Tuesday, October 19th, 2021

Kena: Bridge of Spirits Review

Kena: It makes sense that Ember Lab, the developer of the Bridge of Spirits, started as an animation studio. Just by looking at this gorgeous world and Pixar-inspired character design, you can see that this is a team with extensive experience in producing amazing digital works, including Majora’s mask fan film Terrible Fate. The Bridge of Spirits gameplay doesn’t exactly match the very high bars set by the visuals for a variety of reasons, including some bland storytelling and shallow progression, but this 3D open-world action-adventure is Thanks to that, it is an impressive result. Exciting and seemingly simple combat with a great balance of action, puzzle solving and platform.

Kena is a spirit guide that helps the spirit of being unable to move on to the next life, whether guilty or incomplete. The story follows her in search of the sacred mountain shrine, through beautiful but dying lands, guiding the troubled spirits she finds along the way. The character design, facial expressions and animations of the Bridge of Spirits aren’t good enough. These do a great job of immediately loving everyone you meet, especially Kena herself.

In fact, she’s so fond of it that it’s actually a little disappointing and we never learn so much about her. You get hints of her background and history, but nothing makes it possible for her to know her in the same way that she ultimately knows the interacting spirits and other characters. It’s a shame because she’s the one we spend the most time on, everything else about her is great and I wanted to know more.

It’s very simple and stylized, but it works elegantly.


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In many respects, the Bridge of Spirits is a reversion to the classic 3D Zelda-style game, with large overworlds divided into major zones and guiding them in a straight line. In each zone, you need to collect X Y items, fight bosses, get upgrades and move to the next zone to explore. It’s very simple and stylized, but it works elegantly. Each area has a corrupt spirit that Kena needs to save. As you explore the area, you’ll meet other spiritual characters and learn about the history of how things went. Wrong for them, find their belongings, watch the flashbacks, and culminate in a boss battle where everything ties a nice little bow to the story arc.

Combat, on the other hand, is not like Zelda. Given its fast-paced, seemingly simple, cute and colorful attitude, it’s surprisingly challenging on normal difficulty. You have the ability to use your staff as a bow for light, heavy, and ranged attacks … it’s about it from the beginning to the end in terms of your main attack tool. In fact, the options for combat were so limited that most enemies could be killed with one or two light attack combos, so I was actually quite disappointed early on. A game that lasts only about 9 hours longer than I liked.

Kena: Bridge of Spirits Photo Mode Screenshot

Some nuances are introduced in the form of your small and adorable Ghibli-inspired sprites. These little guys help fight by swarming enemies and temporarily locking them, giving them the opportunity to attack their weaknesses and focusing on clearing out nearby enemies. The ability to command them is tied to an interesting contextualized courage meter that accumulates as you do damage, bolding them to harm themselves to help you.

This is exactly what a game should look like.


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The real redemption for Bridge of Spirits combat is that after a while, new types of enemies will begin to be introduced that strongly encourage you to change your tactics and explore the subtleties of limited tools. Use bow time deceleration by jumping into the air and aiming for weak points that are difficult to attack, use parry for difficult-to-avoid attacks, or use corruption to lock in tough enemies From behind whether you can attack. There are so many types of enemies, and when I started to appear at the party, I always felt like I was trying new and interesting scenarios. This is exactly what a game should look like.

Also, if the difficulty begins to increase significantly later in the campaign, you will need to carefully manage your resources in combat. Not only can you use your courage to blockade your enemies with corruption, but you also need to use your courage to cleanse and heal certain areas in battle. Rarely does a particular scrap have more than one of these recovery spots. This makes every bit of damage taken so important that you often have to call whether to use courage to survive the next hit. Or use it to do a lot of damage to immobile enemies and bosses.

That said, I wish I had done a little more in the fight. The Bridge of Spirts progression system offers few attractive options for evolving combat styles. In particular, I had one melee weapon, and that weapon was never as good or different as I was, so I felt obsessed with the approach to combat. I kept playing. You can upgrade your moves, but the impact of those upgrades is disappointing to say the least. Three of the four melee upgrades are the abilities that Kena should have from the beginning (two dash attacks and an overhead slam in the air). The counterattack after parry feels less intense than attacking when the opponent is recoiling. Many other upgrades are minor, barely noticeable, gradual improvements. Especially considering the regeneration speed of arrows, I never thought “I wish I could shoot 5 arrows instead of 4”.

I never thought, “I wish I could shoot five arrows instead of four.”


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There are exceptions, of course: charged bow shots that do a lot of damage at the expense of one bar of courage, slow hammer strikes that can get rid of groups of enemies at once, and the ability to activate slow motion while aiming without it in the air. Needing to dive into was one of the new techniques I was looking for more. But apart from these, I wasn’t excited about the upgrade, as it rarely seemed to be particularly useful or make combat more enjoyable.

The Bridge of Spirits isn’t just about fighting the bad guys. The fact that it has a very good balance of combat, platform, puzzle solving and exploration is one of its most powerful suits. I haven’t done one thing for a long time. After finishing a challenging combat encounter, you are usually challenged to solve some kind of puzzle to open the next area, sometimes an object to push a button to a small army of corruption like Pikmin. To move or command you to give you a platform to stand. Once you get the bomb power-ups, run a fun platform sequence on a regular basis. In this sequence, you must activate a set of platforms to find the best way to move from point A to B before the platforms return to their natural state. And in addition to all that, this is an open world with lots of secrets hidden from the beaten path, but it’s a different story if most of those secrets are of interest to you.

One of my complaints about exploration and hunting for collectibles is that none of the collectibles really had a significant impact on my playthrough, except for the meditation spot (which promotes maximum health). In context, I’m a person who doesn’t care much about cosmetics. So most of the time, when the Bridge of Spirits merchandise became my new hat, I didn’t feel forced to look for the Bridge of Spirits merchandise. Currency that can be used to purchase more rot or rot hats. Indeed, there are cursed chests. Cursed chests are fun to track down as they need to complete combat challenges to open. But if you’re experiencing a tough battle and the rewards are … yet another interesting little thing, you’re almost always disappointed. A hat that wears one of your funny little creatures. So I quickly lost motivation to do it more.

One of the last areas that deserves special mention is the boss battle. This is one of the most intense and challenging I have fought all year round. Every battle is felt clearly, the big ones have properly magnificent music, and there are many of them too. Some of the little boss battles can even become regular enemies that you have to fight later. This is a good way to revisit some of the most fun and difficult battles.