NeverDead

released on Jan 31, 2012

NeverDead begins in the waking hours of peace and calm, when the world is under threat of being consumed by a demonic plague. Centuries have passed since the world succumbed to an unforeseen shadow of evil, and a hero was made an immortal by demons. These demons have risen once again in the present day causing unrelenting mayhem reinforced by destructible environments within the game. Now using his immortalic regenerative powers re-assembling his own body to evade death, the hero carries out the only salvation the world will know, for he is Never Dead.


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I really don't know where to start with this game. Gathering my thoughts on NeverDead is a difficult one... I think what it comes down to, when all is said and done, is that NeverDead has some interesting ideas, and it's willing to experiment with bold new things (primarily, a protagonist who cannot die - and said immortality is reflected in the gameplay itself)... but the execution does leave a lot to be desired. The combat is, perhaps serviceable - generally melee combat is going to be far more effective, so your guns feel like an afterthought. But after most types of damage that the protagonist Bryce takes, he literally falls to pieces, like Humpty Dumpty, and then as a severed head, you need to slowly roll around and gather up your limbs and torso to reattach yourself, so you can go back to peak fighting shape again.

It's weird... when you're not falling apart, it can be enjoyably silly, but when you fall apart, it suddenly becomes extremely irritating. It's like the punishment you get from taking damage in say, The Legend of the Mystical Ninja (where getting hurt causes you to lose both attack power/range, and movement speed), but amplified by a thousand. Gosh this is an infuriating game a lot of the time - I'm not surprised most people hate it.

Is it worth trying? Maybe? That'll depend on how much you can tolerate occasional bullshit being tossed your way.

Back in March, a close friend of mine played through most of NeverDead on stream. He didn't have a great time, but me and his Twitch community made it into a meme that we still use all the time. This being the case, I thought it was my duty to play through the game myself someday as a rite of passage ;b. I really wanted to stream the game myself when I did it, and I finally got a capture card that could properly do that the other day, so this weekend's stream was NeverDead~. I played through half the game on stream and then the other half on my own time (streamed privately to my friends on Discord). I played the Japanese version of the game in basically one sitting over the course of 7.5 hours.

NeverDead is the story of Bryce Boltzman who, as the title describes, cannot die. He was a demon hunter 500 years ago, but the king of demons killed Bryce's sorcerer wife and made Bryce himself immortal as a punishment for daring to stand against him. Now it's modern day, and Bryce has still been hunting demons to get by. He's a jaded, womanizing, one liner-spitting jerk who works for the National Anti Demon Agency (NADA) with his partner Arcadia. Only one day, they come across a case that keeps escalating and escalating until the fate of the world hangs in the balance, and Bryce seems like he'll have a chance for revenge on the king of demons after all.

Narratively, NeverDead really isn't a game with a whole lot to say. Bryce is never anything much more than a selfish jerk, although he does do some selfless acts throughout the game. He's definitely either a character you'll hate or somewhat love because of just what an unashamed jerk he is XD. I played the game in Japanese, and the Japanese voice cast and English voice casts are about the same, all except for the demon Sangria who is 10000% better in English. He has a campy Southern drawl and he also dresses SUPER camp, and his theme is easily the best song in the game. He utterly steals every scene he's in, and he's amazing XD. NeverDead REALLY clearly wants to be Konami's Devil May Cry with Bryce as its Dante, and it just doesn't quite work ^^;. It's not awful, but it's not gonna change anyone's life. It's just another part of what makes NeverDead, as my friend puts it, "an eminently playable game."

Gameplay-wise, NeverDead is nine stages of action gameplay (with mercifully almost no platforming at all). But of course, it's all wrapped around the main gimmick of being unable to die, so you have no health bar. Instead, when you take enough damage (and this is entirely up to the game, so it can feel quite arbitrary at times), Bryce will lose that body part. If you still have your torso, you can dodge roll over your limbs to have them sucked back to you, but if you're just a head, you need to find your way back to your neck stump to get your body back (you can't just touch the body anywhere). You can also find a powerup lying around the stages or just wait long enough and the bar in the lower right will fill up, and then you can just pop a new body or regrow your missing limbs out of their stumps and you're good as new~. It's an intriguing mechanic, and being a head able to pick up (but not do anything really with) all four of your limbs and floppily roll around with them is hilarious, but I'm not sure it's ever used to all that much effect, good or bad.

Even though Bryce can't die, there is still a fail state mechanic in the game, of course. This comes in the form of the ever present, rolly-polly Grand Baby enemies that come in twos in every combat encounter and will respawn infinitely. If there's a limb you dropped, they'll suck it in like Kirby and run off with it (you can even keep firing your gun and it'll fire using the arm they've taken XD). However, if they get your head, you need to win a mini-game to not die. If you do the timing correctly, it launches you out and you're back to trying to get back to your body, but if you fail, that's it. You've gotta load a checkpoint. Winning the mini-game isn't THAT hard, but it can be finicky, and that one timing mini-game being all that separates you from continuing can be pretty annoying. I don't think the game is all that hard, and the game is pretty good about checkpoints and load times, but it's still one of the biggest irritators with the game. The Grand Babys themselves are actually pretty cool as far as enemies go, as they're actually tiny rolling bombs. If you smack them away with your sword, they'll impact and detonate on whatever they hit, with a much bigger blast if they're on fire. Granted, those blasts can also hurt you, but it's a neat way the game gives you to deal with some more annoying enemies.

As far as the combat itself goes, Bryce has both his butterfly blade sword and guns, and you can swap between them with the triangle button. He is always wielding two guns at once, and a cool thing throughout the game is that you can find hidden extra guns to allow you to dual wield some of the nicer ones instead of just using two different ones (which also works nice). You can even find upgrades to your butterfly blade. Your sword works by holding down L1 to enter an attacking stance, locking the camera in front of you/to your target, and then you slash the right stick in a direction that you want to swing the sword. It's almost like Skyward Sword's motion controls but bound to a button. That said, this directional sword swinging is never used for any real gameplay benefit. There aren't puzzles based around it, and not even really enemies who you need to all that methodically fight by tactically slashing. I would just spin the right stick when I was in sword mode and go to town on stuff, which I thought was fun enough XD.

One last purely combat-focused aspect the game was quite proud of during its development was its destructible environments. While fighting, you and your enemies can blow big chunks out of furniture, the walls, and even the floors, and if it falls on stuff it'll hurt them. It's not something the game really pushes to the point where it's a defining aspect of the gameplay, but its present enough that it was something I was always looking for when a tough enemy spawner happened to show up. It varies up the combat enough to matter, for sure, but it ain't exactly writing any new books on game design.

The game also has an XP system where you get XP for getting collectibles in stages as well as for just killing enemies, and you can use that to buy passive abilities to equip at any time via the pause menu. These can be anything from just stronger gun or sword power to something like adding a new mechanic like being able to remotely detonate thrown limbs. The thing is, I really only ever found going ham on stuff with my sword as reasonably effective in a fight. Guns COULD be okay, but you generally wanted to save your bullets (especially in your good guns) for bosses (who are by and large pretty or entirely resistant to sword swings because of how quickly they break you apart when you get close). You get plenty of XP to buy more abilities, but you can equip quite few at a time, and going into your inventory to swap them out is a pretty clunky experience. The ability system is neat and has some cool aspects to it, but overall it feels like the most half-baked of NeverDead's mechanical arsenal.

Presentation-wise, it has a very Darksiders sort of "colorful post-apocalypse" vibe going on to it. It doesn't look terrible on the PS3, but it has no shortage of screen tearing, and you can also hit some pretty decent framerate dips if there's a LOT going on, but they never affected gameplay that meaningfully for me. There aren't a ton of enemy types, but what's here is fine for the 7-8 hours you'll spend with the game. The main theme for the game was written by MegaDeath, and is kinda very funny (it feels like it'd be in a 3D Sonic game or something XD), but the game's instrumentals that play during battle are on the whole pretty good. There are a couple tracks like Sangria's that are really stand-out excellent, but for the most part it's just fun butt-rock that's a nice back drop to monster killing.

Verdict: Recommended. I'm really torn on how much to recommend this game, because for as much as I enjoyed playing it, NeverDead reviewed and sold poorly for a reason. It's not a game really "for" anyone in particular. It's a decent action game without any really compelling hooks, it's got a really forgettable multiplayer mode online (now defunct, I believe), and the story is just whatever. It's great for the used bargin bin these days, but I have a very easy time understanding while people were very underwhelmed by it back when it first came out in 2012. Given what a good time I had playing it and my friends had watching it, I'm gonna give it a recommended verdict here. While it's not gonna set anyone's world on fire, it's a pretty fun way to spend a Sunday with a game you spent five bucks on.

I own this sealed and I'm not going to open it but I want to play it so bad.

This is one of those games that is cool on paper, but is absolutely wasted in practice. The perfect example of what schlock in video games would look like, in the exact same way that like Evil Dead is.