At a glance...

Reviewer Platform Publisher Developer Players Screenshots
Matt Bailey PlayStation 2 Indie Games Productions FromSoftware 1 Here
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Kuon review

Japanese horror games have become a part of the gaming culture over the past few years. Capcom's Resident Evil, Konami's Silent Hill and Tecmo's Project Zero series have all played a major part in scaring gamers. Now FromSoftware, creators of the Armoured Core, Tenchu and Otogi series are bringing a new survival horror game in from the East, Kuon.

Unfortunately Kuon seems to be fairly standard fare. While it takes the original step of setting the game in ancient Japan rather than a modern urban environment that seems so popular these days, overall the game doesn't really offer much to the genre. Interestingly, the game was originally released in both Japan and the United States before Resident Evil 4 appeared, and raised the bar considerably. In fact, it's taken so long to arrive in Europe (over 2 years!) that even a PlayStation 2 version of Capcom's title has arrived.

The delay hasn't done well for Kuon's looks. That's not to say that Kuon looks bad, but it wasn't even cutting edge upon initial release, and more recent PS2 titles such as Black and even Resident Evil 4 somewhat put it to shame. Still, they do the job, particularly providing an authentic look to 12th Century Japan, and successfully providing the atmosphere for a creepy game.

You begin the game with a choice of two different perspectives; Yin and Yang. Each represents a character, who has their own reason for being at the Fujiwara manor. While the two feature different abilities, you'll still find yourself repeating quite a bit of the game. Each girl has access to basic weapons such as knives, which often seem rather pathetic in light of the monsters you face. At least they aren't generic zombies for a change.

The weapons are made up for by the magic spells you are able to cast. These are more interesting and often more effective - but their use is limited, which can be frustrating. The time it can take to use both weapons and spells doesn't seem to match up to the onslaughts you can face. This is made none the easier by the fact that movement seems slow at normal pace, and while you can run - though not that fast - the game seems to discourage you from doing so. Sometimes you can come across negative pools of energy, seemingly at random, which flash on screen. If you happen to be running when this occurs, your character experiences vertigo, which could spell the end of your quest. Thankfully there is the ability to stop and meditate to recover, though this is of little use in the middle of a battle.

The main gameplay consists of exploration and puzzle solving - again typical fare for the genre. A lot of the puzzles are simply find-the-item quests, and aren't particularly interesting or difficult. An eye for detail is also needed - picking up clues is essential to progression, and noticing the sparkles or items you need to investigate becomes an important skill. But overall we're left with a game that, while having an interesting premise (ancient Japan certainly sounds more interesting than some generic American city), ultimately doesn't interest. I have to admit to not being the biggest fan of the genre, which could explain the boredom I experienced at times while playing Kuon, however I was still able to enjoy Silent Hill and the like, simply because they featured more interesting stories, and gave a more unique experience than anything seen in this game.


Graphics There's quite a bit of detail in the game, and the blood effects look rather good. However, the game's long-delayed release puts it behind the times. 7/10
Gameplay While there's nothing fundamentally wrong (except maybe running...), the game just doesn't do anything for the genre. Magic has been done before, and the unique setting alone doesn't make for a good game. 6/10
Value It does retail for slightly less than the average PS2 title, but it's hardly enough to warrant a purchase over the likes of Resident Evil 4. 7/10
Lifespan Despite the inclusion of two initial characters, with a third segment at the end of the game, it doesn't take too long to get through. There's also little incentive to replay, particularly as you're going over sections in the initial run already. 6/10
Audio An excellent decision was made to include not only a decent English voiceover, but the original Japanese one too. Complete with English subtitles and more suited to the game, it's certainly something that should be included in future titles from the East. 8/10
Overall While Kuon shows some hope of being an interesting title, it never really does anything we haven't seen done before, and arguably done better. However, while it can't be recommended over other excellent titles in the genre, if you are in need of a new survival game you could do worse than check it out. 6/10

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