and inaccessible. The only way (and the best way) is to play the Steam and PS4 version. Know that the PC version has received a patch fixing some typos that weren’t patched in PS4 but the experience shouldn’t be too different.

What should I keep in mind?
Some puzzles can be a bit too hard. Do not hesitate on checking walkthroughs. *However*, some puzzles that might seem outrageous are just made to make a point and are not as hard as you might think they are. Keep an open mind and see through the cracks, but still check on walkthroughs if patience is not your strong suit.

Is there a moon in it?
Of course.

No More Heroes

  • Originally released: 2007
  • Platforms: Wii, PS3
  • Director: Suda51
  • Genre: Action-Adventure, Hack and Slash
  • Playtime: 10 hours
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Should I play it?: YES!!!

Why You Should Play it
Suda described the development process of No More Heroes as the same thing as taking a shit. If Killer7 was a surprisingly measured, thoughtful game that has gone through many iterations to get it right, No More Heroes is the game where everything was put into it without discrimination. The end result is an extremely exhilarating game that not only oozes style as is usual for the company but has such a huge amount of energy carrying itself to the finish line that you cannot help but be engrossed all throughout. The gameplay is snappy with a lot of feedback, with Travis Touchdown using a beam saber to cut opponents. When you perform specific actions, you are given the choice to use a wrestling move by moving the Wiimote to a direction, that can range from german suplex to a reverse armsault. It also has a high and low stance depending on how you point the Wiimote, allowing you to do different attacks. In general, it is a very satisfying battle system even if far from being the most in-depth out there, especially thanks to the great sound design by Jun Fukuda (who has also done Pleather for Breakfast and We are Finally Cowboys contrary to popular knowledge, this man is a god).

Travis Touchdown stands as one of the companies’ most unique characters, and also its most popular. Travis is a loser through and through living in a run-down motel of a run-down city dedicating himself to his passion as an otaku and a fan of wrestling, porn, mechas, and anime. He is also an assassin. With the help of a lightsaber he bought on eBay, he is pushed to be a part of an assassin ranking where the goal is to become number one by beating every assassin one by one.

The game’s biggest strength compared to other games of its genre is that its bosses are memorable, impactful and all-around fun. Propelled by a stellar soundtrack,  a fun stage, absolutely sick designs, and great voice acting, all the boss fights becomes the real highlight of the game and almost makes you want to spend more time with them.

No More Heroes balances these moments of high energy with the mundane. In order to fight the next assassin, he has to pay the association a fixed amount that increases after each fight. For someone as broke as Travis, this means taking the odd jobs, which means mowing the lawn, filling up gas tanks, or killing grunt. You have access to an open-world, the city of Santa Destroy, in which you can use your beefed up bike to ride around and check some shops or collectibles around.

The shit Suda he has taken to make No More Heroes always means more than what it looks like. What is an obvious jab at propping up “heroes” like Travis that are anything but that and hardly exists as a character beyond the pop culture vomit that they represent, it also explores him much deeper. He is just a lost soul who seeks to get out of the aimless life he leads and finds a reason to justify what makes all the killing worthwhile. His sense of morality is warped, but not without merit as he seeks to have a fair fight among assassins. Travis lives for battle even if he cannot accept it, and he wants those to happen fair and square. The popularity, the girl he seeks are just makeshift reasons that distract him from what really drives him inside.

What I’ve explained will serve as the basis that will come back in full force in later installments. How to make Travis relevant 12 years later? How can he develop and evolve when he was originally made as a product of its time, as a jerk-off from the Jackass era? How can he reconcile his identity with his screwed up morality? Travis Strikes Again answers that.

Have I said the music is stellar? It is excellent beyond belief and the N.M.H jingle has got to be one of the catchiest ones ever made. Masafumi Takada and Jun Fukuda made the soundtrack but unfortunately, this would become Takada’s last game at Grasshopper after a decade of working there. He would go on to have a career making the soundtrack of Danganronpa, Digimon and Smash Bros, but his music made for No More Heroes is still considered as one of its greatest highlights.

What is its relation to Kill the Past?
Thematically, it is a KTP game, but its links in the main series were tenuous at best albeit some very convincing theories exist that there is more than it might seem. Nevertheless, the character of Travis is very KTP-like, as characters reflect a different facet of his life that he has to process and makes him develop as a person. But Travis only moves so much to make sure that the past doesn’t catch him back up. All of it will have its importance later on.

What is the best version?: Wii
Do not play the PS3 version under any circumstance. It is a terrible version that was not handled by Grasshopper and ruined the art style, actually runs worse than the Wii version and has cut content from the game. Play the Wii version as the best version for now, while hoping that Marvelous allows for an NMH collection to be made. Also if you want to play on an emulator, the Wii remote + Nunchuk is mandatory.

What should I keep in mind?
Get Lovikov balls in the overworld as it unlocks cool abilities.

Is there a moon in it?
A little.

No More Heroes 2

  • Originally released: 2010
  • Platforms: Wii
  • Director: Nobutaka Ichiki
  • Genre: Action-Adventure, Hack and Slash
  • Playtime: 9 hours
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Should I play it?: Yes, but with some caveats

Why You Should Play it?
No More Heroes 2 is ironically one of the least Kill the Past games. It improves on the original in some aspects such as the gameplay, having some great fights, cleaning out some of the tedium and a stellar soundtrack that matches the already impressive OST from the original, but it not being directed by Suda51 ends up really showing. It’s a game that ends up being considerably lesser by how little it has to say and how its parody of things just ends at it being…a parody; and not delivering any kind of higher meaning. While the original was far from being subtle, NMH2 does not know any kind of subtlety or restraint whatsoever. While this could be refreshing for some, I personally believe its style of humor is weirdly enough a bit too much for my taste.

Nevertheless, a great deal of fun can still be had. NMH2’s gameplay is a solid improvement over 1’s and has enough difference in other aspects to keep it from just being the same game but mechanically better. In terms of the combat, they’ve made the beam weapons have a lot more variety in attack speed, damage, mechanics, etc, and you’re able to switch between them basically on-the-fly. Gone are the days of having to switch via a menu if you want to use a different Tsubaki variant or Blood Berry. The side-jobs are no longer 3D minigames in locations on the overworld. There isn’t even an overworld anymore, which is odd due to the credits featuring a flythrough of Santa Destroy. The jobs are now 2D retro-styled pixel games instead, cutting a lot of the tedium, but I still prefer the overworld and 3D mini-games of the first one.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a game worth playing, but it is not as impactful as the first one and should be played with this in mind. To its merit, it is bonker than ever and absolutely does not use the brakes at any point whatsoever, which means it can become a very wild ride you can enjoy with an open mind, on top of all the mechanical improvements compared to the first game.

Masafumi Takada did not do the soundtrack this time, but he was replaced with Akira Yamaoka of Silent Hill fame alongside some other guest composers. In any other circumstances it would have been shoes too big to fill, but having Yamaoka meant that he was more than up to the task, and he delivered in spades. No More Heroes 2’s soundtrack is fantastic and worth listening over and over. Play this game for the soundtrack alone!

What is its relation to Kill the Past?
Its relation to Kill The Past is tenuous at best and I have debated even including it here but it would not make sense considering that it is the sequel to NMH and the prequel to what comes after. All of it is because its story and character development are mostly nonexistent to begin with, except for some (but very good) moments such as the fight against Alice Twilight that actually develop some things that will be interesting later on.

What is the best version?: Wii, for now
This one at least had the benefit of not having a terrible PS3 version like the original by not having a PS3 version to begin with. But this means the Wii version is your only bet.

What should I keep in mind?
If you play on an emulator, you do not need a Wiimote to play this one as it has controller support.

Is there a moon in it?
Yes, very beautiful too.

Kurayami Dance

  • Originally released: 2015-2016
  • Platforms: Manga
  • Writer: Suda51
  • Artist: Syuji Takeya
  • Should I read it? Yes

Why You Should Read it
This manga was based off of Suda’s original scenario for the game he never got to make and was turned into Shadows of the Damned after corporate interference from Electronic Arts. It was originally called “Kurayami”, a kafkaesque-inspired horror journey that would use lighting and a “darkness” mechanic. Then EA came in with their big boots and told Suda point blank that “westerners are about guns”, so they had him go back to the drawing board five times to the point that it looked nothing like the original version of Kurayami. Shinji Mikami even said in an interview that Suda was heartbroken about how it all unfolded. Despite that, Suda continued on, this time in manga form. Kurayami Dance is inspired from the original Kurayami, giving you a glimpse of what it could have been, and making you curse at EA for how good it definitely would have been after reading it.

Kurayami Dance follows Kaidou Wataru, an undertaker on his journey to transport a coffin to the Kurogane Castle, on the way he meets many bizarre characters. As Kaidou is an undertaker we see a new and more solemn perspective on death compared to Suda’s other works. This is potentially reflective of Suda’s own perspective on death as before becoming a game designer he worked in a funeral home and dealt with death a lot. Something he had acknowledged as changing his outlook on death in his life.

It is filled with many references to Suda’s previous work, many of which are meaningful to the lore of the greater Kill the Past universe. Like much of Suda’s work it is surreal, comedic and emotional. There is wonderful and unique art done by Syuji Takeya.

What is its relation to Kill the Past?
It is thematically very connected and has characters from the main series appearing in it. However, it is not known where the manga currently fits in the timeline. Still, it’s an incredible read and only two volumes long.

What is the best version?:
For English speakers, the English fan translation by the Kurayami Dance Scanlation Team is the best version. You can read it here. It even has the blessing of Suda51 and the mangaka artist who were happy to know the english audience can read it now.http://believeinthe.net/kurayami.html

What should I keep in mind?
Kurayami Dance was inspired by Franz Kafka’s novel The Castle which stars a man named K who arrives in a village, who wishes to enter the castle and struggles against the authorities who run the area. This is very similar to the premise of Kurayami Dance and KD is sometimes considered a loose adaptation of The Castle but by no means do you need to have read The Castle beforehand to enjoy KD. In the same vein, although there are many references to Suda’s past works you can enjoy KD standalone without prior knowledge but you’ll have the best experience if you’re aware of many of Suda’s characters.

Is there a moon in it?
Yes, there are beautiful moons drawn by Syuji Takeya.

Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes

  • Originally released: 2019
  • Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PS4, PC
  • Director: Suda51
  • Genre: Action
  • Playtime: 12 hours
  • Difficulty: Normal, but it has difficulty options to become very difficult
  • Should I play it?: Yes

Why You Should Play it
Travis Strikes Again is the return of Suda51 on a directorial and writing role in a decade. After spending several years releasing and re-experiencing his old work, we are seeing the result of someone who reconnected with his past self (pretty relevant considering Kill the Past). TSA becomes the bridge to the past, an acknowledgment of his work and of his passion for video games in a love letter.

8 years after the second No More Heroes game, Travis Touchdown is in a slump, living deep in a forest and sheltering himself out of any human connection. It wasn’t until Badman, the father of Bad Girl, finding him out in order to kill him for revenge that he finally wakes up from his stupor, being accidentally transported to the world of video games through the Death Drive console.

Travis Strikes Again features the biggest and boldest character development of Travis Touchdown after nearly a decade of absence. Instead of seeing the same character born from the Jackass era, we see a Travis gradually growing up to become a better, caring person throughout the game without losing his classic bite. By re-experiencing old video games that he loved in his childhood by literally being inside of them, he gets to connect with the people who made these games, earning a newfound respect for the work that was put into it, and their boundless passion for video games. It is Travis’ own way to figure out the passion that drives all kind of people.

This is Suda51 at its most personal and scathing, as the big enemy of the game is the Death Drive AAA machine and the main antagonist even has the same last name as the ex-CEO of Electronic Arts during his time making Shadows of the Damned. It is a love letter to video games and an acknowledgment of his career with the good and bad. It is an understanding that what brought him this far is his love for video games, rekindled by the passion of indie devs all around the world to the point that he has personally developed and self-published Travis Strikes Again with his company, a first in the 20 years history of Grasshopper. It is also the start of a new era, as it officially starts the Sudaverse, a universe in which every game from Suda51 shares the same continuity (something many fans had predicted for years).

In terms of gameplay, it is potentially Grasshopper at its most solid, featuring a 60fps (mostly) top-down gameplay in which Travis goes through several game worlds with different gimmicks in them. This time, he is helped with a power glove, giving him different skills that he can use against enemies. This can also lead to interesting combos between them, as you can use up to four skills at the same time. The highlight of the game still remains the bosses as is usual with the series. Some people didn’t connect with the top-down perspective, but I still believe that in terms of gameplay, the game offers a lot more than the first two games despite the new perspective. It also has an incredible soundtrack, this time composed by indie DJ Abo alongside DJ1,2 and Jun Fukuda, who knocked it out of the park. It is basically their version of Hotline Miami, but with a sad Japanese folk song sitting next to a catchy hip-hop tune. It is really good.

What is its relation to Kill the Past?
On top of establishing the Sudaverse, it is the actual comeback of Kill the Past, making the No More Heroes a part of it and being further developed through it. Put it bluntly, Travis Strikes Again is the sequel to The 25th Ward. Everything is rejoining here, and it will carry itself to No More Heroes 3.

What is the best version?: All versions are great.
The Complete Edition on PS4 and PC has all the DLCs but you can still buy them separately on the Switch. Playing on PC and PS4 will give you a boost to 1080p (or more on PC). Switch has the added effect of being able to move the joycon to recharge your beam katana. Other than that you can’t go wrong with any version.

What should I keep in mind?
You can change the difficulty whenever you are in the trailer if you want a better or lower challenge.

Is there a moon in it?
Yes.

Red, Blue, and Green

  • Originally released: 2018
  • Platforms: Artbook, transposed on PC and Mac as a fangame
  • Writer: Suda51
  • Genre: Reading
  • Playtime: 30 minutes
  • Difficulty: None
  • Should I read it?: Yes

Why You Should Read it
Red, Blue, and Green is a script that was put in Grasshopper’s most recent art book and written by Suda himself. It is especially important because this script is what bridges the gap between The 25th Ward and the upcoming No More Heroes 3.

It stars familiar characters and even surprising ones. It also stars the first appearance of a character that is already confirmed to be present in No More Heroes 3, making the whole thing pretty important. There is nothing more to say that wouldn’t spoil it, considering it is only a 30 minutes read, but it is great.

What is its relation to Kill the Past?
Consider it as an extension of The 25th Ward, the bonus chapter to the last chapter of the game. So play it after that. Red, Blue, and Green and Travis Strikes Again becomes the catalyst that will pave the way to No More Heroes 3.

What is the best version?
The script is available in the art book but only in Japanese. However, dedicated fans have translated the script and made a version that is playable in the same visual novel style as The 25th Ward. It is very well made and has the blessing of Suda51 himself, who retweeted it. Worth playing.

Here is the link to play it.

What should I keep in mind?
Nothing.

Is there a moon in it?
Probably but no one knows.


KILL THE PAST – ADJACENT

Super Fire Pro Wrestling Special

  • Originally released: 1994
  • Platforms: SNES
  • Director: Suda51
  • Genre: Wrestling
  • Playtime: ?
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Should I play it?: It is not translated and the Fire Pro series has improved in 25 years

Why You Should Play it
While Suda had already worked on a Fire Pro Wrestling game before, a meeting with an ex-producer pushed him to change his approach and give the sequel a taste of his personal touch. The producer told him that he should not just become “Mr.Fire Pro” but to go wild and create something more personal.

The result was Fire Pro Special, and the consequences were large boxes full of hate and death threat letters from Japan.

Possibly inspired by the suicide of Kurt Cobain and the many deaths of the Von Erich family (many of them being pro wrestlers), Suda had created a story mode for the game, one that was unusualy dark for its era and a huge shock for the players of the series. The story revolves around Morio Smith, a pro wrestler aiming for the top. However many tragedies struck his life during his ascension. His mentor died, his partner was murdered and his girlfriend broke up with him through the course of the story. In the final battle, Morio succeeds to climb to the top but realizes that he had nothing left to chase after that. His struggle to become the champion was the only way for him to manage his depression. The game ends with the sound of a gunshot with a view of Morio’s house. He had taken his own life.

Suda explains that he originally had a good ending and bad ending depending on the outcome of the final match, but changed his mind at the end because it didn’t make sense to him that the outcome of someone’s life would depend on a single fight rather than an outcome that would stem from everything that happened to Morio Smith. As such, it is considered as a prototype of the Kill the Past mythos through the character of Morio Smith.

The FPW series is based on timing for moves. It is as such considered as the best wrestling series by fans of the genre because it focuses on the beauty of the performance rather than pretending a real fight is happening. It is therefore quite complex.

What is its relation to Kill the Past?
There is no known relation, except for the way the story unfolding reminiscing of Kill the Past. It also introduces the Smith name for the first time, which would be reused many times in the future, however it does not mean anything for Morio himself. Nevertheless, the upcoming DLC could potentially change things. As it stands, consider it as proto-KTP.

What is the best version?: SNES
The game remains untranslated, as such it is quite difficult to play. It is best to just read a more detailed summary and check the ending on youtube. Suda has expressed interest in localizing the game, but the decision does not depend on him.

What should I keep in mind?
There will be a DLC for Fire Pro Wrestling World written by Suda51 in February 2020. It is going to be the continuation of the story to FPW Special, happening 25 years after the original. You will play as Morio Smith’s son, also in the path of reaching the top of pro wrestling but trying to avoid following in the footsteps of his father. The DLC might or might not become more closely related to the Kill the Past series so wait & see.

Is there a moon in it?
No.

Twilight Syndrome: Search & Investigation

  • Originally released: 1996
  • Platforms: PS1
  • Director: Suda51 (half-way through)
  • Genre: Horror, Adventure
  • Playtime: ?
  • Difficulty: ?
  • Should I play it?: Maybe, when it is translated

Why You Should Play it
Suda51 was not originally working on this. It was worked on by another director working for Human Entertainment who bailed out mid-way through development. Suda51 was tasked to helm it back and thus decided to cut the game into two games because of development deadlines. The writing was not done by Suda, at least not for the first game, but he is thought to have been more involved in the second game called “Investigation”, with a final chapter potentially leading into Moonlight Syndrome.

Twilight Syndrome is a horror adventure game dealing with ghost/supernatural stories in side-scrolling. The main cast is a group of high-schoolers. I do not personally know much more than this because I’ve been waiting for the fansubbing to be complete, but it is mostly interesting because it leads to Moonlight Syndrome.

It also is interesting for Danganronpa fans as Danganronpa 2 heavily references Twilight Syndrome as a huge part of the game, if that piques your interest.

What is its relation to Kill the Past?
Nothing special that I know of, but it is the prequel to Moonlight Syndrome, making it the earliest game that is in the Kill the Past timeline. There might be more to it that will be uncovered when it will be fully translated.

What is the best version?: PS1
It’s the only release. It remains untranslated but someone has partially subbed it on youtube.

What should I keep in mind?
Nothing that I can think of.

Is there a moon in it?
I have no idea.

Let it Die

  • Originally released: 2016
  • Platforms: Steam, PS4
  • Director: Hideyuki Shin
  • Genre: Hack and Slash, Souls-like
  • Playtime: Infinite
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Should I play it?: Maybe, with caveats

Why You Should Play it
Let it Die happens in 2026, where a cataclysmic event known as the Earth Rage destroys much of the world. Around Tokyo, the Tower of Barbs emerged, a tower that many surviving people are trying to climb to the top. You are playing a video game in an arcade alongside Uncle Death where you can control bodies in the tower and climb it yourself. In essence, it is a ruthless free-to-play game where you have to climb each floor by defeating the enemies there a bit like Dark Souls. You control bodies that can die permanently, which requires you to find a new body and grind it back up. The grind can become pretty obscene, so I would only recommend playing it if you’re willing to invest your time. Checking the story on youtube would be a much better idea.

However, the soundtrack is one of the finest in gaming. Akira Yamaoka contracted over 100 Japanese indie bands to make a song for the game, meaning you get to have a huge soundtrack of new songs from Yamaoka’s favourite artists. It’s probably the best recommendation list you could find for indie music.

Some connections to KTP includes ruins that say “The 26th Ward”, meaning it might come from a future that hasn’t happened yet in the original timeline. The Death Drive 128 machine has been a huge part of Travis Strikes Again with the Death Drive Mk.2. However, we still do not know how Let it Die fits.

What is its relation to Kill the Past?
Let it Die is the closest to become a full-blown KTP title from the second group as some elements of this game seem to come back often in recent materials, however, I believe that some more evidence is needed for this game to really be a part of it.

What is the best version?: PS4 and PC
It seems both versions are quite good for an Unreal Engine 3 game.

What should I keep in mind?
It’s a huge grind. I’d recommend trying it out for fun but not much more than that unless you are really enjoying what you’re playing.

Is there a moon in it?
Yes


THE LAST PIECE OF THE PUZZLE

No More Heroes III

This game is poised to become the vanishing point of everything Kill the Past. The convergence of two decades of storylines and theories into one game played through the eyes of Travis. At this point, the character of Travis himself is being put into question as many parts of his past are becoming more and more mysterious by the day and birthing new theories as to what kind of person he really is. Really, who knows who Travis really is?

It being a sequel to “The 25th Ward”, “Travis Strikes Again” and “Red, Blue, and Green” at the same time makes this game an extremely fascinating one. Both for fans who have waited for so long, but especially for Grasshopper and Suda, as it marks a new beginning for them. The formal return of a long-awaited title that has been purposefully set to have a lot resting on its shoulders, as if being a personal challenge set by Grasshopper themselves to tackle. Travis Touchdown, who has grown from zero to hero will potentially be the one to put things to right after decades of waiting. The game seems to jump the shark immediately too (Aliens?!) as the most recent trailer is showing a very different tone than expected, but one that still fits No More Heroe, and one that I am very excited about.

No matter what it all means, No More Heroes III will be *the* game to deliver answers, and hopefully, raise even more questions that fans would try to answer in even more heated discussions.

Credits: Thanks to Jester and Sam for helping me put this guide together. And also to believeinthe.net‘s community for the information they provided through endless discussions, and also all their effort in translating so much content for fans to enjoy.

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