Kunitsu-Gami: Path of the Goddess Preview – Dancing swords in the moonlight

Kunitsu Gami: Path of the Goddess sword dancing

We need more games like Kunitsu-Gami: Path of the Goddess. I’m not talking about its specific blend of gameplay – though a few copycats wouldn’t go amiss, if you ask me –but rather that it’s Capcom that’s making it. With so much focus on AAA games that take the better part of a decade to produce, it’s always refreshing to see smaller teams within major publishers producing niche and inventive games that have become the preserve of indie developers in recent years. Kunitsu-Gami: Path of the Goddess is one such game, and could be a real surprise for anyone that dances on over when it comes out later this month.

How to describe Kunitsu-Gami is a tricky one, though. There’s so many elements at play, but you can see the shadows of Monster Hunter, Pikmin, Kingdom: Two Crowns and plenty more besides dancing across its backlit tapestry. And that tapestry is a gorgeously woven rendition of Japanese mythology and religion that skips and dances across your screen.

The game’s story sees you trying to cleanse Mt. Kafuku of the defilement by twisted and evil spirits known as the Seethe. As the Seethe spread across the mountain, it consumed small villages dotted across the slope, leaving villagers cocooned while creepily many-handed growths have sprouted at various points around each locale.

Kunitsu-Gami Path of the Goddess – rescuing cocooned villagers

It’s your quest, as Soh, to guide the divine maiden Yoshiro through each village, free their inhabitants, and fight back against the waves of the Seethe that attack at night. There’s a clear divide between daytime and night, with the former all about rapid exploration and preparation, and the latter then takes on the tone of a tower defence game as you protect the Maiden from attack.

There’s plenty to do during the preparatory phase, as you race around the map trying to destroy core patches of corruption and free villagers – you earn a bonus for clearing everything within a village, in the form of a new Tsuba Guard ability that could be a flashy attack, a group buff, or more. You also have to decide how far Yoshiro should move through the village along the main path of corruption that needs cleansing, triggering her ritualistic dance toward the utterly consumed Torii gate at the end of the stage.

Yoshiro will only be able to move so far in a day, though, and if she can’t reach a gate in time, the Seethe will spew out once again, so a village cleansing level will often require multiple day-night cycles to overcome and feature multiple gates to cleanse. So you need to spot the most defensible points, light beacons to illuminate the surroundings, fix up barriers and more in order to prepare. You also need to give any rescued villagers a class defining mask to let them fight alongside you. From an axe toting Woodcutter, to an archer, or an Ascetic that can slow and debuff enemies, and beyond, you’ll have to make choices based on the kinds of Seethe coming out of the gate, and the place them to cover paths and attack lanes. Thankfully, you can very quickly switch their roles and move them during the night, adapting to the oncoming waves.

Kunitsu-Gami – Soh

You also have Soh himself, who is a master of “dancing swords” combat. Through the few levels I played, I would often race right into the action and unleash my simple sword attack combos, while having the villagers set up more to defend Yoshiro and clear up anything that snuck past me. The main trouble at this early point was with the flying Seethe, as I had yet to unlock Soh’s bow to more easily take them down, but there were further challenges that emerged, such as an enemy that would buff and protect the Seethe around them.

After successfully cleansing a stage, that village then becomes a hub that you can revisit, upgrade, and apply improvements to Soh and the various mask classes you have. Running around the now serene mountainside villages, you can assign the villagers construction and repair tasks that will be completed after your next mission, rewarding you with the materials and currency needed to then improve your kit. There’s also a tent for Yoshiro to hang out in, and visiting her will let you add upgrades for the masks you’ve collected so far, swap between Tsuba Guard abilities, and so on.

Kunitsu-Gami Path of the Goddess – The Seethe Emerge

But then there’s the Festering Seethe, giant monsters that bring out those Monster Hunter and Pikmin comparisons, as you and a small band of villagers step into their arenas and seek to do battle. The most imposing of these that we faced was an oversized centipede monster that would rampage around a darkened arena, occasionally knocking gross grubs from the ceiling to attack Yoshiro. It’s a battle of health bars, as you once again need to protect Yoshiro and fight off smaller Seethe, but also have to deal damage to the main boss and, in the case of this particular beast, during the right times.

There’s plenty of depths to the tactics and strategy in Kunitsu-Gami: Path of the Goddess that I wasn’t able to explore during my hands on time, but I already love the game’s blend of gameplay, visual stylings and overarching tone. It’s a game that at many points can look serene and in complete control as Yoshiro performatively progresses through a stage, but feels like a madcap dash and struggle to get everything done and prepared just in time to keep her safe in the fight against the Seethe.

 

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