I have never actually played a Full Motion Video game before, but I’ve been fascinated by them for years. I’ve loved watching playthroughs and video reviews for various ones online and learning the history about how they’re made, but none of them have ever jumped out to me as something I needed to play. That was until Kazutaka Kodaka, creator and writer of the Danganronpa series, decided to take a swing at the genre with Death Come True.
I’m a big fan of the Danganronpa games, and I was really interested in how this would hold up to those. What surprised me the most with this title is that it doesn’t really feel like it’s riding back off of what made those games so beloved, it has a completely new tone and structure. This isn’t a negative aspect however, it takes many of the ideas Kodaka is known for and puts a new spin on it. It’s well acted, well shot, and while not being groundbreaking it was still an experience that kept me engaged from start to finish.
The protagonist of this interactive film is Makoto Karaki, an amnesiac young man who wakes up in a mysterious hotel room. He gets a call from the front desk, notices on the TV that he’s apparently a wanted serial killer, and finds a tied up woman in the bathroom. Panicking, he runs out of the bedroom to find a police officer at his door. With no other options at his disposal he lets him in, only to be apprehended when the officer sees on the TV that Makoto is the killer they have been looking for. He struggles to escape before being shot to death, and with his consciousness fading the player receives a game over screen to start again. Just a traditional bad end in an FMV game, right? When the player hits continue Makoto wakes up in his bed again, but something feels different. He remembers everything about what just happened, and every time he dies he has the ability to travel back in time to this moment. Makoto decides to use this strange power to solve the mystery of what’s going on and who he really is.
I can’t get into too much more detail because the game’s plot is the highlight of the game, but I can say that I enjoyed where it went. The pacing is snappy like a film, but the interactivity that comes from it being a game offers a level of immersion that surpasses film. Death Come True would not work as well as just a normal movie, and it wouldn’t have as much charm if it was just presented with a normal anime art style like you’d find from a normal visual novel. It’s in a perfect sweet spot between mediums, and it uses the FMV genre to its advantage to tell the story it had in mind.
Kodaka is well known for taking established genres and innovating on how they tell their stories, and the same can be said about this game. In a traditional FMV title your character would restart from a bad ending none the wiser, with the player having to catch back up to where they last died and having to navigate there with knowledge of the future. Death Come True’s gameplay loop removes that sense of disconnect, since you and Makoto always know the exact same information.
From the moment you start, you can tell there was a lot of love and care put into the production. I’ve never seen an FMV game look and play out this good, with each of the actors putting in great performances. There’s a good balance with the dialogue between realistic and weird that keeps you on your toes. The fact that you get to see real Japanese actors delivering these lines just adds to the unique atmosphere that I’ve never seen any other game in this genre. There’s a sense of confidence in Death Come True that I couldn’t help but respect; it knows exactly what it is and is unapologetic about it.
The game’s presentation keeps up Kodaka’s signature sense of style, with the game UI being brilliantly implemented. Whenever you have to make a decision the scene will freeze and the player will get a first person view of the environment from Makoto’s perspective. Being able to freely look around these live action spaces was really cool, with the available decisions shown to you with a preview window of what the choice entails. Some choices won’t be immediately clear until Makoto has died before trying another choice, so experimentation is key here. It’s not a very difficult game to complete though, with trial and error being enough to reach the end. Even though most of the time Makoto wakes up from a death right back at the beginning, it never felt as though it retreaded previously witnessed content. Because Makoto remembers what happens from each previous death, he approaches each loop with a new perspective.
Each time you die you receive a Death Medal, which will unlock various extras in a menu called Death Tube. It obviously parodies the UI from YouTube and does so very well, it’s just a shame that I have no idea what is going on in these bonus clips. There’s a fun looking fake news show called Minoken News and behind the scenes clips on how the game was made, but at the time of release none of these clips are subtitled. I was looking forward to the wacky news show diversions after each death, and it’s disappointing that this is just inaccessible for anyone who doesn’t know Japanese. In general the subtitles are the game’s biggest flaw, not in how the game was translated (offering support for 11 different languages) but in how not everything is subtitled. There are a couple of times where TV and text message dialogue is not subtitled, and even though the actors relay the gist of the information with their dialogue it should have still been subbed. The experience would have been better for it.
The first title from Too Kyo Games keeps the weird charm known from the creative team’s past games, albeit on a much smaller scale. If you’re familiar with Kodaka’s work you likely won’t be blown away by Death Come True but there’s still plenty to enjoy here. If you’ve never played any of his games before and are just looking for a fun interactive film, then you’re likely going to have a fun time. I wish the plot took a few more risks, but I’m really just impressed with how well their first swing at such a forgotten genre went.
You can reach the credits in around three hours depending on how efficient your decision making is, and it will take around five to see and do everything, which I highly recommend. The replayability is one of the coolest parts, and with each playthrough being different in slight ways based on your decisions it will make it fun to talk about your first experience with friends. I think the $16 price tag is pretty fitting for Death Come True given that it’s a very well produced interactive film with multiple endings. Most new Blu-ray film releases end up costing about that much or more, and won’t have the amount of content as this.
There are some flaws and it’s too straightforward in parts, but if you’re looking for a fun way to spend a night then this is an easy recommendation. Even with those issues and how simple it is, Death Come True is a really cool game and upon reflection, I only find more small touches that make me like it even more.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by IzanagiGames, Inc.