When you hear certain companies are working on specific games, it can offer a sense of reassurance. CyberConnect2 is responsible for a new anime game? Okay, it is a studio that knows its stuff. With Demon Slayer: The Hinokami Chronicles, the first major game based on the anime and manga series, there’s a lot to live up to and review. Knowing that the developer behind it also is responsible for games like Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 and Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, titles that respect their source material and are generally solid and enjoyable, is reassuring. Then, once you start playing, you start to realize that its Demon Slayer title learns from its past games and attempts to do more. But at the same time, it also feels like a first step on a journey.
Tanjiro is a young man who’s gone through an unspeakable tragedy. Demons killed almost his entire family. The only other survivor, his sister Nezuko, ended up turned to a demon herself. He’s pledged to find a way to restore her. Which means proving himself capable of joining the Demon Slayer Corps. In so doing, he’ll find both a new family, a sense of purpose, and the strength to stand up against demons that assault innocents.
Remember how I mentioned Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 a while back there? In many ways, Demon Slayer: The Hinokami Chronicles feels like CyberConnect2 went back to review that game and series, then build on that formula. There are the same sorts of patterns at play. The Adventure Mode is divided into chapters. Storyboards send you through Tanjiro, Nezuko, Inosuke, and Zenitsu’s adventures. Nodes there can involve story segment scenes that offer major and supplemental information. They can also send you into actual areas in the world filled with quests, spaces to explore, and of course fights against generic enemies and major bosses.
As for those battles, they take place in a 3D space people can freely move about. Adventure Mode enemies’ special attacks are telegraphed, with red outlines showing their range so someone can evade. The inputs also appear to assist people who might be more familiar with the source material in carrying out moves. Many attacks are fairly easy to pull off, with buttons used for Breathing Techniques. In the campaign, some specials involve QTE presses for a finisher. If you have an ally by your side, you can bring them in for either a quick attack or swap to make them the primary fighter.
And the Story Mode works well! Demon Slayer: The Hinokami Chronicles missions send you off into multi-area maps. There is always the main task, which typically involves using Tanjiro’s nose to sniff out demons and save the day. In addition, there are smaller, optional goals to encourage you to explore the area and take your time. While you can’t jump outside of battle, there will be designated points where you perform special actions to slip under cracks or scale heights. The rewards can unlock more story tidbits or points you could put toward unlocking things like customization options or extra characters. I never felt like I was wasting my time in these areas, even if sometimes they seemed simple. There tend to be a good number of fights, with a more challenging than usual boss with mechanics catering to their unique abilities waiting at the end. Not to mention if you have allies around, they might appear as a support or during the story.
The characterizations feel spot on too. Characters have a lot of personality on display. From the way they look and behave on the character select screen and before a battle to after. In the story mode, their facial expressions and movements define them. And throughout the game, their appearances always seem appropriate. Not to mention their in-battle movesets and attitudes set each person apart. Even if you miss a line of dialogue or are unfamiliar with a person, Demon Slayer: The Hinokami Chronicles makes sure you understand who they are.
But then, there are also some elements that can lead to things feeling a little simple. For example, when you’re in a fight, you can’t continue to deal damage to a “downed” opponent. You have to wait for them to recover. Areas might involve a fairly substantial space to explore. But using Tanjiro’s ability to “smell” demons isn’t totally necessary, the gimmicks never provide any real challenge, and it’s typically a matter of following the only route possible to the orange exclamation points. And, while you are getting started, you will have that initial reminder of “what these buttons do.”
You’re committed to going through Adventure Mode to unlock other characters for Training and Versus. Which might be a bit frustrating for people who want to jump in and fight. Not to mention for a manga known for a lot of colorful people, you only have 18 available at launch. (More are coming free after launch. Akaza and Rui are confirmed. ) Of those at launch, six are variants of existing fighters.
In review, there’s a lot to like about Demon Slayer: The Hinokami Chronicles even if it isn’t exactly perfect. It’s a strong first step. The Adventure Mode’s execution and ideas are sound, even if it can feel a bit simple in practice. The Versus mode works well, with characters who feel distinct and have personalities come through. A few more fighters would be appreciated. It certainly looks good. And given a promise of free updates, it seems to have room to grow. In short, it’s enjoyable even if it isn’t perfect yet. And if what is here is the prelude to additional installments, a la the Naruto Ultimate Ninja series, I think it could hint at a bright future for Demon Slayer games.
Demon Slayer: The Hinokami Chronicles will appear on the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and Windows PC. It releases on October 14, 2021 in Japan and on October 15, 2021 worldwide. Early access is available on October 13, 2021 if people pre-order the deluxe edition.