I’d like to say that in a previous life I was a samurai, but I doubt that’s true. I certainly don’t epitomize any of the virtues of Bushido now. I mean, if Bushido had a tenant involving folding pizza in half to more easily eat it, then yeah, I’d be living an honorable life. Not the case. My daimyo would be displeased. Anyway, my point is that even though I’m not a samurai (shocker of the year, I know), the indie fighting game Kiai: Resonance does a great job emulating the experience.
Kiai: Resonance is a very simple game. You’re a samurai. So is your opponent. Whoever gets sword-ed first loses. It’s that easy. If you’ve ever played the classic swordfighting game Bushido Blade, you’ve kind of got the idea; there’s no lifebar here, so one hit is all it takes.
The process by which someone gets butchered is also pretty easy to get a handle on. Your samurai has three sword stances and can switch between them freely. High stance allows for quick slashes and a speedy dash attack, but both of these can be countered or blocked. Medium stance, meanwhile, is the only one that can block, but your slashes from this stance are slower. Finally, low stance can’t slash or block, but pressing the attack key from low stance at the right moment will allow your samurai to counterattack. Samurai can also push one another to create an opening.
This means that a typical match of Kiai is a sort of dance of death; each player is wary of the other, knowing that a single mistake means a loss. There’s no single strategy that leads to a win every time. A player who spends all their time in low stance risks being pushed and dying to a followup slash, for instance. Meanwhile, an overly aggressive player who stays in high stance and charges in constantly is going to find themselves repeatedly cut down by counterattacks. Even medium stance’s blocks will fall prey to a push followed by a quick high stance slash.
Much like the card game Yomi that was recently covered, this general simplicity allows the game to be about knowing your opponent as much as knowing the game. This means that the “right” way to play Kiai: Resonance is almost certainly with another human player, even though bots are available. Much to my amazement, online play is both available and works well – kudos for that one!
Graphically, Kiai: Resonance tries to emulate classic Japanese art. It’s an interesting aesthetic that was probably also cost-efficient; there’s not a huge amount of animation here, so any other style probably would have looked a bit crude. Sound is pretty much exactly what you’d expect: classic Japanese music combined with sword clashes and the odd war cry. Everything works as expected, even if it’s not going to blow your mind.
Kiai: Resonance is a cheap and high-quality nugget of gaming that’s worth a look if you’ve got a friend to play it with. It certainly looks and feels budget, but that’s not necessarily a knock on the game. There’s online play in a game that could have certainly taken the easy way out of local-only multiplayer, and that alone would be enough to convince me to recommend this one. The fact that it’s also a solid fighter makes it a discipline worth committing to.