Kawaii Deathu Desu: The Art of Finger Dexterity

Back in the early days of gaming, it wasn’t at all unusual to find games built around a single, static mechanic that simply required players to show increasing levels of mastery over it.

There was a certain degree of “make your own fun” to these games; you might try to think up challenges to impose on yourself, or keep track of your high scores, or perhaps compete against a friend to see who truly was best.

These days, there tends to be an expectation that even “arcadey” games have a certain amount of depth to them. But titles like Kawaii Deathu Desu, developed by Brazilian outfit Pippin Games, demonstrate that sometimes all you need are two buttons and some twitchy fingers — plus some cute girls never hurt, either. Let’s take a closer look.

In Kawaii Deathu Desu, you take on the role of Death-chan, who is participating in a competition with her supernatural brethren to see who will inherit the throne of the underworld. Whoever reaps the most souls, it seems, will attain this highest, hellish honour — and what better way to attract loyal followers for said reaping than to incarnate as a cute Japanese idol? Death-chan takes to the stage and prepares for the most bountiful harvest she has ever enjoyed.

Mechanically, the game is extremely simple. Press the left shoulder button to reap to the left; the right shoulder button to reap to the right. Repeatedly reaping in a single direction causes Death-chan to take small steps in that direction, and each successful reaping fills a magic meter at the bottom of the screen. When this is full, pressing both shoulder buttons activates a powered-up form with greater reach for a short period. There are three main types of enemies: a male, a female and a fat male. As you might expect, the regular males tend to be fairly average, the female characters tend to be a little quicker with less life, and the fat males are slowest but have most health; there are variations on each, however, usually distinguished by the colour of their clothing.

The basic mechanics are applied to three distinct game modes. Normal mode simply requires you to survive until the end of the concert, marked by a time gauge in the corner of the screen. Hard mode is a more intense version of Normal, providing you with a rating between one and three skulls according to how much damage you took by the end of the stage. And Insane is the only scored mode, going on for as long as you can survive against gradually accelerating hordes of enemies, with combo bonuses on offer for those who continually reap without taking damage.

Straightforward stuff; certainly quite addictive, but could easily get old quite quickly. Fortunately, Kawaii Deathu Desu provides plenty of long-term appeal through its wide variety of unlockables and means of progressing. Probably the most appealing of these are the additional characters: besides Death-chan, you can play as Emmy the zombie, Suu the succubus and several others besides; each character has a different speed and range of basic attack, along with a completely unique magical ability. And, naturally, several cute costumes each.

Everything in Kawaii Deathu Desu costs souls, which you earn after a crack at a stage, whether you were successful or unsuccessful. Later stages yield souls in greater quantities, but are made more difficult both by the incoming fans having greater amounts of health, plus the addition of extra little mechanics such as some of your targets being able to dodge from one side of the screen to the other.

The increasing difficulty can be mitigated to a certain degree by levelling up each of your unlocked characters. This is probably the least “interesting” of the things to spend your souls on, but certainly the most practical, since being able to take on tougher stages means that you’ll be able to earn more souls, which means it’ll be quicker to unlock new costumes, characters and other goodies such as gallery artwork. On the other hand, if you really want to, you always have the option to grind an earlier stage in an attempt to save up for one of the more expensive characters.

Kawaii Deathu Desu is not a deep game. In fact, it’s a simplistic, shallow grindfest that requires little in the way of strategy and thought beyond figuring out which side of the screen has enemies that are slightly closer to you under increasingly stressful circumstances.

But it’s fun and continually rewarding. This side of things is helped enormously by the charming, well-animated pixel art, super-cute character design and catchy, distinctive background music; it’s also fun to get to a new country’s stages and see the new variations on the three types of enemies you’ll face. In Japan, you face off against otaku and schoolgirls; in China, everyone wears cheongsam and changshan; in America, you face cheerleaders and, err, black people. Diversity!

This is not a game you’ll play for hours at a time — probably, anyway; I’ve caught myself very much getting into “the zone” while playing this on more than one occasion, at least until my old fart fingers start to seize up — but it’s a great game to have on hand if you just want to enjoy a video game and not think about it too much.

And with eastasiasoft’s recent port to Nintendo Switch, now you can keep cute, murderous, supernatural girls in your bag and whip ’em out whenever you feel particularly homicidal — all for the price of an overly elaborate sandwich. Can’t say fairer than that, really.

More about Kawaii Deathu Desu

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