CyberConnect2 has established itself as one of the best in the business when it comes to anime-to-video-game adaptations, with the Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm series standing tall as some of the most faithful and visually spectacular of that group, along with Dragon Ball Z Kakarot offering up an extremely respectable take on the storied legacy of DBZ.
The team’s next project is the truly excellent anime, Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, and based on my early experience with The Hinokami Chronicles, it’s exactly what you’d expect from CyberConnect2: absolutely jaw-dropping recreations of Demon’s Slayer’s most memorable story moments, approachable combat with some of the wildest super moves you’ll ever see, and more than a few rough edges, but none sharp enough to dampen the excitement of a big Demon Slayer fan.
If you’ve played any of the Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm games, a lot about The Hinokami Chronicles’ story mode will be very familiar. This is an abridged retelling of the story of Demon Slayer, covering the events all the way up to the end of the first season, focusing primarily on the biggest moments of the 26-episode anime. Hinokami Chronicles actually takes a page out of the playbooks of the first two Ultimate Ninja Storm games by putting you directly in the shoes of its main characters, whether that’s Tanjiro, Zenitsu, or Inosuke, and lets you wander around its world, talking to NPCs, finding collectible memories that unlock scenes from the anime and sniffing out demon scents that lead you towards your eventual destination.
You’ll also do battle with plenty of non-canonical enemies in the form of basic demons, which tend to just leap out of thin air and attack you in certain areas, but the real stars of this mode are the big battles against the main villains of each arc. These are epic fights against foes that can power themselves up and become all but impervious to your attacks, forcing you to fight against them very differently than you would a normal enemy in versus mode. Deal enough damage to them and you’ll trigger one of CyberConnect2’s famous QTE-laden finales that are nearly shot-for-shot recreations of the same climatic scenes from the anime using in-engine visuals. These are truly a sight to behold and only serve to further prove that CyberConnect2 is the master of bringing anime spectacle to the world of video games.
Fighting mechanics-wise, The Hinokami Chronicles will also be pretty familiar to those who play arena fighters, especially those who played CyberConnect2’s previous games, even though there are some pretty substantial differences. But on a basic level, there’s one button for attacks, and that button can be mashed for a basic combo, or modified by holding up to launch them into an air combo, or held down for a combo that ends in a hard knockdown. Each character has three special moves that generally enable them to extend these combos, end them emphatically with a big chunk of damage, or provide some other form of utility. Urokodaki, for instance, can use his third special move to lay a trap on the ground, Inosuke can use his to bullrush through attacks, and Tanjiro’s can be used much like an invincible wake up attack.
Special moves are tied to a blue special meter that also governs your ability to use things like jump cancels and dodge cancels, so it becomes very important to be mindful about it as a limited resource tied to some of your most important techniques. It also doesn’t regenerate while dodging, but regenerates quickly if you’re able to pause for a second and not press any buttons.
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One of the biggest differences in Hinokami Chronicles is the inclusion of a combo timer, which seems to be used primarily as a way to prevent infinites, but also smartly encourages and rewards some riskier play. When you perform a standard combo, an orange combo timer will countdown the remaining time you have before the opponent automatically jumps out and resets to a neutral position. The move that begins the combo is what determines the length of your combo meter. Certain characters, like Zenitsu for instance, have far reaching special moves that can begin a combo from nearly full screen, and in cases like these, the combo timer will be red and be fairly short. Inosuke on the other hand has a rekka style special move that gets a green combo timer, giving him a massive amount of time to deal big damage if he lands it.
Where things get interesting is when you’re able to use a risky parry to deflect an enemy attack with perfect timing. Landing one of these also gets you a green combo timer and really lets you add on some massive damage. It’s a great example of risk vs. reward and also limits that awful feeling of just being stuck in a combo for an eternity and not being able to do anything about it.
Hinokami Chronicles is also a 2-on-2 fighter, with your partner being tied to a two-bar meter with both offensive and defensive options. You can spend one bar to call your teammate in to do one of their two assist attacks, and you can hold the tag button down to swap them out, though it’s important to note that you both share the same life bar. Crucially, though, you can also spend both bars to have your partner come in and scoop you out of a combo, which can save your life and also put you in an advantageous position.
On top of all of that there are also push blocks, guard weakening strong attacks that can power through light attacks, a special powerup mode that increases the strength of your attacks, another power up called Surge mode that temporarily gives you unlimited meter, and of course, the aforementioned super moves that are among some of the most impressive you’ll ever see.
Demon Slayer – Kimetsu no Yaiba – The Hinokami Chronicles Screenshots – Summer of Gaming 2021
All this to say that despite the fact that Demon Slayer’s combat is simple on the surface level and may initially come across as being shallow, it’s easy to see that a lot of thought has been put into some of the deeper mechanics.
Overall, The Hinokami Chronicles is shaping up to be a promising start for what is almost sure to be a series of Demon Slayer games. The story mode looks to meet the same standard of quality set by Ultimate Ninja Storm and Kakarot, and the fighting mechanics are familiar, but feel thoughtfully tweaked both to more match Demon Slayer’s fighting style and to improve upon some of the weaker parts of Cyberconnect2’s prior games. We’ll find out how the rest of the game fares when Demon Slayer: The Hinokami Chronicles releases on October 13, 2021 on PlayStation, Xbox, and PC.
Mitchell Saltzman is an editorial producer at IGN. You can find him on twitter @JurassicRabbit