By Leah McDonald / May 15th, 2020
|Title||Kawaii Deathu Desu|
|Developer||Pippin Games, Top Hat Studios|
|Publisher||Eastasiasoft, Top Hat Studios|
|Release Date||April 16th, 2020 (Switch); August 30th, 2019 (Steam)|
|Genre||Action, beat’em up, fighting, arcade|
|Platform||Nintendo Switch, Steam|
What happens when you take GWAR and make them cute monster girls instead of alien warlords? Kawaii Deathu Desu is a start. Developed by Pippin Games and Top Hat Studios, KDD (as it’s affectionately referred to in-game) is a fast-paced beat’em up button masher in the vein of One Finger Death Punch. Nine adorable supernatural beings have found themselves incarnated as Japanese idols, and have decided the best way to lay claim to the throne of the underworld is to kill as many of their fans as possible. Whoever reaps the most souls wins. Pretty straightforward, honestly. And like GWAR, the fans are more than happy to throw themselves on stage to be slaughtered by their idol overlords. (Fun fact: I was killed by GWAR once. They sacrificed me to the Meat Grinder. It was a blast, and thankfully I recovered.)
Each of the girls has a unique moveset, though they generally fall into one of two camps: a mid-range melee or a short-range melee. For instance, Death-chan, the game’s default monster girl, wields a scythe that has some decent range on it. When she activates her special, she conjures a much larger scythe, extending the range of her melee attack across half the screen while retaining full mobility. On the other hand, Emmy (my monster girl of choice for the majority of my playthrough) is a brawler who uses her hands and feet to beat her fans to a pulp. Her special plants her in the center of the screen and she spits zombie bile at her approaching zealots who are slowed down by corpse hands rising from the floor. The rest of the girls follow similar patterns with different weapons.
Since each idol is locked except Death-chan, here’s your options: Death-chan, Emmy, Suu, Mary, Elysa, Abigail, Gummy, Ruka, and Mira.
I played a review copy on the Nintendo Switch for about six hours, and the controls were very, very responsive. You use the left and right bumpers to attack in their respective directions, and every tap had my girl turning on a dime to maul whichever poor soul had ventured too close. The tight controls were great, especially in later levels and when tackling hard modes, because the fans come fast and often. Unlike One Finger Death Punch, where you’re penalized for button mashing, Kawaii Deathu Desu pretty much requires it, though you can make breathing room for yourself by focusing on one side of the screen and only turning around to take out faster-moving fans as they approach. At other times it’s just a mash-a-thon to keep them from touching you, which is actually kind of exhilarating.
The more fans you kill, the more your special gauge fills up and you can unleash particularly devastating attacks. Early on you’ll see this rarely and it doesn’t offer much help, but later on it can mean the difference between life and death. To trigger the special, you have to hit both left and right bumpers at once. I almost always triggered it without meaning to because of how rapidly I was weaving back and forth. While not terrible, it did end up feeling like there was no way to strategically use my special. The game is also on Steam, and this issue might not come up when you’re using a keypad or mouse, but on the Switch I’d almost rather it be automatic once the bar fills.
What’s nice about the controls is how easy the game is to pick up. There’s virtually no learning curve, and the pop aesthetic of the game itself is very inviting. My nine-year-old was able to pick up a Joy-Con and play with me without any hassle. What is a hassle is the fact you cannot remap the buttons on the Switch. I almost exclusively used a Pro Controller when playing, and my fingers would ache after about 20 minutes. Playing in handheld mode on the Switch itself was even worse. Constantly mashing your index fingers on the tiny bumpers made for a painful gaming session, and KDD is incredibly grindy. Playing PVP isn’t any better, as the game forces you to use individual Joy-Con, to which even my son felt the buttons were too small to play comfortably. (As an addendum, you can remap buttons on the Switch itself, though you cannot make it game-specific – or rather, I couldn’t figure out how if you can. This is a workaround if you intend on having long gaming sessions, but it’s cumbersome. Ideally, I’d prefer being able to remap in the game itself.)
The game suffers from a few other quality of life issues, the least of which is that confirm is mapped to the B button. As any Switch owner can tell you, confirm should be mapped to the A button, and it throws me for a loop every time. The UI is pretty cumbersome as well, and nothing aggravates me more than when I back out of a level to move on to another and it knocks me all the way back to the character select screen. When working your way through the game, you also cannot access the Hard or Insane modes until playing each Normal stage three times. It felt needlessly gatekeepy. The game also lacks any sort of information guide. Your monster girl has multiple stats you can level up using souls, but none of those stats are explained. Some are easy to infer (Life, Block), but others aren’t so straightforward. I think Magic is how long your special lasts? But I’m not sure.
I also stumbled across what I can only assume is a glitch. KDD has achievements for each character, which are nice motivators to keep playing. One of them is leveling each character to her max level. I maxed out Emmy at level 10, but her achievement says I’m still only 77% of the way toward the goal. It’s not a deal breaker or anything, but it does irk me a bit.
Speaking of souls, everything in KDD relies on them. Leveling up a character? Souls. Unlocking a new monster girl? Souls. Buying outfits for your idol? Souls. As far as I can tell there are no micro-transactions to be seen in the game (thank goodness!), so I expect some grinding, but coupled with how painful it is to play for extended periods, that grind feels interminable. As it is, I was able to level Emmy and unlock each idol, but never bothered leveling up anyone else or going for outfits.
One of my favorite aspects of the game was the music. This is a chiptune lover’s paradise. The game is broken up into four countries with three venues each: Japan, China, America, and Brazil. Each country has a distinct sound, which I really liked. Some of the tracks are absolute bangers (my favorites were “Tashite,” “Oturan,” “Fruity Dance,” and “Na Town Pongster”) but there are several that didn’t leave much of an impression on me. I do wish though that a game focused on idols had done more with that concept musically. With so many characters, I’d have loved to see character songs or boss levels that showcased each girl’s style of music. What we got was good, it just feels like a bit of a missed opportunity.
Kawaii Deathu Desu is a fun time waster that would really benefit from some quality of life changes. (My soul for a button remap option!) For someone looking for a quick, simple gameplay experience, you can’t really go wrong picking it up.
KDD is available on Steam for $3.99 USD (or $4.99 if you also want the soundtrack), and $4.99 on the Nintendo eShop.
Review copy provided by the publisher.
arcadebeat'em upEastAsiaSoftfighterKawaii Deathu DesuPippin GamesSwitch reviewTop Hat Studios