Kena: Bridge of Spirits has a storyline that's all too familiar, whether you've experienced it through films, TV, or in other games. Think Sixth Sense, Ghost Whisperer (thanks Mom), and for video games, The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. It shouldn't be a huge shock to hear the Majora's Mask comparison, given the fact Emberlab made a breath-taking video featuring Skull Kid on YouTube. Kena: BoS and M.M. share a similarity revolving around the symbolism and use of masks in the game. In Kena: BoS the masks are used to represent those poor unfortunate souls that are no longer part of the world of the living. That's right, we're talking about those who have passed away.
In Kena’s world, the inhabitants of the Village carve wooden masks when someone passes away. These masks are placed at the Mask Shrine to honor the person the village has lost. When the mask has decayed and returned to dust, this symbolizes the villager’s spirit moving on in peace. However, some spirits become tangled in their memories and regrets, causing their mask to linger. When carving these masks, the village Mask Maker takes inspiration from the personality/nature of the villager who has passed away.
Enter Kena, a young, inexperienced spirit guide who has to come to help a village in need, and to help these troubled spirits move on. IN order to do this, Kena has to defeat them first and then help them come to terms with what happened - she has to help them heal. Every spirit you help not only has its own individual problems, but you find out later that they're all connected in some way.
A friend of mine had come up with the most perfect analogy for this game, and this is what he said verbatim: “Kena is a souls game wrapped in cotton candy". I don't think I've ever heard anything more true than this, and when you go up against enemies it shows. The most popular comparison floating around online is Kena: BoS looking like a Disney/Pixar movie. While that may be a solid comparison in regards to the game's visuals, this by no means is on a kid's level - at least if you play this on Spirit Guide or harder, which would be Master Spirit Guide. Kena: BoS does pose several challenges. The enemies may look like rotting wood, but their attacks are quite ferocious. Even their wind-ups can throw you off. However, it's not too difficult to learn their attack patterns as well as the speed of their attacks. The combat can be fast-paced at times, and dealing with multiple opponents both on and off-screen is no simple feat. The game's targeting system helps you keep enemies in front of you, and sometimes enables you to see a select few that are in your immediate vicinity.
However, the speed at which you can change targets does need some improvement. It may take some getting used to, but it's better to not lock on when you're going up against multiple enemies. Kena: BoS appears to be heavily influenced by The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask not only in theme but by the various temples and even its platforming elements. It also gave me Tomb Raider vibes - think about the numerous times Lara has to traverse a cliff, a mountain, or overcome some sort of nature-based course to get to where she needs to go. You'll find yourself climbing practically anything and everything to not only reach your destination but to find more Rots and other valuable items in the game.
Her jumps do feel a little short, even when you double jump. Overall movement does feel a tad stiff but you'll get used to it fairly quickly. The skill tree isn't complicated at all, and you can acquire most of the moves rather quickly before you even sink your teeth into the good parts of the story. Kena has two types of attacks - light attacks and heavy attacks. You can perform a light attack combo but you can't do the same with the heavy attack button (the maximum amount of hits you can do is three swings), but both types do provide some variety, albeit very little. Using the attack items such as the bow or bombs can be used to tack on more damage, and when you upgrade them you'll get a little more variety along with more power to do more damage. I would've liked more abilities to add to Kena's arsenal and to do more cool moves, but this is where a little creativity comes into play.
Instead of temples, you have shrines. These shrines are located in each section that belongs to their respective boss. Of course, this means you have to clear each shrine in order to fight the boss, and each shrine also presents various puzzles for you to solve - here's a hint: think outside of the box!
Kena: BoS does reward its players for their platforming endeavors with various collectibles, currency, and even new sights for your eyes to feast on. It's presumably safe to say most games on current-gen consoles come equipped with different ways to experience the game visually. In the options menu, you'll find two modes to play in. Fidelity mode, which gives you a more cinematic feel at full 4K at 30fps (frames per second), or Performance mode which gives you a more fluid and action-packed experience at Dynamic 4K 60fps. Dynamic 4K is basically a lower resolution that's been upscaled to look like native 4K. To a casual gamer, or even as someone who isn't a graphics snob, you wouldn't be able to tell the difference.
The most notable difference would be the frames per second. With that said, Kena: BoS will "wow" you every. single. time. Although it's an animation and not hyper-realistic, the graphics will blow you away. The attention to detail in not only the characters but the various levels and environments is awe-inspiring. The lighting in certain parts of the game is eerily realistic, inciting a sense of awe and goosebumps - not the bad kind! To give you an idea of what I mean, most of the game's setting is in a forest and/or mountainous habitat. The view in some of these places gives me flashbacks to the times I went hiking and looked at the jaw-dropping views of the mountains and waterfalls.
The addition of photo mode enables you to get more in touch with your creative side. There's an abundance of opportunities for your inner shutterbug to flourish - everything from outdoor shots to much darker settings, to amazing action shots. The features within photo mode aren't the most advanced compared to the likes of some of the heavy hitters that are already out there, but it's by no means a lightweight either. I know photo mode isn't for everyone but it is a nice touch, especially with a good amount of editing options.
Kena: Bridge of Spirits is a fantastic and emotional rollercoaster loaded with excitement and hours of fun while also incorporating challenging gameplay that's suited for hardcore and casual gamers alike. Coming in at a BargainBin price of $40, this game is more than worth it. A physical deluxe version is coming in November, but I highly recommend playing this before then.
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