When it comes to licensed properties, sometimes a developer is just a perfect fit and its strengths align with the property. While CyberConnect2 has never been known for its intricate combat systems, the studio is a master of spectacle (just take a look at any of the cutscenes in Asura’s Wrath). This is why the Japanese studio has been able to recreate iconic anime moments so superbly in past titles such as Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot.
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Fans of CyberConnect2’s past work will find a lot of familiar content in Demon Slayer: The Hinokami Chronicles. It’s structured very much like the studio’s great Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm titles, which faithfully recreated the ninja anime into fantastic fights filled with quick-time events that make cutscenes feel just as intense, if not even more so, than the actual combat. Just one look at the chapter select screen — which is divvied into multiple fights and optional cutscenes and events — and Ninja Storm players will know exactly what they’ve gotten into.
That’s not to say this is a reskin, though. In fact, there are quite a few changes even if the core is the same and combat feels similar despite the core attacks being based around swordplay. Chapter 1 of The Hinokami Chronicles‘ story mode finds protagonist Tanjiro Kamado going through a dangerous forest in his quest to become a member of the Demon Slayer Corps. The whole chapter plays out in one sitting rather than selecting battles from the timeline and players control Tanjiro as he runs around the forest. There are alternate routes, memories to find that unlock optional cutscenes, and plenty of reason to explore even if the paths won’t rival Uncharted in terms of depth and options.
This all leads up to Tanjiro going up against a huge Hand Demon. The battle is a refreshing change of pace from the low-level demons that don’t offer up much of a fight in the rest of the forest as the Hand Demon is able to launch damaging attacks and players are forced to be more on the defensive by evading explosions and avoiding boulders the ghoul throws at them.
The battle itself isn’t as intense as some sort of Demon’s Souls boss fight, as the memorization of attack patterns isn’t all that difficult, but it’s still a great change of pace and a fun battle. Dodging a blow and then rushing in to use a special attack is satisfying and it’s much more involved and rewarding than the filler battles that can be won by just mashing the same combination repeatedly. It all accumulates in a great interactive cutscene that sees the player hitting QTEs in order to finish off the fight in style.
CyberConnect2’s strengths clearly show in these cutscenes. No developer can make a cutscene feel cooler and the button presses add a certain oomph to the moments as you accentuate finishing blows. Accurate QTE timing even earns the player a better mission rank, which forces the player to watch each scene intently.
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Anyone that has played CyberConnect2’s past anime titles should know what to expect and Demon Slayer: The Hinokami Chronicles is no different. Given the smart changes from the Naruto formula (such as the emphasis on exploration) that fit Demon Slayer better and the previously mentioned bombast, the early levels hold promise in a way that shows the property is off to a good start in gaming.