While filled with interesting ideas, imprecise controls make this chronicle tough to recommend.
Chronicles of 2 Heroes is a Kickstarted game (which is more and more common) in which players take control of the two titular heroic siblings, Ayame and Kensai, to deal with the threat of warlord Amaterasu in the well-worn video game setting of feudal Japan. It’s ambitious but not particularly enjoyable, featuring some intriguing team-up puzzles, frustrating controls, questionable physics (at times), and occasionally buggy platforming.
As you might expect, Ayame and Kensai do things a bit differently. Ayame, an agile ninja, can jump (and soon double-jump) and throw a long-distance kunai. Her brother, Kensai, cannot jump at all because his samurai armor is too heavy. He attacks with a sword up close, but can charge a dash attack that will defeat enemies and cross wide gaps. The two cooperate by switching with the X button and utilizing their abilities together to traverse any given area.
Your typical puzzle involves jumping up to a platform with Ayame, switching to Kensai to cross a wide gap, switching back to Ayame to throw a kunai at a trigger and/or double-jump to a moving platform, and then back back to Kensai to destroy a block or something. While ultimately satisfying to pull off, these back-and-forth dalliances often require a fair-to-frustrating amount of trial-and-error that quickly grew stale.
Some moving platforms have a habit of moving so quickly that it’s difficult to get a bead on them, especially if you have to fall down to meet them. Kensai’s dash move can be hard to trigger for closer platforms, because his dash “shadow” instantly moves beyond them. Enemies add another layer of frustration, especially if they have to be dealt with a certain way, and if you ever have to parry a projectile, be prepared for a lot of retries. Both characters can parry projectile attacks, but Ayame’s parry activates a teleport that puts her right behind whatever object is firing at her. This is required reading for getting through some of the obstacle courses. Unfortunately, the parry animation has little, if anything, to do with the actual parry timing. Add to that a long wind-up animation and the inability to use the parry twice in quick succession means you’ll be hit with a lot of projectiles. Even after spending several hours with the game, I still couldn’t pull it off consistently.
Each level has specific collectables to find, including those that give our two heroes new or augmented abilities. There’s also a boss in each level which tends to be more about platforming or hitting a specific sequence of actions than fighting, which is okay, because combat is almost an afterthought in Chronicle of 2 Heroes. However, it means that boss fights can also take a long time, as they tend to last longer than they should.
I encountered a few bugs or poor design decisions on the way. There were several places where, instead of landing on a platform, my characters would drop through it as if it hadn’t been there and die. More often, platforms just didn’t line up perfectly, especially if destructible rocks were involved, and I was never super comfortable with how high Ayame’s jumps would get me especially if, again, rocks were involved. There’s a general messiness about the platforming that I found frustrating.
Graphically, Chronicles of 2 Heroes is hitting that “better than 8 bit, worse than 16 bit” (12-bit?) aesthetic that I’ve come to find tiring. There’s no definition in any of the characters, projectiles blend into the background so often you’ll find yourself having trouble seeing them, and environmental backdrops repeat in any given level ad nauseum. There’s music present, but I couldn’t hum any of it for you, even after several hours, because it’s surprisingly forgettable.
Its drawbacks are a shame because the game has a good foundation. The underlying switching mechanic is strong and most of the platforming is solid in theory. It feels like this one needed more time in the oven, but a more refined version–or a sequel left to gestate–would probably provide a great time. As it stands, Chronicles of 2 Heroes is a mildly frustrating experience that I had to convince myself to keep playing for this review.