While watching a Nintendo Direct, I was eagerly anticipating releases of new and exciting games. When I saw the trailer for Kemono Heroes, and once I saw the publisher, I knew this was the next game I’d want to review. The trailer showed threw me off at first because I assumed that this was a fighting game, which I’m not exactly great at. After looking up gameplay videos, it was relieved to find that this was actually an action side scroller. Not only that, but it reminded me of the days where I’d sit in front of the TV playing my SNES. I jumped at the chance to review it, so let’s see what’s it got to offer.
Kemono Heroes doesn’t follow the typical narrative. There’s no dialogue, or written lore. Instead, it unfurls through visuals. As such, the story is up to interpretation. For me, I understood it as this. The beginning sees your character rushing past a group of animal civilians. You’re thrust into combat soon after. As you fight through, you’ll learn there’s an evil presence in the background. I mean that literally. In the second stage, there’s a gigantic eye pummeling the world with it’s gaze. Taking inspiration from Medusa, if you’re harmed by its energy blast, it’ll leave you petrified. The eye of Sauron is a stone cold killer.
My initial thought as I booted up Kemono Heroes was that it’s a love letter to the old days. Those pixel art characters and the way levels are laid out. The way enemies explode into dust once defeated. None of the game’s sprite work looked rough at all. The jagged edges are as smooth as they’ll ever be. It’s quite obvious that a lot of polish was used to bring it this game to a modern aesthetic. All the animations were smooth, and I never had a stutter. It’s a good thing too. You quickly come to realize that this game is meant to speed run. Hell, there’s an achievement for beating it in 90 minutes.
As already mentioned, Kemono Heroes is meant to be a love letter. A reminder to the older generation of their childhood. And also as a time machine to take the younger generation back. It’s fast paced and never shys away from flooding the screen with enemies. I’ll be honest, I really loved this. Being able to find the cracks in the foundation to slither through without harm. Or being able to use my grappling hook in order to skip large chunks of the level. Kemono Heroes might not have a grand adventure behind it, but I found it exhilarating all the same.
As most games of this genre, each enemy will drop coins. These’ll range from 20, 50, or even 100. Collect as much as you can because you’ll be able to purchase items or upgrades at the shop. By then end of certain levels, you’ll meet the shopkeeper. He’ll have sword power-ups, secondary weapon power-ups, life bar power-ups, and others. Speaking of an alternative weapon, you have a Kunai. Fitting when you consider the theme being focused on Ninjas.
My only gripe is that for all that’s here, the game is super short. On average, you’ll probably beat it between 3 – 4 hours. This is after having to repeat all levels again because of something that occurs in the story. I suppose the mention of the speed run achievement was a clear sign of this. Mad Gear Games do try to mitigate the length by offering 4 different characters. While mostly alike, they do have some semblance of uniqueness. For example, the cat can climb walls, while the squirrel can glide. However, that’s really all there is to it. I found myself getting a bit bored with the repetitiveness on display. There just wasn’t much here. Furthermore, the only reason one might replay it is because they want to beat a personal goal, or to kill time. Actually, that’s precisely what this game is good for. Short bursts and for killing time.
The music was very much the highlight of Kemono Heroes. It fit perfectly with the theme. The tracks you’ll hear are mostly a few second loops, which I was afraid was going to get annoying, but to my surprise, It never did. The music was catchy and even now, I can vividly hear it playing in my head. On your 2nd go around of your 1st play through, there’ll be variations of the theme. I never felt it got annoying in my 10+ hours. I do want to highlight the music that plays while you are in the shop. The sounds of the kazoo begins playing, for whatever reason, it just made me smile. Just like the over-world themes, it was incredibly catchy.
In summary, Kemono Heroes does offer a fun time. While not long, there’s certainly enough here to kill a few hours. If you’re a fan of speed running, perhaps this is a game you’d really like. Every level is built for fast progression. There are also other achievements just waiting for you to get through. There are about 40+ achievements, so there’s quite a few goals to aim for.
The musical loop is great, and the shop theme especially made me bubbly inside. The controls take a bit of getting used to, specifically the L shoulder button. Was always awkward to press, but of course, that’s subjective. For what it’s worth, I’m a 31 year old man and played this on my Lite.
With an awesome art theme, and it being a love letter to the classics, this is definitely a great game. I should also mention that like those 90’s side scrollers, if a chest goes off screen behind you, it’ll lock. There’s no way to get it. Sadly, it’s very short length and an absent narrative, I can’t honestly recommend this at full price. I would say snap it up if you ever find it for a tenner though!
* Game Code was Provided by NIS America for the purposes of this review.