It’s unclear why it took so long for a video game adaptation of Demon Slayer to be made, given how well the property lends itself to the medium. It’s even more unclear why, once a game was greenlit, it took this long to make its way over to the Switch, particularly given how perfectly the audiences of the anime and the system would appear to align. But now, six years after the manga’s initial release, and almost a year after it came to every other system, we have Demon Slayer – Kimetsu no Yaiba – The Hinokami Chronicles, the first but budget video game adaptation of the newest transmedia sensation in Japan, on the Switch.
That extra year may have been avoidable, but it’s water under the bridge now, particularly how good the Switch port of the game really seems to be. From a content perspective, the Switch version comes with the original game, as well as all post launch content released for it. In terms of graphics and mechanics, this is a remarkably good transition to a much weaker system, with the game looking sharp and running incredibly well. Indeed, few to no hitches really manifested for me while I was playing Demon Slayer, and the biggest complaint I would hold against it from a tech perspective would be the loading times, which feel a smidge too long – long enough to often break the excellent flow the game’s combat encounters can achieve.
Let’s talk about those combat encounters for a bit. Demon Slayer – Kimetsu no Yaiba – The Hinokami Chronicles is a 3D arena fighter. And while it’s not a game demanding frame perfect inputs and long combo memorizations of its players, the combat system here works rather well. It’s easy to grasp (made easier to understand with some of the best onboarding I’ve seen in a fighting game since… well, it’s been a long while since the last time, I’ll leave it at that), satisfying to play, and leads to some incredibly flashy and stylish moves on screen that are great to watch no matter how many times you’ve triggered them before. They look badass, plus, in adherence to their source material, look accurate to the story they’re telling as well.
"Demon Slayer has a remarkably full fledged single player component, featuring a story mode that faithfully follows the source material, spread across multiple chapters taking you through all the major plot beats."
And yes, there IS a story here, and it’s not a story mode like you might expect from most fighters. Demon Slayer has a remarkably full fledged single player component, featuring a story mode that faithfully follows the source material, spread across multiple chapters taking you through all the major plot beats, and some well designed encounters that all do a great job at slowly helping new players come to grips with how the game’s mechanics work. By the time you’re done with the not inextensive story mode, you’re more than capable of holding your own in the battle modes.
Those battle modes, which are unlocked after you finish the story mode’s tutorials, are pretty much like in any other fighter – you pick your characters (singular if you’re picking demons), pick your arena, and then duke it out. The combat system is fun enough to support a purely fighting focused mode like this, though obviously Demon Slayer doesn’t have the depth other dedicated fighting games may have. Support for local and online multiplayer also keeps these battles fun and engaging – long after you’ve exhausted the fun you can get from repeating battles against the CPU ad nauseum, simply being able to play against another human opponent can help extend the time you’ll spend with the game.
Not that fans of the series will need any more incentives to really spend more time with the game because Demon Slayer – Kimetsu no Yaiba – The Hinokami Chronicles is in many ways a love letter to the source material, packed with so many nods, references, and collectibles evoking the anime and manga that fans are sure to find it a joy to engage with. The story mode will last you 8-10 hours, depending on how much you choose to explore its world and environments, and you’ll keep returning to it, as well as other modes and content in the game, to unlock more points that you can then use to unlock fighters, arenas, profile pictures, music, quotes, taunts, and more for the battles. There’s a LOT to go through here – if you like Demon Slayer, enough that you’ll probably want to earmark a fair bit of time to go through it all properly.
"The world of Demon Slayer is fascinating, and this game does it justice enough that I can imagine it intriguing even those who have had no prior engagement with the IP."
And what about if you’re not a fan? That’s where things get dicey. Demon Slayer – Kimetsu no Yaiba – The Hinokami Chronicles is legitimately fun and well designed on its own merits, with a lot of content too, but it can be really tough to get into if you don’t have background knowledge from the anime or manga. While ostensibly this game is covering the same story beats, they do not stand alone, and almost seem to be adapted by the game with the expectation that the player has full context from elsewhere to supplement them. Put simply, if you’re a newcomer to Demon Slayer, Demon Slayer – Kimetsu no Yaiba – The Hinokami Chronicles can sort of feel like being thrown into the deep end of the pool and being told to figure it out yourself. While the story does start to rely on background knowledge less as it develops its stakes, on the whole I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone as their first entry to the franchise.
The one thing I can say is that the world of Demon Slayer is fascinating, and this game does it justice enough that I can imagine it intriguing even those who have had no prior engagement with the IP. But honestly I would say that’s more to the series’ credit than it is to the game’s.
If you’re not a fan, and do end up with this game anyhow, it’s still a fun time. The brawling combat is great, the exploration is mostly linear but rewarding, the world depicted in the game is intriguing and begs more familiarity, the voice acting, music, and graphics are all great, and there’s a whole lot of content to chew through to boot. And if you ARE a fan? It’s hard to imagine a better video game adaptation of the beloved property than Demon Slayer, Demon Slayer – Kimetsu no Yaiba – The Hinokami Chronicles ends up being. Hopefully this heralds the start of many more high quality games based on the IP to come.
This game was reviewed on Nintendo Switch.
Flashy and satisfying combat system that leads to some really cool looking battles; packed with loads of content, including some very fleshed out singleplayer modes; loads of content fans of the IP will enjoy
The story mode is a very rough introduction to the Demon Slayer storyline, and does't stand alone nearly as well; while the combat system is fun, it lacks a lot of depth and eventually does start to slightly wear thin