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Review: Mononoke Slashdown

Posted by on August 18th, 2013 | 2 Comments | Tags: ,

Mononoke Slashdown is a hack and slash game from PSN newcomers F K Digital. You play as Kagemaru, a “traveling ascetic ninja” on a quest to save some villages from the clutches of evil monsters’ evil doings. The entire story is very poorly translated, but that doesn’t take much away from the game as a whole. After completing a couple of missions, you’ll forget that a story ever existed in the first place. Mononoke Slashdown uses a hybrid of touchscreen and button controls for its menus, and the result is easy, natural navigating. Before I continue, I want to point out that I’m reviewing the game after it had been patched. I’ll mention a few of its initial flaws, but focus more on the revised version of the game.

MSD takes place over five chapters, unlockable in sequential order. You can begin playing on either Simple or Normal difficulty (Hard is unlockable by beating Normal). Each chapter contains six unlocked missions, beatable in any order. After all six missions are completed, a boss level unlocks. The bulk of the gameplay in Mononoke Slashdown is contained on a 2D battlefield that’s a bit larger than the width of the Vita’s screen. You run back and forth with either the D-Pad or the left analogue stick, jump with the X button, attack with the square button, and toss your kunai with the O button. Later on you unlock ninja techniques that can be activated by pressing the triangle button. Your HUD consists of a health bar, a kunai gauge (drains when you throw ‘em, refills over time), a technique gauge (see kunai gauge), your score, your accrued currency, and your combo meter. It sounds like a lot, but the screen is far from cluttered.

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Warning: Playthrough Preview may contain spoilers.

Most of the missions can be completed by killing all of the enemies that spawn. They last an average of two to three minutes each, and a good many of them will probably require a couple of plays to beat. I was very happy to find a “Retry” button get patched into the game for such tough missions. Enemies range from basic red skeleton samurai to floating lanterns that spit fire on the ground. Each chapter introduces new enemy types, and I’d say there are enough to keep the game from feeling stagnant. The bosses are fun to tackle, if a little frustrating. They’re typical in the sense that you have to memorize their attacks then learn how to react/avoid. Rinse, hack, slash, repeat.

There are only a couple of music tracks in MSD, which is a bummer. The sound effects are on point, though you might grow tired of hearing the sword slashes after a while. The rest of the game’s aesthetic values are top-notch, though. Your hero, the enemies, and the different backgrounds are all hand-drawn to great effect. All of the animations are fluid, and the game can handle a lot of enemies on screen at once. The only time it chugged on me was during one of the later missions, when there were over 20 enemies on-screen and I used a technique that attacks everyone at once. Other than that, the game runs well.

There is a shop wherein you can spend your money gained from killing enemies and completing missions. You can upgrade your bracers (kunai gauge refills faster), your sword (attack up), your armor (defense up), and your kunai (triple kunai, explosive kunai, etc.). There are also a handful of unlockable ninjitsu techniques and passive upgrades. For instance, you can increase your attack combo to up to six hits. You can also add a triple jump to your arsenal, or the ability to dash by double tapping a direction. It’s a relatively basic upgrading system, but it works well, especially after the patch. (The initial game didn’t reward the player with enough money to buy upgrades, so it was necessary to grind early missions in order to beat later ones.)

Mononoke Slashdown is mindless, but not devoid of enjoyment. A few of the missions and bosses do call on your ability to strategize a bit, and I wouldn’t describe the game as easy, even on Normal mode. The nature of the gameplay and the fact that you’re always playing on the same 2D field (albeit with a different background skin per chapter) makes MSD monotonous. I didn’t have much of a problem with that, except for the few times when the game tried to switch it up by adding escort missions. I don’t know why anyone develops for escort missions anymore. I don’t get it. But there are no less than three in MSD, and they are each a major pain in the ass. Villagers run, walk, or skip from the right side of the screen to the left. You have to fend off hoards of enemies until they get to safety. In a couple of missions, one hit would kill a villager and fail the mission. It was not fun to complete that mission. Besides for those missions, though, the game is pretty fun. It comes packed with 35 missions, and if you’re not bored after beating it on Normal, you can go back and do it all again in Hard mode. I would definitely recommend it for the hack and slash fan looking for a few hours of brainless fun.

A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here. This review is for the PlayStation Vita version of the game.

General Info

  • XXX YYY, XXX YYY
  • Escort missions

  • SAB CA

    I wouldn’t at all call the game “Mindless”. Just about every enemy type is presented in such a way, to as keep you from just mindlessly mash and kill;

    > The weakest skels have invincible wake-up attacks. Rather than mashing, the best way to deal with them is by NEVER knocking them down.
    > The Horseback Skels need to be kept under control, and in memory at all times. They’re also the only ones you can knock out of screen bounds, so you can’t corner-combo them.
    > Both of these enemies force you to jump, and then the Spiders deter jumps by having a great anti-air attack arch.
    > The Flame spirits demand air-attacks, but when they die, they explode into flame. This forces you to save a double-jump for “getting out the way” after you kill them, as the normal jump momentum will land you right on their explosions.
    > The spirit women hurt A LOT if they run into you, but you can keep them under control by fighting at weapon’s length. While they destroy mindless aerial movement, they’re also the most susceptible to air combos, once you corral them.

    As for the escort missions, in this game, they force you to think less about enemy killing, and more about enemy position management. If you avoid killing the enemies, you can move them around the villagers with relative ease. But if you run in guns-blazing all the time, new enemies will spawn all over the screen, and make protection very difficult.

    Basically, every strength in the game, has a counterpoint that begs you to pay attention to what you’re doing. There’s an enemy type and attack that’ll dissuade you from ever getting too comfortable with any 1 strategy.
    Top that off with the fact that each enemy action has a unique “tell” to it (flames make a sound before they die, bosses have unique poses for each attack, enemies, and make sounds before they go into “desperation” attack modes), and you have a game that was clearly designed with using your mind within every encounter.

    • Eric G

      Thanks for your comment! I agree with most of the things you said, and you’re right, the different enemy types and even the escort missions initially keep you on your toes.

      What I meant by ‘mindless’ was that after you figure out the aforementioned enemy attacks and player strats – most of which don’t take much thinking to figure out – the game calls for a lot less mind work. It would’ve gotten a worse score if I didn’t think it had its merits.