Review: Kamiko keeps you moving

When you get a new system, there’s a period in which impulse buys feel more acceptable. Spending $5 or $10 on a small, new release doesn’t feel like such a big deal when you have a gap between major games. Kamiko is the epitome of such a game. It’s immediately available on the Japanese eShop, has an English language option and comes in at ¥500. Fortunately for all of us, it’s also a delightful adventure.

Bad news for the world. The supernatural gates that keep the transient world and realm of the dead have been slammed shut by demons. If the seals remain in place, demons will flood and destroy the world. Fortunately, three shrine maidens named Yamato, Uzume and Hinome possess the strength and ability to wield divine weapons. They must be the Kamikos who destroy demons and unseal gates.

Kamiko follows this pattern where you know what every level will entail, but the actual methods of achieving this goal varies in delightfully entertaining ways.

What follows is a rather straightforward action game. Players pick one of the heroines and go through various worlds. Each one has four shrines that must be reactivated. This means cutting through enemies for SP, putting that toward keys and character upgrades, going through some minor puzzles to reach the locked gates and finally unlocking the portal to a boss. There are four levels, which you need to go through three times with each of the heroines for 100% completion. Kamiko follows this pattern where you know what every level will entail, but the actual methods of achieving this goal varies in delightfully entertaining ways.

Chief among them is the variety that comes from having three heroines. Yamato is a straightforward warrior who wields the Blade of Kusanagi. Uzume is an archer armed with the Magatama of Yasakani. Hinome has the Mirror of Yata, which acts a bit like a boomerang in tangent with a short-range dagger. Each one plays differently. Yamato is a short-range only fighter that makes Kamiko a fast-paced hack-and-slash. Uzume makes the game feel more like shooter, since you need space to pull of her attacks. Hinome is the odd ball, since all of her combos begin with a ranged attack, then rely on swift dagger strokes that have an even shorter range than Yamato’s sword.

This means that Kamiko’s difficulty tends to vary depending on which heroine you’re using at the time. Yamato is best for the general levels, as she’s great for cutting through normal enemies, but she’s not the best for certain bosses. Uzume is fantastic for fighting bosses, since you can quickly and efficiently exploit their weaknesses, but it’s easy for her to be overwhelmed by mobs of mooks. Hinome is just… weird. Her ranged attack doesn’t travel far enough to make boss fights faster, but her dagger lets standard foes get a little too close for comfort. It’s like you really need to have beaten the game with Yamato and Uzume to know how to use Hinome effectively.

Kamiko’s level layouts are also quite pleasant. In addition to being absolutely beautiful to look at, they each possess intricate mechanics. The first level involves avoiding spike traps, finding hidden paths in forests, hitting switches, delivering keys to locks and placing orbs in pedestals. In the second, the orbs and keys return and are joined by a series of teleporters. It’s giving you new, minor challenges to overcome in each area. None are ever too difficult to work out or complete, instead offering a minor task to add a little diversity so you aren’t constantly killing regenerating enemies.

What I like most is Kamiko’s brevity; this is a game that doesn’t overstay its welcome.

What I like most is Kamiko’s brevity; this is a game that doesn’t overstay its welcome. If you are good at it, you could be done in three hours. If you’re not, then it will probably be around four hours. It’s possible to save at any of the shrines you unlock in a level. Stopping points abound, allowing a respite if you require it. I felt like this was a game where you could go ahead and do an entire run with one character if you wanted, put it on pause, then spread the experience out over three days. I mean, that’s what I did.

Kamiko is a refreshing launch game. It isn’t the longest hack-and-slash out there, but I feel like it would take away from its charm if such padding was stuffed into it. The three heroines and their weapons each offer a different take on gameplay, making the thought of replaying the four levels an exciting prospect so you can see how different tactics would work. The best word for it is satisfying, especially when you’re waiting for something small to fill the gap between games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.

Score: 8/10
Publisher: Flyhigh Works
Release Date: April 13, 2017
Developer: Skipmore
Platform(s): Switch
Questions? Check out our review guide.
This review is based on an imported English-language product. Content may differ in a North American release.

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