The Arcade Crew has always been a company that combines the old with the new in order to create fresh and exciting titles to enjoy. Blazing Chrome was the last title that we jumped straight into and immediately we were sent back into the ’90s with its Contra-esque approach to gameplay, yet still maintaining a cool modern zest that kept us hooked for hours. The same can now be said for KUNAI, the latest title from the esteemed publisher and developer Turtle Blaze, that now takes on a new agenda with a lot more to offer fans of the platformer genre. While much of the visuals remind us of the good old days, much of the presentation of KUNAI is crafted in such a beautiful way that provides us with a retro yet futuristic tone that’s not only captivating to look at, but to play as well.
What to Expect
KUNAI is an all-out action platformer title that puts you directly into the driver’s seat and plow through enemies with the greatest of ease, using a variety of weapons including the Kunai of course. You’ve been tasked to eliminate a massive group of AI hordes who are under the supreme control of Lemonkus. Lemonkus wasn’t always a tyrannical being and had strong aspirations to help create a better world, but his maniacal ways eventually led him down a path he would soon regret, and now it is up to us to put an end to his tyranny before it’s too late. KUNAI explores various aspects of great gameplay elements such as allowing players to scale walls with relative ease, hop over dangerous obstacles, and using your Kunai to eliminate any enemies that stand in the way. You’re not just limited to the Kunai however, as you progress through the game you’ll unlock new weapons like a sword and dual-guns to make your life that much easier. This is just the tip of the iceberg but we’ll dive into the gameplay aspects later, but for now let’s move onto the visuals.
As mentioned in the earlier paragraph, one of KUNAI’s most celebrated features is its visuals. Its simplicity in terms of design is complemented by a great amount of detail when it comes to character emotions. The main character, known as the warrior, always seems to wear its emotions on its sleeve...or rather its screen, and you’re always aware of how it feels during every moment of the game. Whether it’s a trolling type emoji grin as you kneel down to avoid enemy fire, or a raging red face of anger whenever you get hit by an enemy attack, KUNAI does a great job of making sure that the player knows exactly what’s going on inside the warrior’s mind. That extra attention to detail is what creates a charming experience because, in most 2D platformers, we don’t often see a lot of care and attention placed on how the character feels, since most of the focus is primarily set on the action itself. KUNAI, however, ensures players that not only will you have a blast playing through the entire game, but you’ll most likely have a blast seeing all of the various facial expressions the warrior exudes while hacking enemies to bits. Level design is another great treat about KUNAI that we love because every stage looks and feels different, allowing for you to be creative in how you maneuver around and not having a game that looks and feels redundant.
Japanese culture, or rather East Asian culture as a whole, has been quite the theme in previous years, creating a lot of interest among western fans. This unique blend of east and west is great since it complements both styles, yet still creating a very intriguing experience for players. Whether it's the kunai themselves or the outfit the warrior wears, there’s clearly some inspiration that’s derived from the East Asian scene. Very Kill Bill-Esque in a way but still retains its own style. One great example is in the music the moment the main screen pops up you’re greeted with this futuristic Kung-Fu-Esque theme that resonates with you. As you dive deeper into the game the music and sound effects just continue to bind themselves to your ears and it creates a very strong immersion as you scale walls, and hack away at enemies.
Action Platformers have always been notoriously fun and KUNAI is no exception. From the minute you hop into the game and are introduced to your mission, everything just explodes right out of the gate. Enemies weren’t as challenging as we would’ve liked them to be quite frankly, as many of them are of course robots and tend to be quite linear in how they behave. Some enemies are smarter than others and will react to your actions but we found that a lot of the time, we’d just run through a level without worrying too much about the enemies around us, which took some fun out of the game. Mind you this wasn’t frequent but it still did have an impact on the overall experience, since most enemies would typically attack the very same way and not change up their routine. For example, when approaching an enemy directly it’s obvious that they’d shoot back but whenever we’d jump over them, they wouldn’t track you and so it became very easy to both avoid and eliminate enemies. They posed no real challenge outside of a few as mentioned and so much of the real difficulty came in the platforming aspect.
Every platformer will always come with its pitfalls, and with KUNAI it was mainly in its enemy design. Level design, however, is something we applaud because every stage felt different and gave us a chance to explore every area to uncover new secrets along the way. Navigating around every stage in KUNAI is actually quite tricky, especially when you aren’t given a map right off the bat, and you’re encouraged to pretty much investigate on your own. Eventually, you’ll come across certain allies who will provide you with a map and it makes things a bit easier, but even with a map equipped KUNAI does a great job of keeping you guessing and encouraging you to really think through your actions.
Honey's Gameplay Consensus:
KUNAI was well worth the time we spent playing it and we’d love to see a sequel if one is ever planned, but for now we can safely recommend this title to anyone who’s looking for a fresh action experience on the Nintendo Switch. It’s by no means a perfect piece of software but where it falls short in a couple of areas, it shines beautifully in most aspects. Of course, the one major area that we already had mentioned was primarily in enemy interaction which felt quite underwhelming, but controls, design, striking visuals, and an evolving arsenal of tools to use kept us coming back for more. So if you’re in the market for something to play on the way to work or school, perhaps before going to bed, then KUNAI is the one action title to pick up! For only $16.99 you’re getting a lot for the price!
A lot of colorful visuals really help to make this game stand out beautifully.
We especially love the character design and the emotions conveyed when initiating certain movements like ducking, or attacking.
Each stage feels completely different from the last and provides exciting challenges in order to uncover secrets along the way.
Sadly, while the presentation of KUNAI was stellar, we really wish the enemies had more of a brain and gave us a hard time.
The game itself is a bit short by our standards but it’s not entirely a bad thing.
Honey's Final Verdict:
We hope you found our review of KUNAI to be a good one! The Nintendo Switch game catalog continues to grow tremendously day-to-day, especially in the indie department, and we’re truly happy to see that. We all need a break sometimes from all of the AAA titles and just sitting back and hack away at robots is a nice treat.
Until next time!
Author: Rob "NualphaJPN" B.
A passionate fan of gaming, writing, journalism, anime, and philosophy. I've lived in Japan for many years and consider this place to be my permanent home. I love to travel around Japan and learn about the history and culture! Leave a comment if you enjoy my articles and watch me play on twitch.tv/honeysgaming ! Take care!