From the makers of the Otogi and Armored Core series comes a survivor horror game like no other.

From Software
Action / Horror

By Joseph Jackson

Kuon's storyline takes place in Japan during what seems to be one of From Software's favorite eras, the Heian period (794 - 1192). The setting is 11th century Heian-kyo which was old school Japan before it became known as modern-day Kyoto in 795. With the change came an end to the constant battles that had occurred between clans over the throne during the Nara period.

During the Heian period Kyoto became known as the city of peace and tranquility and Japanese culture flourished greatly under the rule of the Heian dynasty. A more Japanese-centric culture was developed, independent of the Chinese culture that had influenced Japan up until that point. They began by developing their own system of writing to differentiate from the Chinese writing system and also developed a court culture with values and concepts that were uniquely Japanese and different from those derived from imperial China. Anyway, enough with the history lesson...

In Kuon, a father who lives with his two daughters near the mountains in Heian-kyo goes missing when he heads off to work one day and never returns. As the length of his absence increases the sisters decide to go searching for him and end up at a creepy mansion house. After making their way through a majestic door guarded by an ominous seal, the eerie sounds of children singing is heard and the younger sister has an unpleasant reaction, shortly thereafter running off and leaving her sister behind.

Supposedly there's a little back story involving the sisters and the current state of their relationship. A while back while the two were playing together near a cliff, the younger one decided to make her way down a rope ladder anchored by a wooden stake. Of course by reading that they were playing near a cliff you can already surmise that something went wrong, which of course it did. While the older sister held onto the stake to keep the rope ladder stable so her sister could climb down, she was startled by two creepy little girls, causing her to let go of the stake, sending her younger sister plummeting to the ground, breaking her neck in the process. While she survived the fall, she was left paralyzed and resented her sister ever since. Oh boy! She could certainly learn something about love & forgiveness from the Fatal Frame 2 sisters.

At the start of the game you're provided with two female characters to choose from with a total of 5 playable characters rumored to become available later on. One of the protagonists is the 15 year old girl whose resentful sister ditched her early on. So now she has to not only search the mansion for her missing father but for her sister as well. The other character is a female exorcist sent in by her master to investigate the mansion and uncover its dark secrets. While all of the characters will embark on their own adventures throughout the haunted mansion it's more than likely they'll all cross paths with each other during key points in their respective storylines.

As you traverse the haunted environments you'll spend a great deal of time feeling around in the dark. Guided by the light of a candle, you'll need to explore the entire estate, collecting a variety of helpful items along the way that serve as clues and much needed pieces to solving some of the puzzles you'll encounter. Unlocking doors is handled with the use of special seals you'll acquire throughout the mansion, and like many other survivor horror games a great deal of backtracking is involved in Kuon, possibly more so than I've encountered in other survival horror games.

So far the scares have been significant as there have been a number of startling moments early on in the game with dead bodies dropping out of nowhere, creepy figures stalking you and disappearing into the shadows, and disgusting blood trails appearing on the walls and grounds of the estate. The enemies we've encountered so far have consisted of hostile spirits, bizarre human-like creatures, and corpses with severed limbs and open wounds crawling towards you.

To fend off the supernatural and demonic enemies they encounter both girls are equipped with their own types of weapons. The 15-year old attacks with a sharp blade that she uses against the ugly-as-hell demonic terrors she comes up against, whereas the other female exorcist can shoot flames at the evil spirits and corpses she encounters, scorching whichever enemies are foolish enough to stand in her way.

Visually, it's hard to truly appreciate the graphics of Kuon due to how dark most of the environments are. A candle light serves as your only source of light during the darker areas of the game but from what we've seen during the early portions, the backgrounds are above average with the obvious advantage going to the character designs - which feature smooth rounded characters sporting beautifully detailed kimonos, sashes and other outfits that stood out during the Heian period. Character animations are quite smooth and it's cool how the characters react startled by objects and dead bodies that fall out of no where, making it so you're not the only one jumping when something scary happens.

The audio presentation of Kuon is also handled well and contains a solid collection of creepy atmospheric sounds. Wind gusts indicating the presence of evil spirits and the eerie sounds of children singing certainly increases the game's spook factor. I thought the voice acting was pretty solid although some may not appreciate the fact that most, if not all of the characters, speak without moving their lips.

Stay tuned for more as we approach the expected western release date this November.

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