PAX West 2019: KUNAI

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2019

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It’s probably common knowledge by now that I’m a huge Metroidvania nerd, which is part of why KUNAI was such a delightful surprise. I knew it was quirky and had a really unique visual aesthetic. I had no idea when I booked the demo that it was also a Metroidvania! Developed by TurtleBlaze and to be published by The Arcade Crew, KUNAI was utterly different from what I expected.

KUNAI | Awakening

The demo starts with a group of rebellious ninja looking for something. They’re all robots, and it seems the world of KUNAI is one pretty much devoid of humanity. Though that mystery wasn’t directly addressed in the demo, I’m sure it will be in the larger story. Either way, things started to get interesting when angry robots came and started decimating the rebel ranks. In the wake of that attack, a console gets activated, a tube fills with light, and you burst free. You are Tabby, a killer robot infused with the soul of an ancient warrior. At first all Tabby can do is walk and jump, but you soon come across a glowing katana blade. This is what you need to face off against what appear to be necrobots that are rising from trash heaps to slay you. Your blade can even steal some life energy from those it fells, lending KUNAI a really interesting flow.

KUNAI | Derp Face

If that wasn’t enough, I then found (you guessed it) a pair of kunai, with chains, which let me wall climb and swing across long horizontal surfaces. It was a joy to swing about, but not as joyous as the silly faces Tabby makes. To call them derpy would be kind, but I’m not complaining. It lends him an air of childlike wonder, despite his predilection for violent mayhem. As I swung my way through the demo, I finally came to a save station right before a boss fight. The boss was a sort of robot reaper who surrounded himself with debris, making it almost impossible to connect with my trusty blade.

KUNAI | Swing

After dying once due to my lack of patience, I tried again, and realized my job was to only swing my blade at the boss when he was dashing right for me, with his shield no longer active. It took quick reflexes, but I managed to finally get the timing down. Once damaged, he would summon huge boulders to smash me, which I needed to rapidly scale with my kunai, leaving him open for a quick jump slash. Between these rounds, he would summon necrobots to distract me, but eventually I was met with success.

KUNAI | Boss

I’m really, really impressed by KUNAI thus far, and think it’s shaping up to a really great Metroidvania. I already was a fan of The Arcade Crew after playing Blazing Chrome, and I’m even more impressed now. If you are interested in KUNAI, it’s slated to release on PC and Switch right now. Though there’s no release date yet, I’m sure it will be worth the wait.

About Josh Speer

Josh is a passionate gamer, finding time to clock in around 30-40 hours of gaming a week. He discovered Operation Rainfall while avidly following the localization of the Big 3 Wii RPGs. He enjoys SHMUPS, Platformers, RPGs, Roguelikes and the occasional Fighter. He’s also an unashamedly giant Mega Man fan, having played the series since he was eight. As Head Editor and Review Manager, he spends far too much time editing reviews and random articles. In his limited spare time he devours indies whole and anticipates the release of quirky, unpredictable and innovative games.