Taking down legions of enemies with swift efficiency is the appeal of any ninja or samurai game, especially when it’s done in a great way. But for Mononoke Slashdown, that can be very debatable. Mononoke Slashdown is an action game that has you take on the role of a ninja named Kagemaru and clash with hundreds of undead and mystical foes. That sounds very interesting at first, especially if you’re a fan of the action genre, but there’s a few cracks that dampen the otherwise solid form of this game. Fast-paced attacks and solid controls are a good thing, but repetitive gameplay and grinding might cause some folks to shy away from playing.
You start Mononoke Slashdown with very limited abilities, which makes the fighting a bit difficult. Every mission has you taking down a large group of enemies within an enclosed space, with minor objectives you must complete to finish the mission. Moving around might give the impressions of a more open action game, where you could traverse stages and fight enemies, but this is anything but that. Each stage is its own level and has very little room for you and your enemies to move around. Missions are divided in chapters, which change locations as you progress. Regardless how the background may be different, you’re essentially in the same stage for each mission, which can get very repetitive quickly.
The combat is the best aspect of Mononoke Slashdown, but you’ll have to haul through the steep beginning stages before you can really open up your repertoire of skills. Slashing enemies can be very satisfying, especially when multiple foes are caught within your attacks. Completing a mission yields gold that you can spend in a shop to unlock new abilities, equip better weapons and armor, open up new passive skills, and more. This is fine and works well as you get deeper into each chapter, but can be heavily push you to repeat older missions for more gold to purchase better abilities.
The grind can get very annoying in some spots, especially when you’re not given a lot of gold at the end of a mission. Some items you can purchase or unlock throughout the game can help make this easier, but the beginning of the game suffers from not having access to a lot of this right away. Later missions give more gold for completing them, as does completing extra objectives, but there’s always a scarcity to the amount of gold you receive that becomes a real nuisance.
There are moments when your view of the action can be a real hindrance, mainly from attacks that come fast off screen. Some enemies shoot projectiles that can travel from off-camera and hit you while you’re occupied with another enemy. This can cause you to get hurt badly multiple times if you aren’t careful and keep watch at the end of the screen.
This wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for how quickly and frequently enemies can shoot projectiles at you in this way, forcing you to either jump around wildly or dash to the sides to avoid attacks. In addition, some enemies have extra armor against your slashes and will power right through your attacks with their own. It becomes necessary to scramble around in order to avoid their counterattacks, otherwise you’ll end up getting badly hurt and thrown all over the stage.
Despite looking very good with their design and flashy attacks, bosses at the end of each chapter can be incredibly frustrating to deal with. The bulk of the boss fights you face will have larger enemies accompanied by smaller ones, while their attacks have the ability to blow right through your own. Not only are these very damaging, but also done quickly and can at times leave little room for you counterattack. It becomes vital in these fights to have better weapons and armor purchased to have a chance at surviving them, let alone completing their objectives.
You’ll more than likely get hit a number of times throughout the fight, so having better defenses to keep your health up is key to getting through them. To do this however always requires you to grind through earlier missions for more gold to get these upgrades. Certain points of the game lock out some upgrades until you can pass through a certain chapter, which can be annoying when you’re struggling with a boss fight that would otherwise be a lot easier if you could just purchase a better upgrade.
Mononoke Slashdown is a simple game to get into, but definitely has its fair share of problems that hinder the fun. It has some great looking visuals and simple controls that work very well, but its difficulty spikes and heavy emphasis on replaying older missions to progress forward may be annoying to some. In addition, there’s very little else to do in Mononoke Slashdown once you go finish the main game. There’s a Hard mode that unlocks if you play through the first time on Normal, but that’s about it. Nothing more or less here. Whether that’s appealing or not is entirely up to you.
This review is based on a digital review code of Mononoke Slashdown for the Nintendo Switch, provided by Arc System Works.