One word that I often use to describe what type of video games I like is “charming”. The only problem with that is it’s often difficult to perfectly pin down just what charming actually means in the realm of video games. Persona 5 Royal and Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town are both charming, but in arguably very different ways. The reason why I’m bringing this up is because from the playful design and animation of its characters to the heartwarming and wholesome story, Takeshi and Hiroshi is a game that I can only properly describe as charming from every angle. It  was first released for Apple Arcade in late 2019, but was released on the Switch eShop after the August 18th, Indie World presentation.

Takeshi and Hiroshi is a short story about two brothers named, surprise, Takeshi and Hiroshi. Takeshi, the older brother, is fourteen years old, and even as a middle schooler is already quite adept at making video games. The younger brother, Hiroshi, has a sense of hero worship towards his older brother, while also being the biggest fan of the games his big bro develops.

The wide eyed little brother that is in awe of his brother’s creation

Takeshi’s current project is a fantasy based action RPG called Mighty Warrior, and Hiroshi is very eager to play through it. The kicker is that Takeshi hasn’t actually finished programming it yet, and comes up with the solution of letting Hiroshi play it on the tablet, while Takeshi controls the monsters through his laptop. So you choose what monsters you want to send out against Hiroshi and then watch the battle unfold. The strategy comes from the fact that Hiroshi ain’t no scrub and actually appreciates a genuine challenge in his games. The more the hero gets hurt, the higher Hiroshi’s stress level rises, and at the end of each match Hiroshi’s stress gets added to his overall pleasure. The goal for each round is to reach a certain pleasure level within five matches. And if you make the fights too easy, his overall pleasure will actually deplete.

This starts out pretty simple when you’ve only got a few monsters to work with and the pleasure threshold is low, but as that target number rises and you unlock new monsters and new mechanics like a single use dodge or a wizard sidekick that can heal you in the middle of battle, it does become a very engaging challenge for the players to try and have as much damage be done to the hero as possible, but still be able to win the fight in order to get maximum pleasure.

My only real complaint with Takeshi and Hiroshi is its sense of RPG style randomness in these fights. There were several instances where I had the perfect layout of monsters unleashed in an order where I would get ideal stress levels, but once the orc I’d laid out to hit me on its third turn suddenly misses, I wind up with only eight pleasure at the end of the match instead of closer to the one hundred and eight I know I could’ve gotten. So it’s better to just let yourself die in the next combat section so you can go back to the checkpoint and try again from there. Takeshi and Hiroshi is a game where you can set-up the exact same layout several times and have it result in entirely different outcomes. While this may be okay for an actual RPG, I was getting more of a puzzle vibe from this game. It’s unfortunate when you’re proud of the strategy you’ve put together from your available resources and then the game mucks it up in a way outside of your control.

Put too many monsters and you won’t survive. Too few and there’s no challenge.

One of the driving forces behind Takeshi to make this game for his brother is that Hiroshi suffers from some sort of asthma related health concerns, and spends much of the game in the hospital. So Mighty Warrior isn’t just a video game, but a driving force for Hiroshi to be as strong as the hero in his brother’s game and recover as soon as he can. When Takeshi isn’t playing Mighty Warrior with his brother, we see a bit of his life at school with his friends, Erika and Yosuke, as well as get some insights into Takeshi’s creative process for what new mechanics are about to be added into the next chapter.

The visual style is something that absolutely makes this game. The real world has this wonderfully charming (there’s that word again) stop motion animation style reminiscent of Rankin/Bass Christmas specials, Gumby, or even Robot Chicken. The cute animation coupled with its over the top cartoony sound effects makes it a visual and audible treat for players. I found myself smiling from ear to ear whenever I got to go through these story sections.

It’s a story about family and also friendship. Every character has their part to play.

Then once you’re in the game, the style of Mighty Warrior becomes more of a 2D animation affair that may remind you of a Newgrounds Flash game you’d play on your browser. Or perhaps something you’d download and play for free on your phone, which definitely seems to be what they were going for. I didn’t personally enjoy this style quite as much, but I am glad they had the Mighty Warrior segments have a noticeably different aesthetic from the real life story. It does a great job of reminding me that I’m playing a game about characters playing a game. Also, if you let yourself buy into the reality that Mighty Warrior was made by Takeshi, the kid is pretty darn talented at only fourteen years old.

Takeshi and Hiroshi is a short game. You can probably beat it in an hour or two, and I’d say the only replayability is in trying to beat your high score for each of the game’s chapters. It’s not a long experience, but it’s a good one, and one that I recommend having. The visuals are endearing, the story is simplistic but wholesome, and the main gameplay mechanic does get a bit challenging in just the right way. Takeshi and Hiroshi is a game filled with a sense of childlike wonder, and while it may only give you that sensation for a limited amount of time, I’m happy to have had those feelings while I did.

John reviewed Takeshi and Hiroshi on the Nintendo Switch with a personally purchased copy. The game is also available on Apple Arcade.

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