I've played more than a handful of anime fighters at this point in my career and I've started to notice a pattern. It's one that Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba - The Hinokami Chronicles appears to have settled nicely into, focusing largely on 3D fighting with a strong single-player story. I would expect nothing less from the makers of the Naruto games and Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot. While the formula is familiar, Demon Slayer settles into it well and proves to be one of the more competent anime fighters I've played in some time.
Demon Slayer 101
If there's one thing that I wasn't quite prepared for with Demon Slayer's single-player element, it was the multitude of cinematics and cutscenes. The single-player makes sure to pack in plenty of story and characterization for Demon Slayer veterans, while also educating newbies on who everybody is and how they're integral to this world. The story follows main character Tanjiro Kamado and explores the origins of his journey as a Demon Slayer, with players experiencing events from outside and within the anime.
The first thing to note is that the visuals are dazzling. The presentation is very much in the spirit of the source material, feeling like a total treat, whether you're a fan of the anime or not. The environments in the single-player feel limited, but the actual battles are feasts for the eyes. Boss fights, in particular, have some heavy cinematic sequences, which feel like epic moments pulled straight out of the anime. If there's a downside to it, it's that many of these moments feature quick-time events and they go a mile-a-minute, so it's easy to get hypnotized by what's happening on screen and miss them. We're seeing less QTEs in major games for a reason and that's because they feel outdated, so seeing them here was an annoyance.
Fighting like a Slayer
Demon Slayer's 3D fighting can best be described as competent. It certainly isn't bad, but there's nothing about it that I would hail as particularly innovative. Its formula does work, though, largely because of a few factors. For one thing, the combo meter allows for players to string up multiple attacks and easily combine attacks in an intuitive manner.
The other piece of the combat formula that proves to be more of a mixed bag is the parry system. While racking up combos does feel satisfying, there's a parry system that adds an extra level of depth. It proves necessary in the single-player story, as enemies and bosses will often telegraph their big attacks. Parrying those attacks creates enough of an opening to gain a big advantage. Unfortunately, the parry's timing window is frustratingly short to the point that it's exceedingly difficult to master. Parries in Versus Mode don't go much better and it feels like most casual players will just toss this mechanic to the side once they're up against actual humans.
Speaking of frustrating, I hope nobody's picking this game up hoping to jump into Versus Mode out of the gate. Demon Slayer features 20 playable characters, but a vast majority of them are locked behind the single-player story. As noted before, the story mode can be pretty lengthy, especially as it's loaded on cutscenes. It's unfortunate for fans who want to just get right into some sparring sessions with their friends or want to go straight into the online component.
Let's go demon hunting
I walked into Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba - The Hinokami Chronicles without much knowledge on the source material, but the game's approach to its story had some highs and lows. On the one hand, much of the gameplay felt thoroughly average and there wasn't a lot that made me want to keep coming back. However, the presentation did, at the very least, make me interested in the anime. There were a lot of cinematics, maybe too many, but if their purpose was to draw interest to the anime, it did that job well.
Not having every fighter out of the box is going to be really frustrating for some players, but if nothing else, experiencing the Demon Slayer story is a pretty fun ride.
This review is based on a PlayStation digital code provided by the publisher. Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba - The Hinokami Chronicles will be available on Friday, October 15 on Steam, the PlayStation Store, and the Microsoft Store for $59.99. The game is rated T.
- Competent 2v2 anime fighter with surprising depth
- Story mode is a treat for fans and newcomers alike
- Visuals and cinematics are stunning
- QTEs in single-player are unwelcome
- Parry window is frustrating
- Most Versus characters are locked at the start of the game