Found in the sweaty halls of what is known as the Summer Comiket, Zenith Blue presents a short, engaging 3D action game to lift the spirits of players while waiting for the next big thing.
Mitsurugi Kamui Hikae (巫剣神威控) (PC)
Published and Developed by Zenith Blue
CPU: Core2 2GHz or above
Memory: 2GB or above
Video: Geforce 9600GT or above (or equivalent)
Input: Keyboard, gamepad
Trial version: http://zenithblue.sakura.ne.jp/download/mitsurugi_trial.zip
The premise of Mitsurugi Kamui Hikae is simple enough–your friend has succumbed to the seduction of the Demon Sword and it’s your job to stop her. The player adopts the role of Misa, who basically looks like Sasaki-san from Azumanga Daioh, whose task it is to fight the demon hordes summoned by her blonde-haired friend Suzuka, reclaim the sword, and put an end to this threat. As an action game, this is enough to provide context to the whole game, and even if you don’t understand Japanese the plot’s pretty clear. In all, there are 5 levels in the game, each comprised of 5 or 6 waves of enemies. The last wave, predictably, pits Misa against a boss; level 5 is the exception in that it’s all Suzuka.
The game features a store where players can purchase new skills and improve old ones by spending the energy that Misa has collected. As Misa attacks, a combo gage is accrues—unlike other games it only resets when taking damage—and when enemies are defeated or she performs her special sword sheathe red drops whose size is proportional to the length of the combo chain float race towards her and increase her energy stores. While this feature is not innovative by any means, the moves it unlocks for purchase are interesting albeit limited. In all, there are 4 sets for each mode of normal attack (a punch/kick sequence, a sword sequence, a jumping sequence for both, and a “special” sequence that creates a new combo when pressing the appropriate button), and 1 special attack; all can be chained or otherwise improved through upgrading.
Clearing different difficulty levels unlocks costumes and each play through allows players to carry over skills bought. This last point is especially useful, as one play through is not enough to unlock all skills–something essential when attempting hard mode. In fact, the player can save anywhere, anytime, although when loading from a save, the player can either start from the last wave or from the beginning of the entire game. If starting over, any difficulty level can be chosen. This is useful if the current level is too challenging or the player wants to grind a bit more to purchase more things from the store.
Despite these features, there are a few issues with gameplay that can frustrate the player. In particular, the inability to freely control the camera and sensitivity with input sequence can drive the casual player in this genre (like me) up a wall.
In terms of the camera, while there is limited ability to control its movement, in this is mostly limited to zooming and does not allow for free movement on the screen. The closest I’ve been able to approximate is a quick press down on the right analogue stick (RS/R3) to swivel the camera in the direction Misa is facing, not the best of options when in the middle of dodging a legion’s attacks or positioning for a counterattack to one of the many special attacks bosses possess.
Worse, the automatic zooming after some of Misa’s attacks prevents the activation or chaining of other moves. Basically what is needed is the ability to lock on to an enemy and keep the camera focused in that direction, as navigating the hordes isn’t much of a problem but this game answers the philosophical question “if a boss is not rendered on screen, does it make a noise” in a medieval fashion.
Compared to this, command input represents a trifle. I mention it, however, because I’ve activated the same attack sequence with all its vocal glory more times than I can count. Basically, while the instructions indicate that a combination of the analogue stick with the appropriate attack button (a kick or sword slice) creates a new attack sequence (once unlocked), in practice if the character is moving when the attack button is pressed, the move launches. This can be annoying if you want to put your boot in the enemy’s head a few times before turning him into sashimi but end up in the middle of the long sequence of drop kicking him instead. Of the two, the camera issue is more pressing, as the inability to see the enemies or initiate an attack control-biting in its preventability.
All in all, Mitsurugi Kamui Hikae is a nice game to play to kill time. For a game made by a circle, it’s pretty solid but will probably collect dust when the bigger industry players churn out their next titles.