Kamiko is a top down isometric adventure game that has been built specifically for the speed runners out there, where you play as one of three Shrine Maidens in this very niche experience from Japanese developers Flyhigh Works and Skipmore.
The main idea of the story is that Demons have sealed the gates between the transient world and the realm of the dead. If things stay like this, the demons will be able to take over the transient world and destroy humankind by leading them down the wrong path. To stop this from happening you must cleanse the four gates that are situated in each level to trigger a boss fight, give the boss a damn good seeing to, before heading off again. That is pretty much it with Kamiko; rinse and repeat through four more levels.
The story is supposedly based around Shintoism but I couldn’t tell you if this is true or not. What I can tell you is that you’ll choose from one of three mystical warriors called Yamato, Uzume and Hinome, each of whom has a weapon and play style to suit said weapon.
Yamato is the bright blue one with the two handed sword with a playstyle that is all about up close and personal damage. Yamato is certainly the easiest of the three to start with. Uzume meanwhile is the little green one with antlers and her weapon is a bow. It has to be said that Uzume was my first choice on my initial playthrough as I usually enjoy ranged characters, but she can’t fire diagonally so you have to be super careful when engaging mobs of beasties. And then that leaves us with Hinome – the red one who uses her shield as a ranged weapon and has a sword for up close and stabby action. On a later run I found myself gravitating toward Hinome as her mix of ranged and up close suits my own preferred style down to the ground.
The differences between each of these characters are enough that a playthrough with each is like having a whole new game to play. However, apart from this, Kamiko doesn’t really have that much of a replay value.
Apart from the initial storyline, there is nothing else story-wise to the game. But then, it does not really need to delve any deeper or make things any more complex, and you could compare it to early Zelda games; although apart from being top down and isometric that’s where the likeness ends.
The gameplay found within is very basic with your attack button centralised on A, and then all the other buttons seeing themselves dedicated to sprinting. Enemies come thick and fast and in a rather cunning twist you should leave a couple alive when exiting an area in order to stop whole swarms of baddies respawning. This is handy when attempting to complete the various mini-puzzles that Kamiko throws at you, as carrying an item through a mob without being able to be touched or fighting back can grow to be excruciating in the extreme.
As you battle enemies and kill them off without taking damage your character gains experience points or SP, and this can be put towards opening chests, firing off special moves and cleansing the four gates dotted throughout each level which lead through to the boss fights. And while this is fun, once you have run through Kamiko a few times you’ll get used to the locations of everything you need to action, allowing you to unlock the speedrunning aspect of the game.
Kamiko is however a very brief game and can easily be beaten under a couple of hours. It is here where the replay value comes into play, with the speedrunning side of things timing you as you move through each of the zones. If anything, this is fun to go back and try to best your time, although it’s disappointing that Kamiko doesn’t allow you to put these times up on any friends leaderboard. Nothing tickles me more than beating the score of a super competitive friend.
When it comes to it though, the Xbox One achievements are glorious and Kamiko likes to hand them out at an even pace; just enough to keep any achievement hunter interested in taking them down.
In terms of the graphics and visuals, Kamiko runs the 8-bit route, but it is still very well detailed while the accompanying chiptune soundtrack really adds to the levels, helping to differentiate each from more than just the “earth level”, “air level” and so on.
At the end of the day Kamiko is a good distraction for a few hours but not really enough of a slow burner to keep you coming back for playthrough after playthrough. It’s a very niche game, and I can see why Kamiko has done so well on the Nintendo Switch, but I’m not really sure a port to Xbox has been required.