After becoming one of the best-selling manga of all time, one of the anime phenomena of recent years, and the highest-grossing film in Japanese history, Kimetsu no Yaiba enters the world of video games thanks to CyberConnect2 with Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – The Hinokami Chronicles for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X | S and PC. The studio is of course not unknown to you, since we owe it the cult Asura’s Wrath, Dragon Ball Z Kakarot, and the slew of games Naruto: Ultimate Ninja.
Genuine experts in porting anime to video game format, CyberConnect2 seems to be the one-stop solution for animation studios wishing to create a video game derivative from a strong anime / manga license. A choice of reason on paper, but which unfortunately comes with the lot of no surprises inherent in serving an already well-known recipe in different dishes. Demon Slayer is already guaranteed to be wildly successful, its name enough to sell entire pallets of games. But is it a good video game? There is the question.
(Critique de Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – The Hinokami Chronicles sur PS4 made from a version provided by the publisher)
Damn that is beautiful. What is barely obvious about the game launched is its incredible beauty. CyberConnect2’s expertise in graphics is absolutely indisputable. If the Naruto Ultimate Ninja game saga had already shattered the retinas of ninja fans, and DBZ Kakarot had driven the point of visual beauty, Demon Slayer raises the bar even higher.
The animations are beautiful to cry, of an exemplary fluidity, the effects of water and fire are simply incredible, and the 3D models are more real than life. More than ever, we have the impression of being in front of an anime playable in real time. CyberConnect2 proves, if some still doubted it, that its productions are capable of sublimating any material to turn it into a sublime graphic diamond.
Anyone who has ever laid eyes on the manga or anime created by Koyoharu Gotouge, can only be angels seeing Tanjiro (the hero) come alive, and run sword in hand towards his enemies. The degree of detail, whether it is the facial animations of the characters, the movements of their outfits, or even the placement of cameras during special attacks (absolutely sublime) is such that we can only lay down the weapons at the feet of the developers to salute their titanic work.
Add to that an irreproachable sound environment (dubbing and soundtrack of the anime), and a story mode that offers the possibility of reliving the most emblematic moments of the series, and we find ourselves facing a very great adaptation of Demon Slayer in video game. A derivative product perfectly calibrated to thrill fans and perhaps even to put the foot in the stirrup of the saga to the novices of the license.
After the first moments that put tons of visual glitter in our lives, when the critical spirit takes precedence over the fan’s mind, the title is much less exciting than at first glance. The story mode turns out to be more of a “Boss Rush” mode than anything else. Particular care has been taken in the confrontations against the enemies, each of these fights offering game mechanics specific to each enemy, thus bringing a hint of freshness well felt.
However, apart from these phases of battles, the title imposes on the player phases of exploration as boring as possible, unnecessarily time-consuming, taking place in “open” levels with a level-design so flat that one would be tempted to qualify it as d. ‘non-existent. This results in the unpleasant feeling of having stalled these phases in a hurry between two fights to artificially extend the lifespan. Outside of the story, only two modes are offered: battle mode (its name is clear enough, we don’t draw you a picture) and a training mode. And after ? Well nothing.
In addition, since the game is limited to the adaptation of the first season of the anime, the content of the story mode is very limited. Just like the starving roster of the game, which offers at its launch only 18 characters, not all very interesting, and who are only the “good guys” of the story (with a few repetitions which we would have done well). Demons will a priori be included in future DLC.
But where the game really sins is in its gameplay. Its combat system is so limited that‘we can’t think of Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – The Hinokami Chronicles as a fighting game. The game mechanics are basically the same as in the Naruto Ultimate Ninja game series. Very accessible gameplay, with the scent of déjà vu, perhaps too accessible even, since this ease of access comes at the expense of any depth of play whatsoever.
The drama of Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – The Hinokami Chronicles is ultimately to be the pure product of a studio which has a particular recipe, and which masters it wonderfully, but which is content to apply it. without making any real effort, or without questioning yourself. This does not mean that it is a bad game, far from it, but that we are faced with a product already seen.
This time it’s about Demon Slayer, but it could have been One Piece, Seven Deadly Sins, or any other shonen, Cyberconnect2 arguably would have provided the same product, with some minor variations. Whether this is a request from the sponsors, or a will of the studio, we will not know. Still, the impression of always playing the same title becomes boring, even annoying.
We start dreaming by imagining what the Arc System Works (Guilty Gear Strive) studio could have provided with a license like Demon Slayer. ArcSys (for the intimate ones) had already done wonders by adapting the flagship franchise of Cygames Granblue Fantasy with Granblue Fantasy: Versus, and by making the excellent Dragon Ball FighterZ. Top animation, simple but deep gameplay, fun at all times, ArcSys would have definitely been the best choice… 2D fighting games sell less than CyberConnect2’s “closed arenas in 3D” formula, but it’s a safe bet that we would have obtained a much deeper title, and which might even have earned its stripes on the eSport scene.
But we are not there yet, and with ifs, we would bottle Paris. The harsh reality is that this Demon Slayer is a derivative calibrated for success. (and he has already crossed the million sales milestone at the time of this writing), but without a true soul. It is a fast-food game, quickly consumed, it gives some satisfaction, but a few hours later, the hunger for something more substantial is felt.
Ugly exploration, eternal same gameplay made in CyberConnect2, but exceptional graphic packaging, Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – The Hinokami Chronicles will unfortunately only satisfy fans of the series. It is likely that the studio’s goal was only to deliver a nice spinoff product, and in this case, the target is hit. However, CyberConnect2 seems to be locking itself into its same formulas, endlessly reused. We would have liked a minimum of risk-taking, but this hope is quickly disappointed.
Demon Slayer is not a bad game in itself, it is the typical symptom of a studio which is resting on its laurels, or which is no longer asked to do something other than what it already masters. It is therefore with a certain sadness that we browse a game pleasing to the eye and easy to learn, but for which we can not help but think that it is a lazy product, just cut to sell by full pallets to fans.