Demon Slayer -Kimetsu no Yaiba- The Hinokami Chronicles – Series X

I’ve recommend Demon Slayer to anyone who usually sniffs at anime in general and a few otakus more (it’s in both the Crunchyroll and Netflix lists) It’s a fairly by the numbers tale but the animation and characters is fantastic. The series ended with a lead up to the smash success Kimetsu no Yaiba: Kyōdai no Kizuna or Demon Slayer: The Movie: Mugen Train. There’s a reason it was so wildly successful, even with no love for the series it’s a cracking anime film. Packed with incredibly well animated scenes, paced incredibly well and filled with multiple memorable moments. With the memory of the fantastic film still fresh and having watched the first few episodes of the newest season covering the same arc, it’s a perfect time to look at Demon Slayer: The Hinokami Chronicles. There’s a lot of content to get through as The Hinokami Chronicles covers the story of the entire anime and film so I’ve done my best to avoid any spoilers.

The Naruto Storm games are incredible, each game felt like they successfully polished an already incredible starting point. Naruto Storm 4 was both the pinnacle and the last entry so I was more than happy to hear how the team behind these fantastic games had started working on Demon Slayer: The Hinokami Chronicles. The idea that we’d have essentially a Storm-like successor was really the selling point and the striking visuals of the trailer really sold the idea this could be something special. Unfortunately while each Naruto Storm sequel felt like an improvement, Demon Slayer: The Hinokami Chronicles feels like a leap backwards.

Fighting in Demon Slayer: The Hinokami Chronicles is a messy affair. Each character is boiled down Smash Bros-like to a few attack buttons which at first feels fine but quickly becomes button mashing with each character working the same. To build your special meter you can no longer hold a button but instead have to stand still and there’s a slight delay on this meaning you’ll need to read the enemy to know when it’s safe to do so. The problem is in Demon Slayer: The Hinokami Chronicles reading the enemy through all the visual flare is almost impossible and numerous attacks you would think should stagger an enemy will not be safe and result in punishing damage. There’s a lot of guesswork and trying to time your parries becomes frustrating especially against the cheaper final bosses that get bonus health bars. There’s a focus on chaining your moves to specials and tag combos as much as possible but with the simplistic Boost mechanic (where you up your power in exchange for draining super metre) it all feels unfocused and messy.

I can understand limiting the roster of playable characters until you play through the story mode but Demon Slayer: The Hinokami Chronicles is limiting to the point of frustration. The story mode just isn’t fun. Linear corridors with nothing to do but chase scents, side quests that boil down to talking to an NPC and missions that are simple A to B endeavours. Each chapter has a different visual style, a little walking, a little talking, some fights with generic demon monsters and then a big plot fight. After other anime fighters either give an arcade fighting experience or a deep fleshed out story mode this feels lacking between both. It becomes a grind to unlock characters and stages to play in the more enjoyable VS and online modes. There’s also no point in the story to play as a demon, this means there’s no way to get used to how demon characters work in combat except online and VS. They cannot use tags and get separate cool-down attacks instead and it feels like they could have included a welcome mix-up to the story grind.

For a game so visually stunning it’s mindboggling how much wasted potential there is. Demon Slayer: The Hinokami Chronicles has eye popping cutscenes and classic Storm-like quick time event moments that flash and punch with so much gorgeous style that if the game was only these moments it would be such a better experience. Disappointingly for every phenomenal moment there are 3-4 ludicrously dull cardboard cut out scenes where characters talk through events and stills are shown. These are always for minor moments in the story and feel like time that could have been spent doing something else. Of course these scenes are blocked from screenshots and footage but you get the idea. It’s also wild how there’s a great potential mechanic in tracking scents where the colours drain away to show the trail and it’s boiled down to a simple objective marker.

Demon Slayer: The Hinokami Chronicles has a ridiculous amount of voice acting and although the series has some really memorable music there aren’t really any stand out moments in the game. Every menu has multiple lines of dialogue, every wander through every linear area has characters chatting as if making up for the lack of filler in the series by cramming as much as possible here. It feels strangely wasted when you have scenes from the movie re-enacted here with as much gusto and emotion but then a ton of needless waffle. Other anime games have proven that you can add filler without detracting from the story but Demon Slayer: The Hinokami Chronicles feels like they weren’t confident in doing anything too unique.

I’ve not a lot to say about the Online sadly, Storm was always fun online but a little janky and Demon Slayer: The Hinokami Chronicles seems even more janky. I was kicked off the server a few times during play (annoyingly making it look like I’d rage quit) and there are bonus online missions to try and get people to play more. You’ll find almost all of the online players gravitate to the slightly overpowered demon characters and it becomes less about balanced give and take and more about trial and error. Given how the fighting feels more like guesswork than any 3D fighter of its style everything becomes an unenjoyable slog and the large customisation options for the player profile picture and phrase seems unnecessary.

Demon Slayer: The Hinokami Chronicles has a ridiculous amount of content but it feels like a game where a disappointing amount of it is unnecessary. The small roster has a lot of characters that take a large amount of grind to unlock and there’s a lot of overlap between them. The core combat feels a lot like they were trying to work for something new and different to the Storm games but in its current state, it just isn’t quite there. They’ve patched in a fantastic 60fps mode recently but you can only use it in Single-player VS and it’s so close to feeling like a good system when it works that when you’re confused why attacks don’t land it’s even more frustrating.

Demon Slayer: The Hinokami Chronicles is never a consistent experience, it could have also done with a lot of the padding cut out and the best bits left in and it would easily be gracing end of the year awards. This feels like what started out as a Storm-like was boiled down to insulting simplicity. The addition of a single mini-game at the end of the story should have been used sooner and challenges that should be difficult are just slogs for more currency. Nobody is happy to walk slowly forwards just to hear dialogue that feels unnecessary. Everyone is here for the critical art finishes and moments of Storm-like flourish. Demon Slayer: The Hinokami Chronicles is a real mixed bag and it feels like it keeps wasting its potential, I just hope there’s a sequel that gets it right.

5/10 – Fun but you’ll be slaying demons to find it

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