CyberConnect2 has been around for a hot minute, adapting all sorts of popular anime and manga into arena fighting games. Many may remember the studio for the likes of Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm or Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, but most recently, the studio has gotten together with Sega to adapt the opening chapters of Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba in The Hinokami Chronicles. We got to play a few chapters and the battles that go with it and so far, CyberConnect2 looks to be delivering Demon Slayers flashy and colorful style with gorgeous aplomb and a solid, yet fairly simple battle system.
A tragic story retold
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba - The Hinokami Chronicles takes place in the chapters of the Demon Slayer story leading from the very beginning up to the Mugen Train Arc. For those who don’t know, Demon Slayer is the story of Tanjiro Kamado and his sister Nezuko. They lived peacefully in the countryside mountains chopping wood, turning it into charcoal, and selling it before a demon appeared and killed almost all of Tanjiro’s family while he was away. Nezuko survived, but became a demon in the process, yet she is able to retain her will and keep from going bloodthirsty. Tanjiro and Nezuko are saved by a swordsman who invites Tanjiro to join the Demon Slayer corps, and he does so to both take revenge on the demons that killed his family and find a way to turn Nezuko back into a human.
I got to play about 3 chapters of Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba - The Hinokami Chronicles and, as often is the case with these games, it’s a fairly abbreviated retelling of the Demon Slayer we know. It covers the main beats and engages in the story’s important fights, and besides those fights you often explore various locations of Demon Slayer’s narrative, engaging in smaller scale battles in between the big, climactic chapter enders.
Also, I have to say, the music and art in The Hinokami Chronicles is on point. Demon Slayer has one of the most striking and colorful art styles in anime and manga and CyberConnect2 did well to capture it here. The characters look incredibly good and their attacks capture the lush spirit of their source material, especially Tanjiro’s water-based swordsmanship. The music has a lot of great dramatic orchestral flair to it whether you’re in the course of a scene, wandering around a location, or engaged in an intense battle.
Move like water
In style similar to CyberConnect2’s other anime-inspired 3D battle arenas, combat in Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba - The Hinokami Chronicles is a free-moving affair. Once in a fight, you and your opponent are put into a limited arena featuring various locations from the story as the backdrops. Starting out, you can attack with auto combos, jump, defend, parry, use a special throw, use skills, and access super special abilities as you build a power gauge up. It isn’t long before you’re also able to bring a companion into most fights as the story permits. With a companion, you can trigger them to use support abilities, drag you out of a combo, or even tag out and fight as them. Each support action makes use two-part companion bar, though, and you both share the same health bar, so being mindful of when to use your companion feels pretty key.
Nonetheless, all of these tools together make for a pretty flashy combat system on any character you use. With Tanjiro, I was able to chain his auto-combos together with skills like a geysering slash or a whirlwind uppercut to inflict a good amount of damage. Then, when Nezuko became a usable companion, I was able to mix her support attacks into the endings of my combos to let me extend my damage even further with juggles between her and Tanjiro. Unlocking use of characters like Zenitsu allowed me similarly enjoyable learning experiences. The battle system isn’t something that’s going to make your head spin as you try to figure out the best buttons to press, but it does allow you to rack up damage pretty creatively. When you use each character's unique Ultimate Arts attack they become an intense tour de force. These Ultimate Arts are dramatic and fun to watch every time.
The main story took me on explorations in various areas with generic demons appearing that would lead up to the big fights, and each of those fights was pretty fun to play. However, there’s also a VS Mode I got to try in which you can fight against the CPU or other players, locally or online. The battles there are two-vs-two with a main character and swappable companion, though again, you share the same life bar. A single missed attack can also open a player up to a relentless combo as both of you build your power gauge towards Ultimate Arts or gamble your meter on an empowered state with Boost. That is to say, there’s so many combos and so much damage going on that matches don’t take a terribly long time, though they were delightfully satisfying in my session.
Push forward, don’t give up
For what I saw, Hinokami Chronicles won’t go too in-depth on the source, but it does a great job of visually capturing its source in all of its visual and musical flair with some exciting gameplay to match. If you’ve played Ninja Storm or Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, I’d have to say my session with the game convinced me you’re likely in for a similarly-styled experience. However, I also think CyberConnect2 and Sega do some fine justice to the Demon Slayer name. If these types of journeys and fights are what we can look forward to throughout the full game, then Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba - The Hinokami Chronicles is shaping up to be a good companion piece to the franchise.
This hands-on preview is based on an early PS5 version of the game supplied by the publisher. Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba - The Hinokami Chronicles comes out on October 15, 2021 on Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC via Steam.