Review – Kemono Heroes

NIS America is a company that almost always announces its titles way before launch. I don’t remember the last time they decided to stealth release a game for a console, especially a console exclusive like Kemono Heroes. Developed by the same people behind the cult hit A Hole New World, Mad Gear Games, this little title is a love letter not only to Japanese mythology, but to 16-bit gaming in general. What better system to release this title for than the freaking Switch? Now all we need to do is find out if this is an exclusive worth bragging about.

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This enemy is trying to kill you with the harshest weapon of them all: rude words.

Kemono Heroes looks, sounds, plays, and feels like a Super Nintendo game. I honestly think that the only reason this hasn’t been developed for the SNES is the fact that Mad Gear games doesn’t have an old devkit for that system lying around on their office. Everything, from its graphics, sound design, and even the way the NIS America logo is presented whenever you boot up the game, pays homage to the easier and happier days back in the early 90’s. That doesn’t automatically mean that being a retro throwback equals being a fantastic game in its own right, though.

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Hey mate, why so sad?

At its core, Kemono Heroes is a traditional 2D platformer starring mythical animals in a feudal Japanese setting. You can either play as a fox, a squirrel, a cat, or a monkey that is obviously inspired by Journey to the West‘s Son Wukong. Then you’re off on a series of levels, defeating a crap ton of yokai, collecting currency, upgrading your strength and defenses, killing a few bosses, and earning a few new abilities along the way. It’s not the most impressive of gameplay loops, but countless games ever since 1990 have proven that it works. To make things a bit more interesting, Kemono Heroes allows for local co-op.

This isn’t exactly a long game, but considering the fact there are four characters to choose from, each one with a different moveset, it has a lot of replayability.  There’s also a pseudo New Game Plus feature that throws you back to the beginning of the game with a higher amount of enemies for you to defeat from then on. This is more than enough to convince you to play Kemono Heroes more than once. I really enjoyed this progression system, even though it felt like it was trying to mask the small overall amount of levels featured in the game. If anything, the elaborate (although far from jaw-dropping) visuals and pleasant soundtrack might help out with that as well.

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The overall platforming becomes a lot more enjoyable when you get a grappling hook. Bionic Commando time!

Kemono Heroes doesn’t innovate, stand out, or provide a memorable experience, but at the same time, it had no single serious flaw I could think of. Its visuals are decent, its soundtrack is great, its controls are very responsive, and I really enjoyed its difficulty curve and progression system. It’s a very safe game that does everything it aimed to do pretty well. When I stop to think about it, I see no reason why I shouldn’t recommend this title to Switch owners. A cute, side-scrolling indie platformer with local co-op is basically what the console was made for.

 

Graphics: 7.5

It’s a very competent take on what you would expect from a 16-bit title, with colorful sprites, lots of layers, neat animations, and a bit of parallax scrolling. Nothing in here will amaze you, but it gets the job done with high honors.

Gameplay: 8.5

At first, the game features a very responsive, but somewhat excessively standard control scheme. Once you start getting more abilities, buying upgrades, and once the difficulty level cranks up, things become a lot more interesting.

Sound: 8.5

The soundtrack tries to emulate the vibe and feel of older SNES titles and it does a very good job for the most part.

Fun Factor: 7.5

Kemono Heroes is not innovative or groundbreaking in any given way, but it does everything it offers very well. It has lots of playable characters, a fair difficulty curve, and a nice progression system.

Final Verdict: 8.0

Kemono Heroes is available now on Switch.

Reviewed on Switch.

A copy of Kemono Heroes was provided by the publisher.

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