Given the immense popularity of Demon Slayer, particularly in Japan, it was only a matter of time until it got a video game adaptation. And who better to head the project than CyberConnect2, the talented Japanese studio that crafted the largely fantastic Naruto Ninja Storm series? The studio's flair for adapting anime is clear to see in Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba - The Hinokami Chronicles, but the game as a whole is lacking in both depth and content.
The Hinokami Chronicles covers the first season of the Demon Slayer anime, ending with the Mugen Train movie. Just to recap, it tells the tale of a young man named Tanjiro, who trains to become a titular Demon Slayer after one of the monsters murders his family. The first season is pretty straightforward, as Tanjiro gets to grips with his new job. He takes on a number of different demon-slaying missions one after another — all while meeting weird and wonderful characters — which forms the backbone of the game's story mode.
Said story mode takes roughly five or six hours to run through, which certainly doesn't sound impressive, but it does hit all of the main plot points. The mode's made up of a few different elements, highlights being gorgeously animated cutscenes and dramatic boss fights. Outside of those headline acts, you'll be spending most of your time listening to dialogue and traversing linear environments.
There are definitely times when the story mode sags — usually when fights are few and far between and you're just walking from one cutscene to the next. But for what it's worth, The Hinokami Chronicles does a brilliant job of capturing the look and feel of Demon Slayer — as expected of CyberConnect2 — even during its slower moments.
But what if you're unfamiliar with Demon Slayer? Well, as with just about any anime-based title, you're going to get more out of The Hinokami Chronicles if you're at least somewhat up to speed with the original work. That said, we actually think that this is a decent gateway into the world of Demon Slayer. The story itself is well presented and quite easy to follow, while stills taken from the anime are used to fill the gaps between main narrative beats.
Now then, the gameplay. At its core, this is a fighting game very much in the mould of the aforementioned Naruto Storm franchise. However, that series was given the opportunity to evolve and expand over the course of numerous instalments. Demon Slayer, on the other hand, absolutely feels like a first attempt. Combo structure is incredibly basic, defensive options are limited, and there just really isn't much to the back-and-forth of each battle.
Things get a bit more interesting when you're playing against a human opponent — as always — but even then, you're mostly just waiting for them to make a move before blocking and unleashing the same old combo. A tightly-timed parry mechanic does add a touch of spice to proceedings — baiting your foe into attacking is always fun — but at the end of the day, combat is pretty one-note. Not necessarily dull — it looks great, at least — but undoubtedly samey.
Fortunately, the story mode does its best to keep the action engaging. Rather than face off against foes that resemble regular characters, enemies in the story have set attack patterns and unique mechanics. Demon Slayer becomes less of a fighting game and more of a straightforward action title, which helps mask some of its less developed gameplay systems.
Again, boss fights are the most entertaining and varied encounters. You'll have to dodge incoming attacks, time your own attacks so that you're not left open, and nail cinematic button presses to best the biggest baddies. These battles aren't especially difficult, but they're always a spectacle. And, if you do fancy more of a challenge, you can always try the 'hard' versions of each fight.
Working your way through story mode unlocks all kinds of stuff, like additional playable characters in versus mode, along with costumes, artwork, and other in-game rewards that can be viewed in a gallery of sorts. If you're looking to obtain everything (and get the Platinum Trophy along the way), then Demon Slayer could run you a decent 15 hours or so. Online battles against other players are always an option as well, but as is the case with most other anime-based fighters, the lack of depth and character balance means that online brawls will never amount to anything more than casual fun between fans.
Demon Slayer: The Hinokami Chronicles is carried by its fantastic presentation, which expertly captures the look and feel of the anime. Bombastic boss fights and some stunning cutscenes are enough to sell the otherwise short-lived story mode, but outside of that, this is a rather barebones package. Battles can be flashy and fun, but the combat system doesn't have the necessary depth to hook anyone who isn't a Demon Slayer super fan. If this is just the first step in a new series from CyberConnect2, then it's a solid debut that'll no doubt form the basis for a much meatier sequel.