|Platforms||PS4 (reviewed), PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC|
|Release Date||October 14, 2021|
Demon Slayer: Hinokami Chronicles—or simply, Fire Story—is a video game adaption of the hit anime series of the same name, developed by the reliable anime game developers CyberConnect2. The game covers the first season of the anime and includes the Mugen Train movie arc. It is, of course, an arena fighter at heart, but contains a fair amount of exploration and a couple minigames to already set itself apart from the history of “Anime’s First Video Game Adaption”.
Language: The words “sh*t” and “a*shole” appear in the dialogue.
Violence: From a third-person perspective, players engage in frenetic sword fights with various demon characters. Graphics are somewhat stylized (e.g., anime style), and battles are highlighted by impact sounds, cries of pain, and blood-splatter effects. Finishing moves generally result in quick splatters of blood bursting from opponents’ necks. One cutscene depicts a demon getting decapitated, then continuing to talk with characters; another sequence depicts a severed arm and eyeball, both used as clues.
Spiritual Themes: I’m a huge fan of the series. Tanjiro is my favorite main character of all time. He has a pure moral compass, and carries a lot of wisdom for walking a narrow road he finds himself in. Obviously, the business with demons in Christianity is very different and shouldn’t be taken lightly. But in Demon Slayer, demons were once human, and that isn’t forgotten by Tanjiro. I love this particular quote of his: “To dispel the regrets of those killed, to stop any more victims from appearing, I will relentlessly wield my blade against the demons and that’s a fact. But I will not trample on the pains of being a Demon. Nor on those who regret their actions. Because demons were humans… They were humans like me.” To go along with other themes of the strong should protect the weak, thinking of others more than yourself, healing broken hearts and shattered bonds of family, Tanjiro has a personal meltdown that I was way too familiar with. “Why is it…when you’re close to accomplishing something, right in front of you, another barrier appears.”
Tanjiro is the most Christ-like character I have seen yet, and he’s unmarred by perverse thoughts, or excess drinking, or anything else that might taint the usual protagonist.
For a detailed discussion of the source material on which this game is based, check out our review of the Demon Slayer manga.
The story mode is split into fragments of memory, exploration, and arena battles. The exploration part is where the game shines brightest. Seeing the forest of the Final Selection, the Edo period Tokyo, a shifting mansion, and some smaller areas completely fleshed out for players to run around in brought me back to when I could finally run around the entirety of Leaf Village in Naruto: The Broken Bond. The liberties taken and the attention to detail are the labors that really mean a lot in my book.
During these segments you can talk with NPCs and find collectibles, which come in the form of memory fragments and points for spending in the Reward screen. The fragments are the loose bits of the anime that tie the gameplay together, told via still shots and a narration by Tanjiro. Admittedly, a few parts of the fragments could have been made into arena fights—like Tanjiro training with Orokodaki, or his first encounter with a talking demon at the temple—but Tanjiro didn’t have a sword in those moments, so it would have taken the illusion away if suddenly he was fighting with a Nichirin instead of an axe.
The arena battles are what you expect if you’ve played other anime-themed games from CyberConnect2. Both the main characters and demon NPCs have unique attacks that are signified with their direction or area of effect via flashing red shapes. Boss fights have the signature ending sequence of on-screen button prompts to land that flashy finisher. I found the controls rather basic at first: regular attack combo, special attacks, dodge, jump, shield, ultimate attack, etc. But there’s more depth than meets the eye, as the game employs a combo limit meter; light attacks fill it slowly, while special attacks fill it more quickly. The fighting was enjoyable for a bit, but as the difficulty ramped up, I found the lack of escaping combos extremely annoying. Hinokami Chronicle’s true challenge is found in striking first and maximizing your combo, which, in retrospect, is a good strategy for any game.
This is what I learned from Demon Slayer. It wasn’t until I beat the game, reluctantly having to continue the fight in exchange for never getting the highest rank possible, that I remembered that this is standard fighting game fare in some cases. Many fighting games subject you to misery if you get hit that first time. That misery was never more evident than when I bravely ventured into online play. I met a fellow gamer with exquisite prowess already in the game, and he figured out how to combo to the maximum limit.
It felt rewarding when I managed to win a round against him. Of course it took all I had, while he stored up his ultimate attack until the final round and wasted me. There’s something to be said about how an amateur and a professional making it to a tie-breaking round shows that the game just might be well-rounded.
The Rewards are music tracks, unlockable characters, additional costumes, and direct quotes from all the characters. They are nice incentives. They are earned by completing criteria in versus mode or story mode, or purchase them with the points found.
Some will see the chapters as inconsistent, and with fewer fights or gimmicks compared to other anime game adaptations. But given the source material, I say that the game is great. I haven’t even touched on the graphics, which are so crisp and faithful to shots from the manga and anime that I swear when it’s not moving I turned on Funimation somehow. I enjoyed the arc where they recuperate and the minigames which replaced fighting. While I wish the developers could have found a way to adapt a few more fight scenes from the show, Hinokami Chronicles is nonetheless a worthy adaptation and leagues above similar fare like the One Punch Man game.
The Bottom Line
Great game for Demon Slayer fans, decent game for arena fighters fans.