Kena: Bridge of Spirits Review (PS5)
The only thing I need in life is an army of cute Rot following me around.
Available on: PS4/5
Genre: Action Adventure
Publisher: Ember Lab
In Kena: Bridge of Spirits, you get put into the shoes of a young girl named Kena. You learn pretty quickly that she’s a spirit guide (just like the title suggests) and a powerful one at that. Spirit guides are basically those who are in tune with the spirit realm and thus can see spirits and help them move on if they end up lingering for way too long. Kena has just arrived at an abandoned village in a forest and that’s as she sensed suffering there. She comes across a spirit early on and she comes across a spirit that does not want her there and pretty much attacks her right then and there. Unlikely for him, Kena can defend herself fine and soon you come across more spirits that need help moving on before you can get to the Sacred Mountain Shrine.
Throughout the game, you’ll come across three main spirits that need help, the last of which being the spirit you came across when you first came. They each are having trouble dealing with what happened and it’s up to you to find their three relics tied to them (with the help of other spirits that were important to them while alive) and finding out what happened to them and unravel what happened to this village.
I actually quite liked the story, despite some seeing it as too simple. It really works with the way it was told and I wanted to find out what happened as it builds up to that moment that you find out. Though, we don’t really get all that much on Kena and her backstory, despite it being hinted at, and I wished we did as I was a bit disappointed it went unresolved (or got resolved in the background if you really read into it). I wanted to know what was happening with her hand, why the spirit saw her motivations being selfish (and if they were or they shifted as the game progressed), and her dad. I do wish we get a sequel as I did enjoy the world this game built up.
You also come across some very cute, probably a bit above ankle high, creatures called Rot. Don’t let the name fool you, as these are your cute allies. The smallest one of the bunch hangs out on your shoulder while the other, bigger ones will follow you as you run, pop up standing on ledges or items, and will help you on your journey. However, you have to find them first as they’re hiding all around, usually punctuated by the color purple or footprints you can see when putting on the wooden masks. Rot helps in combat and puzzles, but they also help to purify the corruption that plagues the village as they can surround the corrupt flowers enough for Kena to purify it. They can also combine into one spirit beast (which resembles their original form) with the help of a Forest Tear to clear clumps of corruption, but I found this to be awkward to control.
The corrupted spirits inhabiting this village won’t take too kindly to you being there and will attack you. Combat is simple, but it does get tricky to defeat enemies and the bosses you’ll encounter as you get further into the game. You start with the basic light and heavy attacks with her spirit staff and the ability to produce a shield. The shield also can be used to parry, but the timing is pretty tricky as you have to almost activate it right before you would have gotten hit (plus I have read that some boss attacks aren’t parry-able which explains things). So I wouldn’t really risk parrying unless you have health to spare. You’ll also gain abilities as you continue through the story that will help you in battle and there is an upgrade system so you can make them more effective or even give you more moves. The Rot you’ll also be collecting also serves as a way to bound enemies, which essentially stops their attack and leaves them vulnerable (though some enemies respond differently and some bosses does require their usage).
I actually do recommend going to Spirit Guide difficulty mode to give yourself more of a challenge, but going down if you find a section too difficult. The battles here are no joke, but I can see it being too easy at the beginning. I myself went down to it during the last section’s boss fights as they are really tricky to get through.
The puzzles here are good and simple as well. You’ll use the abilities you get throughout the game, as you can have Rot pick up heavy objects for you, your staff acts as a way to ping other blue stones, the wooden masks that let you see into the spirit realm, and you’ll use the abilities you get by progressing like the bow. The only times I got stuck was when I was trying to figure out a way to get to where I had to go or couldn’t see a totally obvious solution as I was overthinking it (this game really makes you feel dumb for getting stuck).
There are a lot of collectible stuff here that you can search for if you wish. The collectibles mostly revolve around Gems (the currency here), Karma (which is used towards upgrades), and Rot. There are chests (with some being cursed, requiring you to do a combat challenge that can be tricky) and just jars that can hold Rot, Gems, or Karma. There are Flower Shrines that you have to clear in the Rot’s combined form to purify to get Gems and Karma; as well as normal statues that you can turn upright or put back in the right spot to gain Karma. Meditation Spots are hidden around that will increase your health and you can find Spirit Mail somewhere in the forest and deliver it to clear the corruption set in that house. And finally, while we already went over the Rot being a collectible, they have hats that you can find and buy them in the hat shop so all of your Rot have cute little hats. You thought the Rot were cute, just wait until you unlock more hats.
Honestly, Kena: Bridge of Spirits turned out better than I was expecting. The fights are genuinely no joke, the music is amazing and fits the game and story so well (even making the boss fights seem even better), the Rots are so cute, and the story is interesting. The story kept me hooked all the way through as I did want to know what happened and I may have played this all in one setting. I’m glad I decided to play it as it really made my weekend.
If you’re intending on collecting everything and playing on at least Spirit Guide difficulty, I will say that this would be worth it full price. But if you just want to go through it, gathering the collectibles as you go along and that’s it, and just playing on Story mode difficulty, it would be best to pick this up on sale.