Human nature dictates that some things will offend people. Goichi Suda, or Suda51, managed to throw himself on the control panel, pressing everyone's buttons simultaneously. Gamers and journalists alike felt that Lollipop Chainsaw was a sexism-fest and I'm not going to try and pull anyone out of that mindset. I see a lot of valid complaints with this game. However, I do believe there is merit buried within.
Developer Grasshopper Manufacture has received a lot of flack for Juliet, and the overt sexualization of her character. Coupled with a lot of hateful words from zombies and a few moments of sexual assault, it's very easy to throw this game into the growing pile of misogynist titles. Nevertheless, these characters aren't being created out of thin air.
Outside of the obvious Shakespearean implications, each person in Lollipop Chainsaw corresponds very directly to a pop culture music icon. Juliet is obviously Britney Spears, circa the mid-90s, with the naivety and clothing to match. Cordelia is the hard-edged, violence-loving punk rounding out the trio. Rosalind, with her tu-tus, endless sense of romance and dramatic attitude, represents Cyndi Lauper and the 80s pop movement. At one point, she even dolls up Juliet's boyfriend, Nick, to look like David Bowie.
So who is to blame for what we experience when playing this title? The music industry birthed these characters and the majority made them popular, blared from every radio station on Top 40 hits, then recycled into Kidz Bop 295. We have been playing creepy dress-up with real women for years, stuffing pop stars into outfits that make me blush. If we're looking for comedy fodder, the music industry is a gold mine. It's no wonder that Lollipop Chainsaw focuses so heavily on that theme. On that merit alone, this game shouldn't be taken seriously.
This is satire. It is satire in the purest sense. Suda51 is taking deep jabs at the music culture in America over the last 50+ years. As a culture, we idolize Elvis - a man who is known for eating and medicating himself to death. Johnny Cash was a known racist and people still loved him and supported his music. Lollipop Chainsaw isn't making statements - it is reviewing precedents that are already in place.
And really, satire is the safest way to go. It's so safe that I almost can't respect the angle Grasshopper Manufacture is taking. Yes, they are commenting on our culture, but at the end of the day, Suda51 isn't really explaining how he feels, just pointing and laughing. Coincidentally, that's how I spent most of my experience playing Lollipop Chainsaw.
Another concern is the thin line between this game and one centered around - oh, I don't know - beating a woman? I would never lump this title in with something like Beat Up Anita Sarkeesian, because Lollipop Chainsaw doesn't foster a sense of belonging in the sexual remarks and actions. Instead of doing something to a woman, Suda51 has put the player into the body of Juliet. I feel like her character is more like Lennie from Of Mice and Men - slightly simple but devoted and genuine.
With the way this title was torn down across the board, I assumed Nick would play the straight man, or at least the smarter man, but he and Juliet are on the same level. They are two peas in a pod, both comparable to dim bulbs in a box. As a matter of fact, no one is actually smarter than Juliet in this game. Everyone maintains the same amount of idiocy, which is a brilliant move on Suda's part.
After heartily defending this title, I would now like to say how mediocre I feel the experience was. All humor aside, for every good thing in Lollipop Chainsaw, there was an equally terrible aspect. Going punch-for-punch, the experience was fun, but it felt just like the Ninja Gaiden reboot. The environments and fighting variations were definitely interesting, but the combos lacked any sort of creativity. The comic-style design of loading screens and combo flourishes were impressive, but the HUD was weak, navigating menus was an exercise in extreme patience, and controls weren't always responsive - something that could be due in part to wireless 360 controllers. Everything just zeroes out. The experience is neither good nor terrible, just neutral. Built on the idea of replayability, I would probably pick up Lollipop Chainsaw again in a year and maybe consider playing through on a harder difficulty, but I'm in no real rush.
The verdict: I defend Lollipop Chainsaw's right to satirical sexism, but agreeing with a message doesn't mean I'm in love with the experience.