By Marisa Alexander / June 2nd, 2020
|Developer||Mad Gear Games|
|Release Date||February 27th, 2020|
|Platform||PC, PS4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One|
|Age Rating||E for Everyone|
Can’t say I was expecting animals as ninjas this year, but hearing about Kemono Heroes was a pleasant surprise nonetheless. Set in the style of feudal Japan, four ninja masters must climb Mt. Fuji to combat the moon god Tsukigami, who petrified the people of the land. The game itself plays as if it was an arcade game during the mid 90’s. Due to this, I decided to give this game a shot and see what it has to offer.
For the four playable heroes, it consists of Fudemaru the fox, Hanako the squirrel, Miyuki the cat, and Yu the monkey. The main difference between them are their sword strikes and unique abilities. Fudemaru can transform into enemies with his magical cards, Hanako can glide, Miyuki can climb up vertical obstacles, and Yu can hang from ropes and vines. As a co-op game, the levels are designed with all four in mind, so these abilities are more like an added bonus. Otherwise, the characters share the same attributes, can throw kunai in eight directions and have a limited use screen nuke akin to shoot-em-ups.
By completing levels, you unlock more tools which are the grappling hook, the ability to charge your sword, and bombs. There are four sets of stages, each complete with their own level theme and main set of enemies. After each level, you can use the shop to upgrade your health, sword, kunai, and more. If you are going after as many coins as you can, the difficulty curve will coincide with the upgrades from the shop. Otherwise, the game might get rather tough.
As a whole, the game may not offer much innovation but it does what it set out to do well. The controls are fine, where dashing about while throwing kunai and cutting up enemies is rather fun. Most of the bosses, while basic, are fun enough in their own right. They have patterns to their attacks, and a few change up their approach as their health bar lowers, such as the final boss. The proper penultimate boss was not exactly all that fun, if only because he was rather fast coupled with attacks that require recognizing various variables at once.
Overall however, Kemono Heroes felt very easy, at least for the first half. Like Ghosts n’ Goblins, there is a point where you have to play through all the stages once more in order to reach the true final boss. After this point, enemies hit much harder, with many becoming transparent. The latter caused some frustration as certain enemies blended into the scenery. Bosses also become much more difficult, moving much faster and even gaining upgraded attacks. For the final stage of the game, I merely rushed to the end in order to skip as many enemies as possible due to how obnoxious the enemy placement can get at that point.
Presentation-wise, the game is quite nice. The soundtrack has a certain flair to it that makes it good to listen to. The pixel art gives way to very well done animations, going beyond just being a retro styled game. With all that said, the presentation does suffer in the second half of the game. Your character’s color becomes strangely inconsistent going from highly dark to as if they are right in the sun. Music is not really audible if even present, and as mentioned previously the enemies blend into the game’s environment. It causes the game to feel more drawn out than it has to, as if the second half was put in merely to lengthen the game.
In the end, Kemono Heroes was a decent experience, if not a particularly interesting one. Priced at $14.99, it will serve as a nice tie over experience for platformer fans, due to being a roughly one to two hour adventure. With multiple characters and achievements, the game’s replay value might sate a player for a couple more runs. Hopefully Mad Gear Games can take this and craft something extraordinary, as there is a good framework to build upon.
Review copy provided by the publisher
Mad Gear Gamesnintendo switchNIS Americaplatformer