8.0
REVIEW: Demon Slayer – The Hinokami Chronicles
Reviews

REVIEW: Demon Slayer – The Hinokami Chronicles

Anime fighting games have become a dime-a-dozen to a certain degree; it seems like every popular franchise has its own game where players can take control of popular characters and live out their dream clashes. In the vein of games like My Hero One’s Justice and, most obviously, the Naruto Ninja Storm series, the wildly popular Demon Slayer franchise has stepped into the arena fighter ring—with some pretty spectacular results.

Based on the first season of the show and Mugen Train film, Demon Slayer -Kimetsu no Yaiba- The Hinokami Chronicles (and you thought Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 was a mouthful) sees players taking up the blade of their favorite demon slayer, from series protagonist Tanjiro to fan favorites like Rengoku. Together with another character, players engage in quick and frenetic 2-on-2 battles to determine a victor.

Let’s get this out of the way early: if you’ve played an anime arena fighter recently, you’ll feel right at home with this one. Combat is a mixture of basic attacks, special moves, assists, throws, and blocking to create combos and defeat your opponent. The game was developed by longtime anime arena fighter faithfuls CyberConnect2, so the gameplay naturally draws comparisons to games like Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm 4

However, that comparison can be a bit of a disservice to Demon Slayer, as its combat feels the most refined in any arena fighter I’ve played. Combos and patterns are easy to execute and identify, and doesn’t feel as floaty or lopsided as Ninja Storm games could. Attacks string together easily, while still offering players the ability to mix and match attacks and special moves to create unique combos. 

While most characters share the same foundational moves, the unique special attacks to each character reward players willing to experiment and try someone new without being overwhelmed. That’s one of Demon Slayer’s biggest strengths—combat accessibility. Newcomers and veterans alike will easily be able to pick up a controller and get a grasp of the combat without being swamped by systems and special moves; the tight roster allows for familiarity and learning opportunities.

One of the best ways to learn the game is to embark on the lengthy Story mode, which spans 8 chapters and covers everything from the beginning of the show to the recent film. Players get to watch and partake in the show’s biggest battles to date, with CC2 remaining on top of their game when it comes to recreating iconic moments. As players go through the campaign, they’ll unlock fighters, stages, costumes, and more to use in the central Versus mode—as well as some other collectibles like voice lines, photos, and cutscenes. The Story mode is not the ideal way to experience the franchise’s story for the first time (the show is pretty spectacular), but newcomers will be able to get the idea by playing through the campaign.

Most players, however, are here for the Versus mode, and this game has the basics covered in this regard. With the ability to train against the CPU (complete with enough AI settings to customize your labbing sessions), engage in CPU battles, or take the fight online, the Versus mode is a non-flashy but solid mode. Online play will be this game’s staying power, and the lobby system is unfussy and easy to navigate. In my online matches so far, I had no issue with finding matches quickly and had strong connection throughout—though the game does need to do something about players who disconnect early or rage quit. Right now there’s seemingly no penalty for leaving a match early, though the game does display “disconnects” on players profiles so you can make a judgement call on accepting a match.

Outside of Versus, the game also offers a pretty expansive Practice mode, which allows players to “train under” a character by completing a series of challenges with set parameters. This is a very welcome addition, providing players with the ability to hone their skills in specific, low-stakes scenarios before hopping online. The challenges are generally basic (“defeat an opponent using more than 3 special moves,” etc.), but their presence in the game makes the package feel more complete.

While Demon Slayer offers a fairly robust fighting game experience, it does have some issues that hold it back from greatness. For starters, the game does not support 60fps play on current gen (PS5 and Xbox Series) consoles at launch—a pretty big flaw on such powerful hardware. The developers have promised this option in a future patch, but its absence at launch is noticeable.

Speaking of noticeable absences, the only current demon on the roster in the Demon Slayer game is Nezuko, Tanjiro’s sister. Two playable demons were recently shown off in a trailer as DLC, but to not feature them in the base roster feels like an artificial way to extend the game’s cycle via DLC. 
For all the comparisons to anime fighting games past, Demon Slayer: The Hinokami Chronicles rises above the recent competition to offer an exciting and stylish fighter. It has tight combat, strong fighting animations, and recreates key moments from the show with flair in its lengthy Story mode. A somewhat lacking roster and some technical limitations keep it from reaching the highs of Naruto Storm 4, but the foundation is strong. In time, The Hinokami Chronicles can reach or even surpass those heights

8.0
Score

Pros

  • Stylish and flashy fighting animations that recreate the anime perfectly
  • Tight and exciting combat that iterates on the Naruto Storm series’ iconic system
  • Decently long campaign that wonderfully recreates iconic moments from the show

Cons

  • No 60fps mode at launch
  • No demon villains available on base roster is disappointing
  • Cutscene animations can be stiff

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