Game Info:

Demon Slayer ~Kimetsu no Yaiba~ The Hinokami Chronicles
Developed: CyberConnect2
Published By: SEGA
Released: October 15, 2021
Available On: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
Genre: Fighting; Action-Adventure
ESRB Rating: T for Teen: Violence, Language, Blood and Gore
Number of Players: Up to two players offline and online
Price: $59.99
(Amazon Affiliate Link)

Thank you SEGA for providing us with a review code!

Kimetsu no Yaiba/Demon Slayer managed to take the anime and manga community by storm. Back when the anime began in 2019, it was constantly trending among the community for the elegant and highly-stylized animation, and in its homeland was breaking records left and right, with Kimetsu no Yaiba: The Movie - Mugen Train becoming the highest-grossing anime movie of all time. Seems like everyone was watching it—except for me. Prior to this review, I did not watch or read a single episode or chapter of Demon Slayer. I was always curious about this intellectual property but managed to get distracted by other things. I do have history with developer CyberConnect2, who is most known for the Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm series. Those games adapted from its source material so well that supposedly Masashi Kishimoto said that it was a perfectly acceptable way to consume Naruto as a series. I just wanted to see if that could also be said of Demon Slayer ~Kimetsu no Yaiba~ The Hinokami Chronicles, as well as provide a completely unbiased viewpoint.

The Demon Slayer world is based in Japan taking place sometime during the Taisho Era, ranging between 1912 and 1926. In the night, supernatural creatures known as demons lurk in the shadows preying on humans. The Demon Slayer Corps exists in retaliation, defending humanity against the demon menace. Main character Tanjiro Kamado’s family is slaughtered by a demon, with the sole exception of his sister Nezuko who is turned into a demon herself. Refusing to kill his sister, Tanjiro sets out on a journey to find a way to cure her and kill the demon responsible for turning his life upside down.

The Hinokami Chronicles spans eight story chapters, covering episodes 1 through 26 of the anime or chapters 1 through 54 of the manga—as well as the Mugen Train movie which is chapters 54 through 69 in the manga. Interestingly enough, The Hinokami Chronicles actually has the player begin from episode 3, from when Tanjiro is tasked with slicing a boulder in two from his master, Sakonji Urokodaki, as a prerequisite for attending the Final Selection to become a member of the Demon Slayer Corps. Many moments from the anime are portrayed through trance memories, optional cutscenes obtained through finding them in the world or progressing through the story. Many of these scenes have a grainy film effect on them, capturing the passage of time. Some of the more comedic memories have a backdrop with humorous pre and post-commentary provided by Tanjiro, Nezuko, Zenitsu Agatsuma, and Inosuke Hashibira. Although all the memories are portrayed in a slideshow-like format, they do provide more context of the plot and show moments that were skipped in the story segment.

The story mode has an adventure and a battle segment. The adventure part mostly consist of Tanjiro, Zenitsu, or Inosuke moving around the map and reaching context-sensitive areas to hop across gaps and slide under branches. The only things to do are to collect trance memories, kimetsu points, and interact with blue exclamation marks that act as side objectives. Interacting with all the blue exclamation marks fulfills requirements in the rewards menus that unlock various things such as stages, music, quotes from the game and anime, photos, and characters. Kimetsu points can be used to bypass any rewards you may find too difficult to achieve. Navigating through the story can be somewhat sluggish as the characters move slowly through a lot of linear hallways. Missing a memory or exclamation point means you’ll have to slowly navigate back, and that did happen to me a couple of times.

Demon Slayer ~Kimetsu no Yaiba~ The Hinokami Chronicles

Strong Points: Beautiful visuals;  good balance of both offensive and defensive mechanics; Story mode is similar to boss rush games 
Weak Points: Ranked system could use refinement; character roster may be disappointing for some; navigating through the adventure segments of the story can be somewhat sluggish
Moral Warnings: Lots of blood and body decapitations; language consisting of “h*ll” “d*mn” “a*s” “b*st*rd” and “sh*tty”; heavy supernatural influences with demons and magic; a few slightly sexual moments and some revealing outfits

In the battle segments, the combat takes an arena fighter approach where two characters face off in a 3D environment. You have your basic light attack combo strings with square consisting of either four or five hits depending on the character. Each character has three skills with triangle that change depending on whether the player is tilting the control stick or holding R1 and use up the blue bar directly below your health bar that charges up slowly over time or quickly when standing still. Dashing and dodging use circle, while cross is to jump. Blocking uses the R1 button and if facing against multiple enemies, the right control stick determines whom you’ll target. L2 will activate boost when you have enough meter (located on the bottle) and R2 will use your Ultimate Art. In some chapters, you’ll sometimes fight lesser demons to break up the adventure segments. Almost every chapter ends facing against a greater demon that plays out similar to a boss battle in a typical action game. Each demon has unique attack patterns and abilities, making the fights very exciting. Towards the end of fights, cinematic cutscenes will play that will prompt quick-time effects presenting a flashy finish. Every battle has a ranking from D to S. The S ranks can be hard to get as they not only require to barely get hit but also manage your combos and time.

Like their previous games, CyberConnect2 does a fantastic job translating the art style of the anime into a 3D form. Characters look nearly 2D from some angles and the developers inject their over-the-top style in The Hinokami Chronicles, showcasing beautiful action and accurate portrayal of the awesome, brutal, and funny moments. In battle, there is environmental damage with some attacks letting the player visualize just how much of an impact these intense battles have on the field. In terms of the music, it is good and it does its job. As for the voice work, I played the game twice—first in English and again (mostly) in Japanese. I’d say that both the English dub and the original Japanese are above average when it comes to the voices. There are moments from both that captured the scenes very well, but I also felt there were a few times here and there that could have benefited from a second recording. I’m no sub or dub purist and hold no bias for or against either form. I’m lazy so I typically listen to what is available to me first, but they both impressed me overall.

Arena Fighters tend to get a lot of flak as they can be seen by the traditional fighting fans to be very casual or unbalanced (which is ironic considering some of the most popular and long-lasting fighting games have fallen under one or both of those umbrellas). CyberConnect2 attempts to close the gap and step away from the stigma by refining a lot of the mechanics. There is a surprising amount of depth hidden within The Hinokami Chronicles that take from 2D and 3D fighters such as juggle states, soft & hard knock downs, animation canceling, neutral/footsies (fighting game slang for using moves to keep opponents and you at certain distances and to land a hit to follow up with combos) and meter management to name just a few. As well as a plethora of offensive options, there are plenty of defensive options too, such as parrying, pushblocking, and combo breakers. Combo breakers use the support gauge on the side that is also used for the support move or switching characters.

The Hinokami Chronicles actually is a tag-team game as two characters are chosen for versus modes but they share the same health bar. As long as one bar out of the two is filled, characters can be swapped out. You can even swap your character out when attacking or in a knocked down state, adding yet another layer on the offensive and defensive mechanics. There are about 18 playable characters with six more planned as free DLC down the road. Two of the DLC characters, Akaza and Rui were released on November of this year. The character roster is varied as there are many characters that fall into the typical fighting role archetypes such as balanced, rushdown, zoner, and set play. Demon characters (with the exception of Nezuko) fight solo, but make up for it with extra moves. The 12 original characters all feel different even though they all share the same standard controls. However, 6 characters are just Academy versions of the existing roster and share nearly all mechanics and data with the exception of visuals, win poses, and Ultimate Art. The Academy characters are hilarious, but I feel something like that should have been saved for either DLC or a sequel and I would have preferred one more unique original character over six clones. Because of how the Ultimate Arts work for the Academy roster, it either makes them flat out better or worse than their counterparts as they share all other stats and moves.

Demon Slayer ~Kimetsu no Yaiba~ The Hinokami Chronicles
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 80%
Gameplay - 15/20
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 7.5/10
Stability - 4.5/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 63%
Violence - 2.5/10
Language - 4/10
Sexual Content - 8.5/10
Occult/Supernatural - 3.5/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10
+3: This game promotes the importance of family values

The ranked mode and online mode are, unfortunately, what many would expect. The netcode is okay, but it still runs into the problems most fighting games do. If one connection is unstable, the entire quality of the match suffers. In my few dozen online matches I’ve had a few disconnects. It’s cool that there is a counter for every player showing how many times they prematurely disconnect, but the punishment for disconnecting is effectively a slap on the wrist. The ranked mode rankings could also use some refinement as it's based more on how much you play instead of your skill level. I've also tested out the PS4 version and it has pretty noticeable input delay even offline (somewhere around 15 frames), and on top of the online netcode, can feel nasty.

I was surprised with the amount of blood depicted in Demon Slayer overall. I always knew it was a violent series, but I didn’t expect it to the point where I’d see demon limbs and decapitations in every chapter as well as blood-stained walls and floors. In the story mode, every time demons are slashed, blood sprays from them. Language consists of words such as “h*ll”, “d*mn”, “a*s”, “b*st*rd”, and “sh*tty”. The world is ripe with the supernatural as the demons are heavily inspired by yokai and demons use spells known as Blood Arts. The Demon Slayer Corps use abilities known as Breathing Techniques, which look like magic, but are more based upon martial arts and chakra/elements. There are some slightly sexual moments with the character Mitsuri Kanrojo with her uniform being unbuttoned showing off cleavage. Zenitsu can also be a bit of a pervert at times, such as when he comments on many females' “nice chests, round butts, and supple thighs.”

Demon Slayer ~Kimetsu no Yaiba~ The Hinokami Chronicles is closing the gap little by little for arena fighters to someday be taken more seriously by the rather hard-to-please fighting game community but still trips into some of the pitfalls that many anime games do. The mechanics are well-defined as it manages to be a simple game for most to jump into, but with enough depth for others who want to dig into the dish. The story mode can be seen as lackluster due to the slow beats outside of the boss battles, and if you don’t happen to enjoy that, it can be a slog as most of the content is unlocked through the game mode. As for content, there are some training modes for each non-clone character that gets you used to their playstyle and some optional battles unlocked after every completed chapter. Other than that, there are the offline and online versus mode so a lack of game modes is apparent. Casuals don't have a whole lot to consume so unless they have a like-minded friend, there is a high chance of them shelving this game once the story mode is complete. it seems like this is something that will live and die by its community.

The amount of violence that teeters on the edge of an M rated game and the amount of supernatural content will probably turn some people away, but most of that is contained in story scenes as the versus mode replaces what would be blood with sparks. It also surprisingly holds family values in high regard with the relationship between Tanjiro, Nezuko, and the various people they meet on their journey. I’m not too sure if I’d call myself a Demon Slayer fan yet, but I did enjoy what I experienced and The Hinokami Chronicles manages to be a fine entry point for someone with a competitive edge wanting to experience the popular IP for the first time.

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