Anime has reached new heights in 2023, with more and more content coming out and recognition spanning further than it ever has. People are finding new ways to bring this content to the ever-growing audience, though to varying degrees of success. While the market seems to be focused on live action adaptations for the past few decades, the video game industry has been churning out adaptation after adaptation. One of the newest entries in this long line is Demon Slayer -Kimetsu no Yaiba- The Hinokami Chronicles for the Nintendo Switch.
The Hinokami Chronicles (THC) follows the story of Tanjiro Kameda on his quest to find a cure for his sister after he returns to his home to find her the sole survivor of a vicious demon attack on his family. She has now become a demon herself. Somehow she manages to hold back the bloodthirsty nature other demons exhibit, giving Tanjiro hope that she can be saved. The brother-sister duo travel Japan, training to survive the demons they encounter and save other humans. Along the journey, Tanjiro meets many colorful characters all while getting closer to finding the demon who killed his family.
THC does directly tell the story from the manga and anime up to the Mugen Train arc. However, this is easily the worst way to experience the story if you have never experienced it before. This makes the game hard to recommend to any new fans interested in the story of Demon Slayer. On the other hand, people who are closely familiar with the anime or manga might find the story sections repetitive. Luckily the game makes it easy enough to skip them. If fighting is all players are here for, they can technically ignore story mode, but it’s the only way to unlock new characters for free, making it almost a requirement.
Above all else, The Hinokami Chronicles is a fighting game. While a lot of care has been put into these segments, most of the draw is the thrill of being in the shoes of the characters you love while they fight the villains you hate.
In story mode, players will trace Tanjiro’s path from his first days of training to his fateful encounter on the Mugen Train. Sandwiched in between boss fights and cutscenes are light exploration sections. During these, the player will investigate different areas in order to hunt down demons. Most of these involve walking around whatever area you’re in and talking to people. Sometimes Tanjiro will have to follow a demon’s scent to get to the next big battle. Along the way, players can collect “kimetsu points” which can be used to unlock profile cosmetics for VS mode, or memory fragments, which provide supplemental pieces of the story. Required actions are usually marked with orange double exclamation points while optional ones are marked with singular blue ones. Orange exclamation points can also trigger the next boss or mini boss.
These elements allow for a bit of a nice break in between said cutscenes and fighting segments. However, none of them are very enthralling and the gameplay is extraordinarily simple compared to the bosses. It feels as if the developers wanted an excuse to justify a story mode but knew that the other two alone wouldn’t be enough. Most of story mode feels like a trudge, especially if you already know the plot of Demon Slayer.
Unfortunately for players, story mode is necessary if you want to unlock any characters. Tanjiro, Urokodaki, Makomo and Sabito are available once getting past the prologue (which is required before you can access any other mode). Players can also purchase DLC character packs. All other characters must be unlocked by either playing through the story or meeting story-related requirements like completing reward missions, viewing memory fragments, or earning enough points. Luckily, players can unlock most of their favorite characters easily enough. This alone makes plodding through story mode worth it to earn whoever you most want to fight as.
The most important thing about THC is that it is a fighting game, so how does the fighting feel? Like most fighting games, the player can make use of combos to hurt their opponents and block or dodge attacks. None of these are overly complicated and can make even beginner gamers feel pretty powerful. While none of the characters’ controls vary, each has their own way of executing commands. This can lead to better flow and more efficient attacks depending on your playstyle. During certain sections of the story, players will have a secondary character with a meter that you can utilize to provide support or even switch between. The combat feels equipped to let players win with just enough of a challenge to bring satisfaction.
Enemy AI in the story mode of the game is quite good, with each demon feeling unique in their movements. Like the best boss fights, the more specialized demons have patterns to memorize to help players keep from getting hit. A lot of them also telegraph their strikes so that you can make use of the dodge or the block commands. Battles ramp up as the game goes along however, matching your own skill increases. Most of the fights however end in either a singular button press or a sequence of Quick Time Events (QTEs) once you get their health low enough. This can leave a bad taste in a player’s mouth since it directly removes the player from the battlefield and initiates a cutscene.
Veterans of the franchise might find what they’re looking for in VS mode, the real heart and soul of this game. VS mode allows for you to fight against another player locally or online. This is where the real fun comes in as fighting other players is much more unpredictable and challenging than simple CPU. The Hinokami Chronicles also provides a ranked fighting option if you want to truly test your mettle against other players across the world. As you gain more points, the matching system will pit you against better and better opponents. Often, these opponents have honed their craft with their particular character, but luckily VS mode also offers a practice mode that you can utilize to learn all the ins and outs of your chosen fighter.
Demon Slayer is an absolutely gorgeous anime with a unique art style, but The Hinokami Chronicles manages to live up to the hype well-enough. The game recreates scenes from the anime in a gorgeous 3D art style. This gives the characters their iconic looks without making it jarring when going from cutscene to fight section and back. The animation is fluid and graceful, which is especially noticeable when using special attacks such as a hashira using their breathing form to rain water or fire down upon the the enemy.
An often underrated part of game design is the user interface, and this game knocks it out of the park. Demon Slayer has a very unique, cohesive design across things like the manga and promotional art to evoke the Taisho Era it is set in. This includes the colors and shapes used, lines and plants in the backgrounds of character art, and even the fonts used. There are few anime properties that make as great use of these artistic elements the way Demon Slayer has, and the Hinokami Chronicles are no exception to the rule by utilizing these elements across its menus. When even the menu makes you feel like you’re in the world, great art direction has been achieved.
While it’s no particular standout, the Hinokami Chronicles’ OST is quite beautiful. It feels tonally consistent with the anime while also providing the right mood at the right time. Some of the themes that play during battle sequences are incredibly fun. Luckily they aren’t too distracting, considering when players are listening to them they are concentrating on a battle. While the soundtrack likely won’t be in many people’s rotation, the OST gets the job done whether it’s speeding things up or slowing them down.
The game uses the same actors from the anime, which means quality voice acting is available in both English and Japanese. Whether you prefer sub or dub might influence your enjoyability, but it’s undeniable that everyone involved turns in a quality performance. Zach Aguilar as Tanjiro carries an especially heavy burden on his shoulders for the story segments but pulls it off phenomenally. You always believe he wants the best for everyone around him, especially Nezuko. The most exciting part is hearing all the little quips and grunts the cast uses during fights that are unique to the game.
Since story mode is so simple and linear, there is little replay value in this game if you are playing it only to experience the Demon Slayer story. The only incentives are finishing side quests or earning more points to unlock characters and cosmetics. However, The Hinokami Chronicles fighting system allows for a lot of flexibility. Allowing local co-op can make for a fun experience when friends are over. Providing online matching and even a ranking system incentivizes players to get really familiar with characters and build their skillset. One of the biggest drawbacks is the small free roster, however. If players get used to the selection provided, there is little extra challenge available unless they want to shell out more money for a character DLC pack. If all you’re looking for is a chance to punch some 3D characters though, this game has plenty.
Demon Slayer -Kimetsu no Yaiba- The Hinokami Chronicles is a fun but flawed fighting game at its core. Thanks to a lackluster story mode, the greatest appeal to fans is its ability to make them feel as powerful as their favorite character seems. With its local and online multiplayer functionality, it has enough staying power with its VS mode to justify its existence. Still, it’s hard to recommend this to anyone who isn’t a fan of the show and also a lover of fighting games. If you’re only here for the fighting, there are better games to play. If you want to experience the plot, go watch the show. But if you fit in the middle of that Venn diagram, this game will satisfy you.
Final rating: 7/10.