I was one of those bright-eyed goofs that knocked and slobbered on the locked automatic sliding doors at Target hours before Switch opening day, growling and snarling at anyone that asked for the time or spare change. I wasn’t shot – this time – and got my Switch (and Breath of the Wild) to then stay up for the next 14 hours in blissful playtime. Fast-forward a few weeks and you’ll see me picking up this little charmer, Kamiko, with no real window into it besides a couple of nifty screenshots.
Turns out, an art style can sell a game and help make it a worthwhile experience. Flyhigh Works crafted and parsed this game into 4 worlds of visually distinct biomes that are populated with the necessities: enemies, goals, and power-ups. The sprite style that sold me works for each of that holy trinity with the colors giving the entire palette life and pop.
You, as one of three distinct heroes, knock away the enemies and evil to be found in Shinto beliefs, activating shrines as you go. Those three heroes are distinct in their weapons – sword, shield, and bow – that allow you to knock around enemies and the environment at whichever range your prefer. Side note: I hate Captain America on paper but damned if I don’t want to see that shield mechanic used in more games. To that end, I’m a shield-throwing Hinome fan, sending horizontal slices across the environments whenever I can to a charmingly satisfying internal thrill. Each priestess warrior also comes equipped with a super move that’s more than any regular enemy can handle.
While the level-to-level hunt for shrines and blue bar keeps me humming, Kamiko really checks in for me with the boss fights due to their variance and a hands-off teaching approach. I’m a sucker for a game that lets you figure it all out, and yet, keeps it simple. To wit, each of the four bosses has a Zelda-like gimmick taken from the level that becomes vital in time to put down the big bad in charge. Speaking of, the final boss gets an extra nod for visual design and awe as the battle takes to the clouds, introducing new colors and shades to match a well integrated design.
Into my disappointment did a few moths fly though, all having to do with the structure of the levels themselves. While the enemies are a visually varied treat, the fact that they respawn so quickly can cause way more deaths than you thought possible. Most enemies are common enough to be glaived in twain at your leisure but the metaphorical grass grows too thick and too quickly when you want to explore a corner across a field of the jerks. A game with the bare minimum of exploration doesn’t need another discouragement to stray from the straight and narrow. The lack of an expanding arsenal also knocked out my desire for more of this world, which works well enough at the 2 or 3 hour mark when you can see credits. Subsequent playthroughs feel that burden though and the weighted draw of repeating the same movements has kept me from going back for another deep dive.
Kamiko does exactly the playbook of a retro-inspired title, to which I was helplessly drawn to without regret. Nintendo needed a small spark to go along with the larger thooms it dropped every month and this compact experience helps perfectly sell the idea of a handheld home console.