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As the lush, animated cinematic cutscene draws to a close, I ready myself for combat. The gameplay is frenetic, as our hero Tanjiro Kamado exchanges blows with an aggressive demon. I read their move, side-stepping to avoid their strike. They turn to face me but it's too late. I hit them with Tanjiro's Ultimate Jutsu Art, a technique that summons water in the shape of a dragon. An epic, climactic scene plays out as my wretched opponent is vanquished. This is Demon Slayer -Kimetsu no Yaiba- The Hinokami Chronicles.
Demon Slayer -Kimetsu no Yaiba- The Hinokami Chronicles is as grand as its preposterously long title suggests. It tells a tale of humanity versus supernatural enemies. Of a young man named Tanjiro who wants to help his sister Nezuko, who has been turned into a demon but still retains much of her human self. Those familiar with the anime will need no reminder of this plot. As for newcomers, I won't spoil anything for you here. However, I will warn you that this is a gruesome world, laden with death and suffering. It may not be as rough as a game like Code Vein, but it's not for the faint of heart.
See the trailer for the game here:
The main story of The Hinokami Chronicles is organised into chapters. Each one offers battles, cinematics and worlds to explore. Battles are fought in arenas, usually one-on-one. You can move freely during fights, able to attack your opponent from any angle you can find. You wield a mix of light attacks and jutsu moves, each with their own button assigned. The latter form of combat spills out into other methods, with special attacks available. They do more damage and look good, too.
It's not all about offensive play, though. You'll need to guard and dodge at times, especially if you want to earn a higher rank. How well you play determines your letter grade after a match, with 'S' being the highest honour. How long you take to win and how much damage you receive seem to be the biggest factors, so be efficient and clean. In this respect, Demon Slayer is very similar to the Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm games, which are also developed by CyberConnect2.
In truth, much of The Hinokami Chronicles reminds me of those Naruto games. The fonts, the menu screens, the customisable profile section. This is no bad thing, by the way. I adore those Naruto games, especially 2010's Storm 2. CyberConnect2's signature fighting game style offers combat that feels ruthlessly simple to learn, but cleverly highlights the talent of the player above all else. Mastery is about rhythm, reflexes, and practice. This is the case with most fighting games, but when you add this gameplay to the way the developer adapts stories, you end up with a lot of bang for your buck.
Demon Slayer -Kimetsu no Yaiba- The Hinokami Chronicles may feel similar to other games by CyberConnect2, but it also feels like its own creation. Its world is distinct from other games, despite visual similarities. If you're a fan of the anime, this game is worth your time, because it brings the characters you know to a video game with the utmost confidence. However, if Tanjiro and co. are unknown quantities, then this may not be the best way to meet them.
I mean this in the same way that I'd argue Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is better received by fans of the franchise than total newcomers to the world of the Saiyans. Yes, it's a good game in its own right, but your attachment to the source material will take it to another level. When you are aware of what's at stake because you've watched the anime, the relatively basic storytelling in the games is less important, and therefore less likely to be scrutinised.
The in-game environments of The Hinokami Chronicles are less forgivable. They are very pretty places, but they're not the most immersive places. There are NPCs to talk to, and side quests to do, but none of it feels deep. It's always apparent where you should be heading, and not just because of the objective marker. When a battle begins, you are teleported to an arena setup. It may look the same as the map you were just traversing, but it's grander, and your character can move more freely.
The shallow overworld-esque map is a bit of a disappointment when you consider how gorgeous it all looks. Arriving in Asakusa, you're met with a beautiful scene, brought to life by countless lights. The streets are full of people, and there are side streets branching off the densely-populated main roads. The thing is, it all feels a bit hollow. The NPCs don't offer much in terms of conversation or unique quality, and the quieter corners are bare except for some collectible items. It doesn't feel as alive as a game like Scarlet Nexus, for example.
Then again, Demon Slayer -Kimetsu no Yaiba- The Hinokami Chronicles is predominantly a fighting game. In this respect, Sega must be delighted with what CyberConnect2 has made. I found myself battling against the CPU opponent in multiplayer mode constantly, partly because of the satisfying gameplay, and partly because the online multiplayer was quite empty during the review phase (understandable when the game isn't out yet).
For fans of anime fighting games, Demon Slayer -Kimetsu no Yaiba- The Hinokami Chronicles is a compelling experience. Even if you're a newcomer to the series, this is a game that is fun to play, with a bold narrative that grips you early on. It may feel light at times, but it's a fine example of what CyberConnect2 does best.
Pros: Compelling gameplay, gripping story, gorgeous art style
Cons: Open-world sections can feel shallow, more for established fans than newcomers
For fans of: Naruto Shippuden games, CyberConnect2 games, Demon Slayer anime
Demon Slayer -Kimetsu no Yaiba- The Hinokami Chronicles was tested on PlayStation 4 with code provided by the publisher. The game releases worldwide on October 15, 2021 for PC, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 4. Read a guide to our review scores here.
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