The launch of the Nintendo Switch has proved to gamers that Nintendo is dedicating a lot of time and resources into the indie game scene. Prior to the launch of the new platform, Nintendo dedicated an entire presentation to nothing but indie games launching either first, simultaneously or even exclusively on the Nintendo Switch, with the promise of new titles each and every week launching on the eShop. Nintendo hit the ground running with great indie content right from the start and have kept true to their weekly promises. Kamiko is one of those games.
Kamiko is a rogue-like action title for the Nintendo Switch developed by Japanese team Skipmore. The game revolves around three shrine maidens tasked at defeating a demon who threatens to take over the transient world by capturing the gates that act as a connector between the demon and human worlds. The player must navigate four stages and defeat a boss within each to clear the threat and save human existence. The story here is very basic and fails to branch out in any direction aside from that simple synopsis; however, the story isn’t why I would recommend playing Kamiko in the first place.
At the start of the game the player will choose one of three shrine maidens who each possess a different character class. Yamato is a simple warrior class that utilizes close-quarters melee combat to hack and slash her way through each stage. Uzume is a rogue or archer class that uses a ranged arrow attack that can split off into three arrows that force the player to take the ‘stop and attack’ approach when clearing out waves of enemies. The third character, Hinome, uses a mixture of the other two classes by including a melee attack mixed with a ranged attack that consists of throwing her shield around like a boomerang. Each class plays differently and the choice is ultimately up to the player’s preference. I much preferred using Uzume myself but that’s simply due to my love for archer classes.
The game consists of four stages set in four different settings. Each stage consists of clearing out waves of respawning enemies while solving puzzles and unlocking the portal to the stage boss at the end. Combat feels like a mixture of classic Legend of Zelda gameplay and a typical overhead view, rogue-like title such as The Binding of Isaac. Normally the term “rogue-like” turns me off instantly since I always associate the combat with Gauntlet-like simplicity and repetitiveness, but combat in Kamiko feels solid and the enemies will overwhelm but not irritate which results in a more enjoyable gameplay experience.
Defeating enemies will net the player blue crystals that fill a blue meter at the top of the screen accompanied by a number. Various chests and doors around the level must be opened by spending these blue crystals earned, resulting in sort of a grind in order to progress through. Luckily, that grind isn’t extensive and won’t waste a lot of time since farming for these crystals is relatively easy. This blue crystal meter, as well as the player’s health meter, can be expanded by finding hidden gems in the stages which allow more crystals to be held at once and receive more damage until the player falls.
Aside from farming crystals to open objects, players will have to scour the levels looking for switches and puzzles to solve in order to activate four lanterns that act as save points and the path to the stage boss. Unfortunately, each stage consists of the same puzzle types which can add a bit of tedium to the game, but thankfully the stages are short enough to where fatigue usually won’t set in before the final credits start rolling.
The four bosses in the game can be quite challenging at first, but once you figure out their attack patterns the trick to defeating them becomes more clear and easier to pull off. The boss in the second stage gave me the most trouble before I figured out the solution. The game’s final boss consists of two stages that can be a little tough to handle but with a little practice and a couple of deaths the patterns start to click and defeating them isn’t such a daunting task anymore. I did enjoy the bullet hell “shmup” style of attacks the bosses throw at you, which made for engaging and challenging fights that felt good to conquer.
Skipmore uses a classic pixel art, Japanese anime style fantasy setting that utilizes bright neon and pastel colors which pop on the Nintendo Switch’s LCD screen. The game reminds me of a simpler yet similar art style to last year’s Hyper Light Drifter. The chiptune music is excellent here with each stage presenting a solid and catchy track that makes progressing through the game a joy. Controlling each character is responsive with each hit and shot feeling good combined with the HD rumble inside of the controllers. The game runs at a rock-solid framerate as well with no slow down encountered throughout my whole playthrough. A very well designed and aesthetically pleasing game overall.
Kamiko can be completed entirely in about one hour of play time, which is horribly short, but the game only costs $5 on the eShop and it is designed to be replayed with the other character classes. The biggest draw from Kamiko is the tools included to cater towards the speed running community. An option is included in the game to allow a timer to display at the top of the screen so speed runners can track their times, which are recorded on a status screen at the end of the game. I have personally seen a lot of speed runs already online and the fastest I’ve seen was a little over 14 minutes. Obviously, if speed running isn’t your thing then Kamiko is a short-lived title but at the asking price I would still recommend it to anyone who likes rogue-like action games; although, some sort of achievement system would have really helped the longevity here.
If you are a Nintendo Switch owner and both Breath of the Wild and Mario Kart 8: Deluxe are growing tired on you, Kamiko isn’t a bad little title to pick up. It won’t take up much space on your console, it’s affordable and enjoyable throughout. Even as a person who typically scoffs at rogue-like titles, I found myself really digging Kamiko and its solid chiptune soundtrack and pixel art style. If you have an Abe Lincoln burning a hole in your pocket, this isn’t a terrible way to spend it.