Chronicles of 2 Heroes: Amaterasu’s Wrath gets two key mechanics right that make all the difference to someone who has spent far too many years playing similar 16-bit, Metroidvania inspired action tites. The best of the pack must always include both tight, pixel perfect jumping across devilish landscapes, and the kind of puzzles you know the answer to but just require exact timing in order to pull off. You can tick both of those off the bucket list of this indie release, which is great to see, but there’s plenty of other interesting pieces to the pie that make it more than worthy of your time.
As the title suggests, there are two Heroes at your disposal to jump, dash and fight your way across each Japanese mythology infused level. Kensei the armoured clad samurai makes up for his lack of mobility with a fast dash technique that can help skip past obstacles or over long gaps, while his sibling Ayame can move at a faster pace, jump at will and attack from long range. You’ll be switching seamlessly between both characters in order to progress past whoever and whatever you come across, with plenty of traps and a growing number of enemies.
That character switch-up is the key to Chronicles of 2 Heroes, and you’ll have to do it often. Almost every section of every major area will require one of the two heroes in order to carry on, and thankfully the game facilitates the exact timing needed for the switch. Granted it can take a little to get used to shifting back and forth, and I died plenty of times hitting the wrong button at a disastrous time, but a decent amount of checkpoints saves some of the frustration from bubbling over.
You know what, that’s fair
I could argue that too much of the game relies on Ayame’s jumping, but that’s only partially true. As the most agile, I found myself using her more often. That said, there’s plenty of occasions where Kensei’s shift can come in handy and not just in flashing past spike pits or an obvious line-up of goons begging to be sliced and diced. After a few hours I found myself switching more regularly for even the mundane things, largely because it felt so good to do so. There’s a handful of hidden areas and locked away portions that feel damn good when you split second phase to get through a seemingly impossible task.
What I appreciated the most about Chronicles of 2 Heroes was its ability to naturally introduce a new mechanic without having to go through a laundry list of tutorials. On more than one occasion I found myself in a room with something I hadn’t seen before, and thanks to some clever enemy placements, I picked up on what I needed to do rather quickly. Rarely did I find myself stumped by a puzzle or, unlike some Metroidvania’s, without a key needed to continue that would require a massive amount of backtracking to recover. More often than not, the path before you is the one you need, and any side rooms or locked doors that can be paid to open with the coins you find are there as a side quest instead of a requirement.
Every so often you’ll get the chance to take a break from the action within a sanctuary. These double as both a hub to teleport to existing areas and a place to get the lowdown on any treasures you may have left behind. It pays to go backwards sometimes, as the extra money you uncover can pay towards uncovering where those little hidden treasures might be on the map, or any other collectibles that you missed along the way. As most locked doors have to be paid for, it’s equally important to pick up everything you get, and some of the best abilities may be lying in wait too. They aren’t necessary in completing the campaign and seeing out the big bads, but they certainly make things easier and provide an extra layer of strategy than just sticking with what’s handed to you. Just be wary, the puzzles that stand between you and these goodies are some of the most difficult in the game.
Jump pads? Here? That’s just rude
I did enjoy my time with Chronicles of 2 Heroes, but there are some notable issues that I wish the team had spent a little more time polishing. No matter how often I tried, for example, I couldn’t master the parry mechanic. The timing on that front felt a little off and could have done with some tweaking, so I largely ignored it during my playtime and stuck with Ayame’s jumping ability to get me out of a scrape which is a shame. I also wasn’t a huge fan of the included map, slow to load and lacking much detail to really get an idea as to where you are and where you’ve been. I get the direction they went for, it’s an homage to Metroid and all that, but a little more detail wouldn’t have gone astray.
And as much as backtracking is part of the experience, I would have liked the ability to teleport back to a temple or another pre-determined location rather than having to go through the entire section to reach a way out. That’s a smaller nit-pick in the grand scheme of things, but the amount of times I found what I needed then had to go all the way back again in order to carry on did get a little grating after a while.
Chronicles of 2 Heroes had me as soon as I realised how tight its jump mechanics are. It’s a big game changer when a studio nails the fundamentals from the outset, and it made the early going far more enjoyable. And this was before the better mechanics and abilities played their part in mixing things up and keeping the experience fresh. There’s a few elements that didn’t quite work along the way, true, but I’m happy to recommend it as one of the hidden gems of the year so far, a title that confidently follows in the footsteps of its predecessors and delivers on the promise it holds.
Reviewed on PC // Review code supplied by publisher
- Infinity Experience
- Catness Game Studios
- PS5 / PS4 / Xbox X|S / Xbox One / Switch / PC
- May 26, 2023