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Lesser known survival horrors - is Kuon any good?

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Posted 06-17-2010 at 09:16 AM by December Man
Updated 07-03-2010 at 06:02 AM by December Man

Kuon is a curious case. It is very little known outside of the survival horror fans' circle, and even among them it is considered mediocre at best. Which is strange, since I found it to be a brilliant piece of entertainment, albeit severely flawed in few major aspects.

It was designed by From Software, a developer which had been largely unknown until the release of their most popular game to date, Demon's Souls.

The game is set during the Heian Period of ancient Japan. Players can choose between two characters; the Yin phase revolves around a girl named Utsuki. She and her sister Kureha, go to a haunted manor in search of their father, a once renowned, now renegade exorcist named Doman. The Yang phase centers on Sakuya, one of Doman's disciples and one of the rare female exorcists. She and her fellow apprentices(including her brother) are sent to the manor to investigate the strange occurrences there.

A third scenario with an another character can be unlocked by completing the former two ones. It is also the proper ending of the game with the final boss fight.

The game features a very thick dark atmosphere, as good as the Fatal Frame games, which is a feat to be proud of. The ambient music also adds a lot to the overall feel. Although it relies on jump scares a bit too often, the uneasiness it creates rivals the best in the genre.

The plot is very good. It isn't the class of the best Silent Hill and Fatal Frame games, but it does hold out very well on its own. I especially loved the way the story was unveiled and the fact it's set in feudal Japan(like no other game).

The combat is worth mentioning. Since it's set around the 10th century Japan, there are no firearms, only daggers fans and spears. The characters can cast spells such as fire arrows, or summon spiders, puppet women or wolves. It is kind of clunky, but every survival horror game has the same problem.

So why is the game considered mediocre? Both scenarios available from the beginning are almost EXACTLY the same in their first 1/3rd. I'm not kidding - except from very minor differences, these parts are both identical.

Both scenarios take around 3-4 hours to complete and the final one is only a 30 min. adventure.

The game has very few puzzles, might be boring for some at times.

All these are the major flaws of the game I mentioned above, yet I think it's an underrated gem. The atmosphere is among the best of the best, the story is complex, yet understandable and is a treat to follow. The combat is enjoyable, although the game is a bit on the easy side. There are harder difficulties though, so no problem.

If you enjoy survival horror games, give this one a try. It's definitely worth a shot.
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