After seeing a Western release on PS4 and Steam back in January, Kwaidan ~Azuma manor story~ now sees a release on Switch. Mixing adventure with point and click gameplay in a way of bringing 1930s Japan to life in a new way. After the success of Ghost of Tsushima bringing Japanese scenery into the limelight, does Kwaidan have the same potential?
The story follows Haruko, a Hososhi in training on a fateful night when Yoki (which seem to be Yokai) have broken away from their seal, attacking the nearby manor. Not only this, but a powerful Yoki is out for revenge against Haruko’s master, turning him into a frog after a quick battle. Leaving no-one else, it is up to Haruko to defend the manor from the attack. Whilst doing so, Haruko explores deeper into the manor and finding out more about its residents at the same time. There is a great immersion as Kwaidan makes good use of combining the information about the manor and the puzzles. Having this link not only builds on the realism, but also makes it exploring and investigating everything more rewarding for a useful clue.
Let’s split the gameplay into the two parts and first look at the point and click. It functions as a way of picking up items, using them, and generally interacting with the environment. This is needed to overcome the obstacles and puzzles that prevent you from progressing deeper into the manor. Generally it involves being perceptive, looking for any items that may be useful, and at times it specifically identifies which items you need. Despite being able to click you do need to get close to actually pick it up or interact, which, if anything can get a bit frustrating but it isn’t exactly a deal breaker. In a way, it doesn’t bring much to the table. It tends to be to the point with no real life in the observations, and it can be frustrating that the inventory requires to be clicked over an assigned button. Yet there is a way to prepare for it. Really a set button would just make it smoother.
The other side of the game is more precision gaming, like Dark Souls, Sekiro, etc. The combat is more about having the right timing, attacking and defending at the precise moment. There are three weapons to attack with, and this is more about controlling the height of the attack than anything else. Out of these, only the middle had unlimited use, but high and low require aura as it depletes whilst you hold the button to attack down. The gauge fills with a successful block and defeating an enemy creating a balance. Defending on the other hand is strange, not a set button, but rather the back step button. If an enemy attacks while back stepping you automatically defend which means it can take longer to get close to enemies due to going backwards and forwards. Where precision is key, it is frustrating how precise you need to be as there are steep learning curves of dying a few times. After a few deaths it is usually a lot more straight forwards so there isn’t too much to worry about. Although bosses can pin you in a small area, making it incredibly difficult to attack and defend and makes the combat system feel clunky.
How does mixing the action adventure and point and click come together? Well, there isn’t much need to do both at the same time, so it is manageable. If anything, during combat, leaving the pointer over the inventory makes it easier if you need to heal. Really, it just builds into the challenge of the game. There is also another need to be extra cautious as you need an item to save, making the amount of times you can create checkpoints limited. There can also be traps, such as a bridge collapse where you will fall if you don’t run making it a bit too frustrating but if you like the challenge it won’t phase you. However, it feels like the clunky controls make it even more challenging than is needed. The slow attack pushing for the timing over responding at the right time. It really feels like the game could do with a bit more tinkering.
From the screenshots, it is clear the graphics go for a more retro look early PS1, possibly 2, look. Interestingly, the two control modes give different visual filters with the standard having cel shaded that has refined the models really well. This is not the only inspiration, but the screen layout has a 4:3 dimension screen with the inventory on the right. Where it helps with the point and click, it really feels a bit strange being constantly there. It isn’t so bad handheld, but on the TV screen feels like a waste. Having the film tape border preps you for the cinematic camera angles Kwaidan uses that feel straight out of Resident Evil, Silent Hill, etc., obscuring the view and emphasising a film like quality. It keeps you on edge as it obscures some enemies that you can hear around the corner. In similar fashion the sounds are pretty basic but works for the aesthetic. Still, the real highlight is the yoki designs, looking like the very thing from Japanese folklore. Where it would have been nice for voice acting in the scenes, it can be overlooked, although could be presented in a better way.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Kwaidan ～Azuma manor story～ Review
Gameplay - 5/10
Graphics - 6/10
Sound - 6/10
Replay Value - 3/10
User Review( votes)
Kwaidan ~Azuma manor story~ tries to create something new but unfortunately falls short. Despite pulling of a great Japanese aesthetic, the clunky combat system makes the precision gaming fall short. If you like a challenge, there is something for you, but it all seems a bit subpar.
- Great Showa Era aesthetic.
- Yokai have great designs based on Japanese folklore.
- Clunky combat system.
- Sound and Visuals are a bit too basic.