It is smart that Ember Lab, the developer of Kena: Bridge of Spirits, began out as an animation studio. Simply taking a look at this beautiful world and Pixar-esque character designs tells you that this can be a crew that has a ton of expertise in making unbelievable digital works, together with their Majora’s Masks fan movie, Horrible Destiny. Whereas Bridge of Spirits’ gameplay doesn’t fairly match the terribly excessive bar set by its visuals for plenty of causes, together with some bland storytelling and shallow development, this 3D open-world action-adventure continues to be nonetheless a powerful achievement because of its thrilling and deceptively easy fight and a very good steadiness of motion, puzzle fixing, and platforming.
Kena is a Spirit Information who helps spirits who’re unable to maneuver on to the subsequent life, whether or not due to lingering guilt or unfinished enterprise. The story follows her as she makes her means by way of a lovely however dying land in quest of its sacred mountain shrine, guiding the troubled spirits she finds alongside the best way. Not sufficient good issues might be mentioned in regards to the character designs, facial expressions, and animation in Bridge of Spirits, which do a tremendous job of constructing everybody you meet instantly endearing – particularly Kena herself.
She’s so likable, the truth is, that it really makes it a little bit of a bummer that we by no means actually get to be taught all that a lot about her. You get hints of her background and historical past, however by no means something that permits you to get to know her in the identical means you get to know the spirits and different characters that she finally ends up interacting with. It’s a disgrace as a result of she’s the one we spend probably the most time with, and every part else about her is superior and made me wish to know extra.
In some ways, Bridge of Spirits is a throwback to the traditional 3D Zelda fashion of video games of getting a big overworld that’s break up up into main zones, after which guiding you thru them in a linear style. Every zone will then require you to gather X quantity of Y merchandise, combat a boss, after which snag an improve that permits you to journey to and discover the subsequent zone. It’s quite simple and formulaic, nevertheless it works elegantly: every space is house to a corrupt spirit that Kena wants to avoid wasting, and as you discover the area you meet different characters who have been near the spirit, be taught in regards to the historical past of how issues went fallacious for them, discover their private results, watch flashbacks, after which every part culminates in a boss combat that ties a pleasant little bow on the story arc.
Fight, then again, is totally nothing like Zelda’s. It’s fast-paced, deceptively easy, and surprisingly difficult on the conventional problem degree given its cutesy and colourful demeanor. You’ve obtained gentle assaults, heavy assaults, and the flexibility to make use of your employees as a bow for ranged assaults, and… that’s about it by way of your main offensive instruments, from starting to finish. Fight choices have been so restricted, the truth is, that I really was fairly let down within the early goings as a result of most enemies could possibly be killed with only one or two gentle assault combos, and I wasn’t given a lot motive to do anything for lots longer than I’d have favored in a recreation that solely lasts about 9 hours.
Some nuance is launched within the type of your tiny and cute Ghibli-esque sprites, unfittingly often called Rot. These little dudes help you in battle by swarming an enemy and briefly locking them down, giving you a chance to assault their weak factors, or simply concentrate on clearing out the encompassing enemies. The flexibility to command them is tied to an amusingly contextualized Braveness Meter that builds up as you deal harm, emboldening them to place themselves in hurt’s means that can assist you out.
What actually redeems Bridge of Spirits’ fight is that after some time it begins to introduce new enemy sorts that strongly encourage you to alter up your techniques and discover among the subtleties of its restricted instruments. Whether or not that’s making use of your bow’s time slowdown by leaping into the air and aiming at hard-to-hit weak factors, utilizing a parry towards an assault that’s troublesome to dodge, or utilizing your Rot to immobilize a troublesome enemy so you possibly can assault them from behind. There’s a powerful quantity of enemy selection, and as soon as they began displaying as much as the get together I felt like I used to be continuously being challenged by new and attention-grabbing situations. That’s precisely the way it ought to be in a recreation like this.
You additionally must handle your sources very fastidiously in battle as soon as the issue begins to ramp up considerably afterward within the marketing campaign. Not solely can you employ Braveness to lockdown enemies with the Rot, however you additionally want to make use of it to heal by cleaning particular areas in a combat. There’s not often greater than two of those therapeutic spots in any given scrap have been, which makes each bit of harm you’re taking extremely vital, and infrequently it’s a must to make the decision of whether or not you wish to use your braveness to have the ability to survive one other hit, or use it to money in a bunch of harm on an motionless enemy or boss.
That mentioned, it might have been good to have just a little extra to do in a combat. Bridge of Spirts’ development system doesn’t present very many engaging choices to evolve your combating fashion, and made me really feel pigeonholed in my strategy to fight – particularly as a result of there’s one melee weapon, and that weapon by no means actually obtained significantly better or completely different as I continued to play. You’ll be able to improve your strikes, however the affect of these upgrades is disappointing to say the least. Three of the 4 melee upgrades are skills that really feel like Kena ought to have from the outset (two dashing assaults and an overhead slam whereas within the air) the post-parry counterattack doesn’t really feel a lot stronger than simply attacking whereas the opponent is recoiling, and plenty of different upgrades are simply small and barely noticeable incremental enhancements. I by no means as soon as thought “It will be good if I might fireplace 5 arrows as an alternative of simply 4,” particularly contemplating how briskly arrows regenerate.
There are exceptions, in fact: a charged bow shot that offers huge harm at the price of one bar of Braveness, a sluggish hammer strike that might take out a bunch of enemies directly, and the flexibility to activate slow-mo whereas aiming with out having to leap within the air have been the form of new methods I used to be searching for extra of. However apart from these, I by no means felt excited by upgrades as a result of they not often ever appeared like something that will be particularly helpful or make fight any extra enjoyable.
Preventing baddies isn’t all you’ll be doing in Bridge of Spirits, and the truth that it balances fight, platforming, puzzle fixing, and exploration so effectively is considered one of its strongest fits. You’re by no means doing anyone factor for too lengthy. After ending up a difficult fight encounter, you’ll sometimes be challenged to resolve some kind of puzzle to open the subsequent space, typically commanding your small military of Rot like Pikmin to maneuver objects to be able to press down buttons, or offer you a platform to face on. When you get the bomb powerup, you’ll commonly do enjoyable platforming sequences the place you should activate a sequence of platforms and determine how one can finest get from level A to B earlier than the platforms return to their pure states. After which on prime of all of that, that is an open world with loads of secrets and techniques hidden off the overwhelmed path, although whether or not a majority of these secrets and techniques will probably be of curiosity to you is one other story.
My one gripe about exploration and collectible searching is that, except meditation spots ( which improve your max well being) not one of the collectibles actually made a lot of an affect on my playthrough. For context, I’m somebody that basically doesn’t care all that a lot about cosmetics, which is why I by no means felt tremendous compelled to hunt out Bridge of Spirits’ collectibles when more often than not they only ended up being both new hats for my Rot or foreign money that I might use to purchase extra hats for my Rot. Certain, there are Cursed Chests, that are enjoyable to trace down as a result of they drive you to finish a fight problem to be able to open them – nevertheless it’s nearly all the time disappointing if you undergo a troublesome battle and your reward is… yet one more a humorous little hat to placed on considered one of your humorous little creatures. So I fairly shortly misplaced the motivation to do extra of it.
One remaining space that deserves a particular point out is the boss battles, that are among the most intense and difficult I’ve fought all 12 months. Each combat feels distinct, the massive ones have appropriately epic music, and there are plenty of them too. A number of the smaller boss battles even wind up changing into common enemies that it’s a must to combat towards later, and that’s a pleasant solution to revisit among the most enjoyable and troublesome fights.