It's rare to see a 2D co-op action game as consistently exciting as Kemono Heroes so let's see what these furry friends are up to.
Kemono Heroes was developed by the team behind the underrated 2D platformer A Hole New World. Here, you play as an animal from a cast of 4 and each one has unique attributes and abilities. For example, the monkey (Yu) can shimmy across suspended wires, the fox (Fudemaru) can transform into enemies, the wolf (Miyuki) can latch onto walls, and the flying squirrel (Hanako) can glide after jumping. Anyway, they're on a mission to save their homeland after the Moon God turned their fellow furry friends into stone. So, they head off to Mt. Fuji in the hopes of breaking the curse and returning their troubled forest back to the lively place it used to be. The 2D visuals are absolutely spot-on and look like a high quality SNES game while the music ranges from sorrowful to silly; each piece setting a suitable mood. There's also a healthy dose of humour thrown in via enemy animations, scenes, and the goofy song that plays in the shop.
No matter which character you play as, the core gameplay remains mostly the same as you run, jump, dash, and unleash melee and projectile attacks. As you progress, you'll also unlock a few extra tools such as a grappling hook, bombs, and the ability to charge your melee attack. These moves and attacks help with both platforming and combat. Speaking of which, the stages are generally quite large and full of variety. For example, you'll find yourself climbing slippery slopes, playing a scrolling shoot 'em up segment, and taking on a variety of bosses. You'll also earn cash from treasure chests and defeated enemies that you can exchange at a shop to level up your weapons as well as your maximum health and number of ultimate attacks. Upgrading such things is super-rewarding to do.
Of course, the action-packed and varied gameplay lends itself very well to local multiplayer sessions. However, playing solo simply doesn't feel as fulfilling. So, if you're planning on playing Kemono Heroes by yourself then you should consider the fact that it can be a rather flat experience solo. That being said, playing with pals can be exceptionally challenging because the difficulty is scaled according to how many players are playing. To illustrate this, I played through the entire first loop with a chum and once we began the 2nd quest, things became almost unbearably difficult. We eventually threw the towel in at about the third boss but later, I tried to tackle the boss solo and realised that I was doing at least double damage with my attacks. Simply put, it feels unfair to punish co-op players this much.
Before wrapping up this review, allow me to discuss some odds and ends. Kemono Heroes is one of those games where once you begin, you're locked in to your character and difficulty setting (of which there are 3) so you better choose wisely or else you'll have to begin the campaign all over again from scratch. I also found there to be loads of downright frustrating moments throughout the campaign. For example, once you scroll the screen up in vertical sections, you can't go back down and you can imagine how annoying this can be while playing cooperatively as you or your friends may get stuck at the bottom of the screen which is made even more irritating when they get trapped underneath a platform. Don't get me wrong, Kemono Heroes is still a ton of fun yet it occasionally gets quite maddening.
Kemono Heroes made me reminisce of trying to finish challenging Super NES games cooperatively with friends. In other words, it's an authentically retro experience that's sure to entertain a couch full of chums and you can't go wrong with that.
- + Action-packed 2D gameplay that's an absolute blast to play with friends
- + Awesome graphics, sound, and humour
- + Impressive amount of variety and upgrades
- - Not much fun with only 1 player
- - Difficulty is scaled too harshly for multiplayer
- - Some parts are ridiculously frustrating