Like the old adage goes, If it’s not a pesky boy coming between two school friends then its one of them being possessed by a Demon blade.
Mitsirugi Kamui Hikae is an arena based hack and slash game brought to the Xbox One by indie developers Zenith Blue. The gameplay will be familiar to many who have played the likes of Devil May Cry and Bayonetta. However, don’t get your hopes up for the same production values and breathtaking locations in this offering. This, after all, is an indie game developed by a small team on a low budget. Graphically the game is lacklustre, it looks like a last gen title, the enemies are bland and forgettable and the arena backdrops are generic. It’s not all doom and gloom though as they got the combat spot on. The developers clearly took a design choice to sacrifice story and graphics and just build a solid hack and slash game based on good combat.
The heroine in this game is Misa, a schoolgirl who is on a quest to find and save her friend Suzuka, who has been possessed by an evil demon blade, and that’s about as much as we are told. The game is rather light on story and its told through ropey cutscenes in Japanese with English subtitles underneath. Ultimately the shortcuts on the storytelling don’t detract from the game.
The game takes place in a series of circular arenas, the location changes as you progress through the story, but the formula remains the same. Kill everything, and kill it with style. Working your way through the waves of enemies that spawn in you eventually come up against an end of level boss. The bosses provide a welcome change from the quite forgettable henchmen, they provide the only real difficulty spikes in the game and force you to adapt your tactics to defeat them. Killing enemies provides you with points you can use to upgrade your abilities. Some of the attacks you unlock are really fun and it keeps the game feeling fresh as you add new moves to your arsenal. The combat system is undoubtedly the star of the game. Its nothing revolutionary but its really fun and there is a level of depth to it. You have two main offensive moves at your disposal. The light attack doesn’t cause as much damage but it fills your katana power meter. The Katana attacks inflict much more damage but each strike will deplete your meter, when it’s empty then you can’t use it. The two attacks force the player to strategise their offensive tactics and it stops Mitsirugi becoming a button masher. The game also has a bleed mechanic, after taking heavy damage an enemy will begin to bleed, when in this state they will take more damage from you making them easier to kill. Mitsirugi gives the player all the tools they need to turn this arena fighter into a gruesome blood filled ballet as you dance around the screen chaining together massive combos.
The game is limited in its scope and the lack of variety in enemies, arena types and game modes do detract from the overall experience. The game would have really benefited from an endless mode where you fought wave after wave of enemies whilst trying to beat your friends combo totals.
It’s clear that the development team understand the genre and know the important qualities to get right. Its luminaries such as Bayonetta and Devil May Cry are all predicated on a solid and enjoyable combat system. Whilst the combat in Mitsirugi isn’t as deep as other games in the genre, what is there is good fun. The shortcomings the game does have in the graphics and storytelling department are a shame but its a valiant effort by Zenith Blue.
Mitsirugi Kamui Hikae was reviewed with a download code of the Xbox One edition, provided by Microsoft Xbox