Kamiko is a short, 2D top-down dungeon crawler with hack-and-slash gameplay mechanics complete with elaborate boss battles. There are only four levels, which can be cleared in about one hour total on a first play, but you can choose from three distinct characters, each of which attacks enemies differently enough to provide three unique experiences with the game.
Kamiko is (at the time of this writing) a Switch exclusive, developed by independent game developer Skipmore, and published by Flyhigh Works on the Nintendo eShop in April of last year (2017). Sure, I’m reviewing this a year later, but I just got my Switch and thought more might be interested in this diamond in the rough.
In this game you play as a Shrine Maiden who becomes a Kamiko tasked with breaking a seal between the worlds of the dead and the living. The story is just deep enough to setup the background for the game, where you will focus on opening Torii, a sort of traditional Japanese gate, in order to advance. There is dialogue only at the beginning and end of the game so overall, you should expect an action game, with little story.
Kamiko is simple to control, and as you’d expect you can move in all directions with the left stick. The directional pad can also be used, but the movement of the character requires such a sensitivity that only the analog stick can provide. There are many times when the character must traverse long distances while holding a key or orb above her head and dodging enemies. It’s at these times when the sensitive movement of the character becomes most important.
Different methods of attacking enemies separate the three playable characters in the game. Yamato, the blue character, attacks enemies with a sword. You can press the attack button up to three times for a triple attack, which also moves her forward in the direction of that attack.
The green character, Uzume, utilizes a bow and arrow to fell foes. Again, you can press the attack button up to three times for a triple attack; the first being a single arrow, the second being two arrows, and the third being (you guessed it) three, each spread a few angles apart.
Hinome wears red attire and attacks enemies with a flying disc and a dagger. You can throw her disc with a single press of the attack button, and it will return to you after reaching it’s maximum distance. While the disc is in motion, you can move, or even dash, to a different position, and the disc will follow you, creating a sort of area of attack, which creates some strategy to the fighting since you may be able to deal damage to multiple enemies. While the disc is moving, you can attack up to two more times with your dagger.
Both Uzume (bow and arrow) and Hinome (disc and dagger) have the disadvantage of a small delay in the first strike of their attacks, but they have the advantage of fighting from a distance. As a result, Hinome (sword) plays faster because she can move through enemies, attacking and dashing at the same time, but you have to be closer to attack. Simply pick the protagonist that has the play style you enjoy.
Kamiko features both HP and MP, similar to other RPGs. The HP is displayed similar to hearts in the Zelda series (I’ll call them hearts here). Each time you take damage, you lose one heart, but there are many hearts hiding inside shrubs and pottery, which you can of course destroy even during boss fights. Unlike Zelda games, they don’t disappear until you pick them up.
The SP is displayed as a blue meter with a number value. Each enemy in the game drops orbs of SP when they are defeated, which are automatically drawn toward your character. With each enemy you defeat in succession, you build a “combo” (which is displayed), and the amount of SP dropped per enemy will equal the current combo number. Your maximum HP and SP are the only permanent upgrades your character can receive throughout the adventure.
With enough SP, each character can perform a special attack by holding the attack button until the character is “charged up”, then releasing the button. Yamato (sword) does a 360-degree spinning attack, allowing you to move around the screen to destroy a group of enemies quickly. Uzume (bow and arrow), releases a barrage of homing arrows on enemies nearby. Hinome (disc and dagger) releases a large, spinning area attack with her disc. All three characters are invulnerable during their special attacks.
SP is also necessary for opening doors, looting treasure chests, and activating the four Torii in each level that open the portal to the boss. In this way, you have to consider the cost of using SP for special attacks. It also makes combos more valuable because they allow you to gather SP more quickly. Although you can dash past enemies, if you don’t accumulate enough SP by defeating them, or you use up your SP on special attacks, you will have to take extra time to gather SP to advance through each level.
As you might expect, at the end of each level is a boss. Each one features a weak point that must be exploited to emerge successful. The boss fights are the most fun portion of the game, and can vary in difficulty greatly depending on which character you’re playing. Each boss will have unique attack patterns that must be learned and in many ways feel like both a battle and a dance as you avoid incoming attacks and plan your next move.
Like the simple story of the game, the graphics and sound also take a back to basics approach. The graphics are comprised of pixel art and it’s very colorful and looks great on the Switch screen. You won’t find overly detailed backgrounds, and even the various objects are created from simple shapes and look abstract. The levels are varied and contain different environments like tress, lava, and water as well as ancient technology like runes and portals. The enemies are simple and small creatures with easily discernable attack patterns. The simplistic nature of the graphics work well, but sometimes the game can be a bit too abstract. In fact, one time a tree was actually obstructing the view of a block I needed to slide, which I’m not sure if that was intentional or not.
The sound effects are similar to a classic 2D game and the music is OK, although some may really enjoy it. The overall presentation delivers crisp and clean graphics that look like an indie title, not just an older game from the past.
Kamiko is very affordable for only $5. It’s short, but it’s worth playing through at least once with each character. Each play through took me under thirty minutes with each character and I even managed to find a secret item hiding in each of the four levels. It’s probably not worth seeking these out for a reward, because it’s pretty disappointing. If you’re into speed runs, you might like this game because you can share your overall results on Twitter or Facebook using the screenshot function of the Switch. Fans of arcade scrolling shooters might also enjoy this game for the boss fights alone.
Final Thoughts: GREAT
Kamiko is short, but it’s only $5. It’s easy to pick up and play for a short time. The three characters offer up unique ways to play, the boss fights are fun, and the speed-runs add to the lasting appeal. Overall, Kamiko is great!
Kamiko was reviewed using a digital copy for Nintendo Switch purchased by Nintendo Times. A review copy was not provided.
Adam “McSNES” Martinez, gaming drop-out and FuncoLand ghost, has spent his entire life training to review games for YOU, the loyal readers of Nintendo Times. Adam is permanently banned from Final Fantasy XI: Online, his favorite game.