Skipmore / Flyhigh Works
Well, here’s a nice wee surprise. After last night’s Nintendo Direct ended I decided to check out the Japanese eShop out of curiosity, and there I found Kamiko.
It’s a little Japanese indie game made by a chap called ‘Y. Kimura’, but who prefers to go by Skipmore. He enjoyed a bit of cult success with the Fairune RPGs on the 3DS eShop, and now he’s back on the Switch.
Whereas Fairune was a fairly slow-paced take on the original Legend Of Zelda though, Kamiko is… um, a fairly fast-paced take on it.
Demons have sealed the gates between the transient world and the realm of the dead. If they stay like this, the demons will be able to take over the transient world and destroy humankind. Sort of puts Brexit into perspective.
You play as one of three shrine maidens, who’ve each been handed a mystical weapon and tasked with removing the seals from the shrines to open the gates again.
You do this by running around the game’s four levels and trying to find the four shrines located in each of them.
Activate all four of the shrines and you’ll conjure up a portal which takes you to that level’s boss. Fuck it up all violent-style and you’ll clear the stage.
While it’s clearly inspired by the old top-down Zelda games, Kamiko does enough to ensure it has its own unique feel.
For starters, it’s bloody fast. This is a game where sprinting is assigned to no less than five buttons (don’t worry, they all do the same thing), leaving you in no uncertain terms that you’re expected to do it a lot.
It’s also nice and straightforward. Each level may have a different look but they each have the same basic idea – trigger the four shrines and find the exit – and they all make you jump through similar hoops to manage this.
These hoops come in the form of the chests dotted around each level. In these are one of four things: a health power-up, an SP power-up (more on that in a second), a key or an orb.
These keys and orbs must be carried to their respective receptacles elsewhere in the level, but you can’t attack any of the respawning enemies or take any damage while you’re carrying them otherwise you’ll drop them and they’ll teleport back to the chest. Surprisingly, this actually isn’t as frustrating as it sounds.
Gameplay sample WHAT I CAPTURED AND THAT:
There’s a slight twist to keep things interesting: you can only interact with chests and shrines if you have enough SP to do it, and you can only gain SP by killing enemies.
Killing a single baddie gets you a mere 1 SP, and opening a shrine costs you 100. With four on each stage and a bunch of chests too, that means you’re talking at least 600 SP to beat each level.
“Get fucked, Chris,” I hear you grimace, “if you think I’m going to waste my time killing 600 enemies in a level you can go and fucking chase yourself.”
Calm down, fictional angry reader. That’s where combos come in. Every time you build your combo by killing successive enemies, the number of SP you get per kill rises (1 for your first, 2 for your second and so on).
Considering the enemies respawn too, this means you’re never really struggling to get enough SP, but at the same time it prevents you from just bombing through each level too since you’ll need to kill at least some pricks to proceed.
One thing that really has to be pointed out is that Kamiko is a very short game. The four levels can be defeated in around an hour and a half when you first play through it, and once you’ve got the mechanics down you can easily cut that down to well under an hour.
The levels are preset too (as opposed to procedurally generated), meaning once you learn the layout you’ll know the route to beat the game every time.
It does its best to increase the replay value by giving each of the three playable characters their own type of weapon, meaning playing through with all three should feel different each time.
Yamato (the blue one) has a sword, so playing as her involves a bunch of close-quarters combat with some nifty little combos if you keep tapping the attack button.
Uzume (the green one) has a bow and arrow, which she can fire in bursts of one, two or three at a time. While this lets her take out enemies from a distance she can only fire horizontally or vertically, so you’ll need to be careful not to get surrounded by enemies coming in at an angle.
Finally, there’s Hinome (the red one), who I prefer. She’s got the best of both worlds, with a glowing orb thing she can fire as a boomerang. After she fires it, she can pull out a dagger and attack enemies while she waits for it to return. She’s a badass.
Her weapon also highlights one of my favourite things about the game: even though it’s clearly got a retro-inspired look, you aren’t limited to eight directions of movement. You’ve got full analogue directional control, both in terms of where you run and where you aim Hinome’s boomerang. It’s immensely satisfying.
Even though you can see the credits within an hour, before it’s truly considered ‘complete’ you’ll need to beat it with all three ladies, meaning you’re actually talking around three hours or so: a bit better.
Me, I’ll probably get far longer out of it than that. It’s got a Records section which notes the quickest time you’ve taken to beat the game, meaning it’s perfect for wannabe speedrunners (especially with the ‘you must defeat enemies along the way’ gimmick to keep it interesting and ensure it’s not solely a case of finding the optimum path).
Finally, it’s worth bearing in mind that the price is a huge factor here: Kamiko costs a mere ¥500 (around £3.65 / $4.59), so you can’t really argue with a few hours of fast-paced retro style action for less than a Big Mac meal.
It’s not yet clear when Kamiko will get a western release, but it will eventually: when you download it from the Japanese eShop the full English version is included, meaning if you run it from a Switch set to English the entire game is in that language (as you can see by the screenshot above).
If you don’t fancy messing around with foreign eShops then (and if you do here’s my guide showing you how to do it), be sure to give Kamiko a go when it finally reaches western shores. It’s cheap, it’s charming and it’s ideal if you’ve got an hour or two to kill.
Kamiko is out now on the Japanese Switch eShop. A release date has yet to be confirmed for Europe or North America. If you want to know how to buy games from the Japanese eShop, here’s a step-by-step guide I’ve written.
This review was not based on a review copy of the game. I bought it from the Japanese eShop with funds provided by my Patreon backers. The content of my review and the opinions therein were in no way positively influenced by the fact I paid for the game.
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