Mitsurugi Kamui Hikae is the story of two friends, Misa and Suzuka, turned bitter rivals after one of them succumbs to the allure of a demon sword. Misa is a Blade Templar, a group tasked with protecting and ridding the world of demons. She is in search of the Demon Blade, a deadly weapon that slowly steals the life-force of it's wielder, and drains their blood until they are nothing more than a smoldering husk. Suzuka, Misa's former classmate, now holds the demonic sword, and hopes to wreak havoc upon the world with her newly acquired powers. As Misa, you are tasked with finding Suzuka, and destroying the Demon Blade.
You control Misa through 5 stages of combat. Each stage takes place on a circular, 3D plane, kind of like a platform. You have full control of your character, and can move in 360 degrees. Misa has a deadly arsenal of attacks at her disposal. She can utilize a jump, sword slashes, standard kicks and punches, strike with her sheath, and unleash powerful moves, known as Holy Techniques.
The H.U.D. is made of up two bars, a glowing wing, and a damage counter. The green health bar denotes your character's health, while the blue meter underneath is the Katana Gauge, which allows you to use different sword techniques, at the cost of the blue bar. Standard attacks, like punching and kicking, can replenish the Katana Gauge. To the left of these two gauges is a sphere with a wing, which I'm not sure serves a purpose, or if it's simply decoration? Lastly, damage and combos to enemies show up in the bottom right of the screen.
Every stage has about 5 waves of enemies. Each wave consists of a group of opponents, that you need to defeat. After you deal with one wave, another group respawns, until and inevitable boss encounter. Bosses are large, hulking enemies with far more power than the rest of the low level minions that you slay in order to reach them. Unlike most enemies, bosses require a bit of thought, careful timing, skillful dodging, and some quick reflexes. Some of them are downright brutal!
When an enemy is slain, they release orbs of light. These glowing spheres allow you to upgrade your arsenal. These are known as SP. I'd assume short for skill points? Using these orbs like currency, you can go into the Upgrade menu and choose from a large variety of customization. SP is abundant and plentiful, and upgrading a large majority of your techniques is easy, from the get go. You simply select the technique to upgrade it. Upgrading your attacks is key to survival, and bestows Misa with some pretty impressive abilities.
Also, as you defeat more and more enemies, red rings of light appear on the hilt of your sword. These can be used by pressing the Release button. Releasing these rings replenishes life and your Katana Gauge. This comes in handy during a pinch, and the more rings you've accumulated, the more power it'll restore.
After each stage, waves, and boss, are defeated, a small cut scene will play, and you will move on to the next stage, where waves and another boss battle await. It's all very straight forward.
The combat is visceral and controls are fluid and responsive. Misa can cut through a horde of enemies with quick, flashy arcs of her blade, darting across the screen with the speed and finesse of a ninja. As I slowly leveled up the techniques, the combat just got faster and faster! In a good way. I spent a majority of my points on the dashing technique, which allows you to rush forward at an opponent, and slash in a wide, devastating arc. Once I leveled it to around 5, I think, it allowed me to dart and slash, three time in succession. I was a force to be reckoned with, and I shot from enemy to enemy like a mad man!
The 3D models, and the overall look of the game, is pretty good. Especially the character models of Misa and Suzuka. They have a surprising amount of detail, and animate well both within cut scenes and combat. It was during cut scenes that their models shined, and you could see a lot of the texture and animation detail that went into their characters. The rest of the game has a decent amount of details, with enemies and environments that have moderate textures.
There's a lot of replayability to be had here, despite there only being 5 stages. Once you finish the main game, and defeat the final boss, you can replay, with a New Game Plus feature. This allows you to revisit any stage, with your character at their current strength level, allowing you to upgrade the attacks even more! There are also two unlockable costumes for Misa, that you can find in the Upgrade menu for 100,000 SP each.
While Mitsurugi Kamui Hikae is fun, and I really enjoyed slicing through the enemies, the game takes place on a circular stage, and the area you can move in is very limited. I found myself running in a circle most of the time. The lock on feature was a god sent, since enemies spawn all around you, but I wish there was more of an environment to explore, to allow you to strategically move across the level. As it stand, there's very little to move around in, and it's the same in every stage, and every boss fight.
Enemies, for the most part, stand around, waiting for you to initiate an attack against them. The A.I. does get a bit more aggressive later in the game, but they never really do anything to challenge the flow of combat, except force you to beat on them before they can take damage. This was a nice touch, breaking a bit of the monotony, but in the end, enemies were broken into characters that you can wail on, and characters you had to wail on before they could take damage.
Bosses, on the other hand, can be unforgiving. I found that they have a very, very large attack range, and even my dodge was never quick, or long enough, to move out of harms way. They were also way faster than any enemy, or even Misa. Blocks are useless against bosses, and I couldn't get a handle on the counter attack. Then again, I'm not too good at action games, so it was probably my lack of skill that caused the boss battles to be harder. Anyways, I felt that they were a bit over powered, with a spike in difficulty that just didn't match up with the rest of the game.
With no world to explore, side quests to manage, or puzzles, the game play can get pretty redundant. This is a no frills action game, with sparse story segments holding each individual area together with the next. While the action was great, it would have been nice to have something else to break up the long, drawn out fighting segments. And with a meager amount of enemies, many recycled with different colors, battles were simply broken into: beat them till they're red, then finish them. The only real moments where you needed to stray from the formula are the boss encounters.
Mitsurugi Kamui Hikae is a fun game, in it's own right. The action is decent, fun, and controls are pretty fluid and really responsive. It's pure gameplay. However, there is a severe lack of story segments, missions, or anything to keep combat fresh and entertaining. For those looking for something with a bit more depth, they may be disappointed with Mitsurugi Kamui Hikae's linearity. For those looking for a game that you can jump into, slash, and destroy stuff in over the top, anime fashion, this game just may be worth a look.
Review copy courtesy of Active Gaming Media, Inc.