In a few weeks, Demon Slayer's second anime season will start here in Europe and in order to further expand the media franchise internationally, CyberConnect2 was asked to make a full-fledged video game from the anime material of the renowned production studio Ufotable. In recent years the developers of the later Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm games have specialised in such licensed projects, but they've hardly upgraded their specific formula in a long time.
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba - The Hinokami Chronicles is a direct adaptation of the Japanese anime and manga series. At the heart of the story is the young man Tanjiro, whose family was slaughtered by a merciless demon. Only his younger sister Nezuko survived the attack, but she was turned into a demon by the culprit. In search of a cure, Tanjiro enlisted to be trained as a demon slayer, so that he can hold the wrongdoer accountable while protecting his sister.
The Hinokami Chronicles summarises the first eight (of a total of 23) manga written by the author Koyoharu Gotouge. In this game, we accompany Tanjiro in his training, get to know his new allies and experience the first adventures of this maturing hero. The game ends with the Mugen Train story arc, which got its own movie last year. Since each story chapter is around one hour long, the story is quite fragmented and also shortened to some extent. The subtleties of the plot, including the thoughts and impressions of different key figures involved, will become available after the end of each act. While that might not be to the liking of more invested fans it brings the advantage of bundling thematic complexes together.
The Hinokami Chronicles is a pared-down 3D beat'em up that introduces us to many of the characters Tanjiro meets up to this point in the story. A total of 18 different fighters are available to play, but many of them are mere variations of the same person. For example, CyberConnect2 has implemented some characters from the mini-sketches "Kimetsu Academy" (in which the cast is enjoying everyday school life situations). You can unlock those after you finished the game but apart from a new finisher animation and a new skin, they are basically the same person. In the next few weeks and months a total of six additional characters will join the fight, all of which are based on dangerous demons that we encounter in the course of the game.
When you look at Demon Slayer: The Hinokami Chronicles as a pure fighting game, it might be a bit too shallow for many fans of the genre. During the battles you better not get involved in the opponent's attack series, because it is difficult to get out of it. Blocking is a crucial part of the skirmishes, since the evasive step requires precise timing and the right positioning, which is often more difficult than a simple counterattack due to the changing camera perspective. Additionally, some characters are way too strong, so that you often find yourself playing around opponents' strengths rather than setting the pace on your own. Overall, I'd say this game is more aimed towards new players, who will most likely have fun with it.
Particularly noticeable is the The Hinokami Chronicles' strong presentation, which in many places comes close to the template's anime style. CyberConnect2 captures the mystical breathing techniques of the Demon Slayers very graphically, which produces some incredible snapshots. The concise look of the original is properly captured in many scenes, such as the visually engaging quick-time events that conclude boss fights - these scenes are in a way the trademark of CyberConnect2. Narrative recaps and revelations are mostly taken from or at least accompanied by images of the official anime. For licensing reasons, this involves a lot of incisions for the players - so maybe switch off the notifications while playing.
In addition to the fights and the passive story scenario, Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba - The Hinokami Chronicles also allows you to move through rather cramped 3D areas that are modelled after the scenes that Tanjiro and his friends explore during their adventures. From the fans' point of view, it is certainly exciting to explore a villa occupied by demons or the mountain Natagumo at your own pace, but they are too narrowed to be entertaining. These areas are certainly not the visual highlight and apart from collecting stuff all you do is run into random opponents, which can hardly be seen as an asset to the game.
Those were a lot of negative points just now, but I can assure you, that the story has quite a few strong moments, even in this fragmented form. Transporting the narrative is of course the primary task of this game and with a brisk combat system and explorable 3D sections CyberConnect2 added a few nice touches to the source material. In terms of gameplay, this title may not be a revelation and the fans in particular might end up nagging about the story cuts, but this game will certainly help to draw in new people's attention to the series. However, with a total playtime of around ten hours, you could also just watch the anime, if you ask me.