Demon Slayer Kimetsu no Yaiba – The Hinokami Chronicles – (Switch) Review
Before we begin, I think a confession is in order. I’ve never seen the Demon Slayer anime. I haven’t watched anime at all in about fifteen years and haven’t played a game based on an anime since some of the early Naruto games. So, heading into this review I was about as clueless as possible. If you’re looking for an in-depth review from a hardcore fan of the series, I’m sorry to say that this isn’t it. But if you’re like me and curious as to whether this game has anything to offer a non-fan or a potential burgeoning one, you’ve come to the right place.
Demon Slayer Kimetsu no Yaiba – The Hinokami Chronicles tells the story of the first season of the anime, as well as Demon Slayer: The Movie – Mugen Train. It follows the adventures of fresh-faced demon slayer Tanjiro Kamado on his quest to turn his demon sister Nezuko back into a human. The story is delivered through beautifully rendered 3D cutscenes with a traditional cel-shaded look. It’s an aesthetic that looks consistently stunning throughout, with vivid colours and bombastic animations creating a feast for the eyes.
Character models look great, and fighting animations look suitably flashy. It’s a presentation suite that fans of the anime will no doubt lap up and it even left a non-fan like me notably impressed. Original voice actors from the anime are also here with new lines recorded in both English and Japanese. If you love the show, you’ll no doubt have a great time reliving the story here in a new medium with a fresh take on the material.
Spanning eight chapters that take around ten hours to complete, the main story mode sees you controlling Tanjiro (and occasionally others) as he travels through mostly linear confined areas from one point to another to trigger another cutscene and/or battle. It’s a cookie-cutter, barebones approach for a story mode, utilising the simplest of structures to connect the cutscenes to tell the story and have them set up the next fight. There’s some very light exploring to do to uncover memory fragments that relive scenes from the anime, and currency scattered across the maps can be collected and spent to unlock goodies such as music, outfits, and quotes. Outside of these minor distractions though and the occasional minigame, a show that predominantly involves people fighting struggles to give you much to do in a video game outside of fighting, but thankfully the fighting here is a good time.
If you’ve ever played any of the Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm games in the last decade, you’ll be familiar with developer CyberConnect2’s style of arena-style fighting games. Taking place in a fully manoeuvrable 3D space larger than your typical one-on-one fighter, your main offensive options consist of a standard attack button and more powerful special attacks which deplete a skill gauge.
Quick flicks of the stick can be used in conjunction with your attacks to perform different moves and combos, as well as add a parry option to your repertoire. Rounding out your attack options is the boost bar. Using one chunk of the bar gives your attack power a boost, using twice ups the power boost further, and three lets you unleash your ultimate move for some serious damage and a suitably flashy animation sequence.
As you would expect from an anime fighter, it’s an approachable combat system that allows you to pull off impressive-looking feats with minimal effort. It doesn’t have the deepest of mechanics, but there’s enough to learn for fights to remain engaging throughout the story mode and into the multiplayer space. With the large areas in which fights occur, bouts can be as much about positioning and spacing as they are about landing combos, allowing for an extra element of strategy to contemplate as you battle. It can on occasion be a detriment in the story mode, with boss battles devolving to running around and dodging massive attacks whilst waiting for an opening to run in and unleash your best combo – but only as far as the game lets you.
A unique element to this game is a circular gauge that depletes over time whilst you’re performing a combo. Once the gauge runs out, the opponent will no longer be able to be juggled in your attack and will instantly gain temporary invincibility and fall to the ground. It’s an interesting way of tackling the issue of expert players juggling opponents in seemingly endless combos, but it’s not without its drawbacks. It’s prone to leaving you stuck in an animation loop that may finish well after your opponent has dropped to the floor and bounced back up, opening you up to punishment. A simple tweak to make your attack end at the same time as the damage does would make for a system far less prone to some frustrating moments.
That minor gripe aside, the overall fighting system is an enjoyable one. After you’ve completed the story mode, which you’ll want to do to unlock the full roster as efficiently as possible, you can take your skills online. The usual selection of casual and ranked modes are on offer, with points earned from battles used to mop up any unlocks you didn’t get from the story mode. Spending time in multiplayer allows you to experience the full roster of characters. It’s a solid list, with alternate costumes, humorous clone versions of characters, and more on the way via DLC. You can also take a second character into battle to wheel out for some quick extra damage or to rescue you from a combo lock. Despite some similar move sets across the roster, there’s enough variety here to satiate fans of the anime and fighting games alike.
Demon Slayer Kimetsu no Yaiba – The Hinokami Chronicles delivers satisfying fights wrapped in a stunning presentation that is sure to delight fans of the series. Whilst the story mode’s connective tissue tying the fights together can be a bit flimsy, it’s a serviceable way of retelling narrative. The arena-style fights will feel very familiar to those experienced in the genre and can be found wanting when it comes to the depth of its mechanics, but anyone with a passing interest in Demon Slayer is going to love every second of this and may even convert a few new fans along the way.
+ A visual delight
+ Satisfying fighting system
+ Fans of the anime will adore every second
- Story mode is a bit basic
- Combo gauge can be frustrating
- Not a lot to offer non-fans