To say that Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba is popular does not properly convey the level of it’s success. With 82 million copies of the manga sold in 2020 alone, and a film that is not only the highest grossing film of all time in Japan but the highest grossing worldwide in 2020, it has become an entertainment powerhouse. Like most popular manga and anime, Demon Slayer has now expanded into gaming with The Hinokami Chronicles. However, we all know that game adaptations of manga and anime franchises can be a pretty mixed bag. So does it rise above the large pool of average offerings, or control it’s breathing enough to break through and persevere? Find out with our review below!
Beauty Flows Like Water Breathing
Demon Slayer puts you in the tragic shoes of Tanjiro Kamado, a young teenager who returns to his mountain home from selling charcoal in town, only to find his family slaughtered and his surviving sister, Nezuko, turned into a demon. She briefly turns feral and attacks Tanjiro. He is able to reach her through her bloodlust and she shows restraint, and Tanjiro successfully defends her from a demon slayer who has come to investigate the attack. Impressed, the slayer refers him to a trainer who will teach him how to fight and kill demons. After two years of grueling training, Tanjiro earns his way into the Demon Slayer Corps. With his now-docile sister in tow, they set off to fight demons, with Tanjiro’s main objective being to restore Nezuko’s humanity.
At first glance, Demon Slayer is colorful and artistically impressive. In the past, games that have adapted the anime style have often done so with very noticeable quirks. Aliasing and other sharp edges compromised the detail of otherwise-faithfully recreated characters. I am glad to report this is not the case with Demon Slayer. Tanjiro and company look stellar, with clean smooth lines that match the quality of any well-produced television anime. Another area Demon Slayer excels is in both subtle facial expression and the way it handles the comical overreactions of some of its characters. A wry smile, a look of despair, or determination against all odds, expressions are presented in a way that shows impact. The areas and backgrounds in Demon Slayer are just as impressive. Great care was taken to include details that are often absent from small exploration areas in games such as this one.
The music direction in Demon Slayer is also top notch. Most of the musical backdrops are of high quality and express the situation perfectly. They add impact during struggles, and lightheartedness during the refreshingly measured amounts of comic relief. It was a joy to just sit and listen to some of the tracks.
Simplicity With Style
The story of Demon Slayer is told in chapters that follow a path. As Tanjiro is sent on missions, the story path will provide fully voiced and acted cutscenes that often lead into light world exploration. These small-to-medium areas provide chances to roam around fulfilling minor interaction objectives. This also gives the player another exploration task for finding Kimetsu Points and Memory Fragments. Kimetsu Points are the reward unlocking currency for the game. You collect these throughout the Story Mode, but they are also rewarded for many gameplay activities. They are spent on unlocking songs, outfits, art, and other rewards. However, you can find Memory Fragments only by playing through the Story Mode, and only in the exploration areas. These unlock extra scenes from the anime within the Chapters screen, and serve to fill context gaps within the story.
So, how does the game about slaying demons fare when it comes to, well, slaying demons? At first glance, the combat comes off as pretty shallow. There’s a simple light attack combo that can be executed by repeatedly pressing the same button. You can slightly alter this combo at the end by pressing the analog stick in a direction that will affect the final blow in the chain. You can charge and execute a heavy attack by pressing up on the stick while simultaneously pressing the light attack button. Special moves are executed with another button, using the analog stick or a shoulder button as a modifier. There is a Rush button that will charge you at your opponent, which also serves as a Dodge when modified with analog movement.
Special moves are governed by a meter below your health bar that depletes with use, but regenerates quickly. And there is a Boost meter that can be filled up to three times. Using this once will Boost your character’s speed and attack. Using this a second time during Boost will start Surge, giving you a short period of unlimited special attacks to spam against your opponent. For most enemies, this also unlocks your Ultimate Art, a flashy, cinematic attack that looks awesome and deals heavy damage. Boss Demon battles often end with a cinematic Quick-Time Event, prompting you for timed button presses to finish them off.
In Versus Mode and some Story Mode battles, you will have a partner fighter that can be called upon to provide a support Special Attack, or pull you out of the receiving end of an especially painful combo. You can also switch and fight with your support character, but bear in mind you share a health bar. This also applies to online battles.
I feel it is important to note how little difference there is in move sets between fighters. Most of them have different moves executed with pretty much the same button presses. This system is likely to leave more tactical fighting game enthusiasts disappointed. However, there is more depth if you try for it. The current roster of characters seem to have differences in movement and attack speed, which can be used to your advantage especially when playing against other humans online. The similar button combos also help level the online playing field a bit. In my experiences in online battles, adept use of your support characters and timely dodges can make or break a match for you. Button mashing in these cases all but guarantees a loss.
Might Need To Bolster Their Ranks
Ultimately, Demon Slayer on the surface looks like another average anime adaptation fighting game. It has a slim roster, with some characters nearly identical to others with their moves, but DLC is coming soon. This is said to be adding numerous additional playable characters, including demons. The story is one fans of the series have likely already experienced, and doesn’t stray from it. It is voice acted by most the same performers as the anime, both Japanese and English. It has a light world exploration that at times can feel tacked on for filler. For now, another slight disappointment is that it only runs in 30fps, but there is a free 60fps mode coming in a future update. So what sets this apart from your average anime franchise game?
Simply put, it has balance, and it’s absolutely gorgeous. While Demon Slayer as a game isn’t something that’s likely to highly impress you, the game’s appreciation for its fans shines brightly here. The performances are still impactful and the music is beautiful. The visuals have set a new standard that hopefully other anime franchises will rise to meet in future releases. The extra stuff that isn’t fighting, such as world exploration and a couple minigames, provide just enough of a distraction to give some variety without using it as too much of a crutch. The combat is flashy, simple and just plain fun. One thing no one can fault Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – The Hinokami Chronicles for doing is satisfying its fans.
Final Score – 7.5/10
This review is based on a PS5 download code that was provided by the publisher. Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – The Hinokami Chronicles is available now for Playstation 4, Playstation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC via Steam.