Kiai is the term used to describe the short shout uttered by martial artists when attempting to strike an opponent. Some people believe that kiai by itself is a weapon that can strike fear into the hearts of an enemy, and still use it to this day when training. The noble samurai is also known to have utilised kiai in battle. Developed by Absorb Reality, Kiai Resonance puts you in control of an ancient samurai warrior, set against a gorgeously rendered recreation of ancient Japanese art.
As a one-on-one sword fighting game Kiai Resonance bears a slight resemblance to Nidhogg; your warrior has a set amount stances to choose from and a few different ways to strike or block the opponent, but the similarities end there. Kiai is more refined than Nidhogg is, and relies less on luck or cheap acrobatics than it does skill and split second timing. Winning a duel requires the ability to anticipate an opponents next move, as well as the ability to quickly block or counter them. The game’s control scheme may prove a little confusing at first, but it ends up feeling natural and well thought out.
Using the ‘z’ and ‘c’ keys allows you to move back and forth along the screen, with a quick double tap making you jump forwards or backward to gain ground on an enemy, or make a getaway. The ‘k’, ‘u’ and ‘h’ keys control the stance of your sword, which can either be at your side, in front of you, or above your head. You can also take two different swipes with your sword using the space bar; a quick tap allows you to swipe at the enemy, whereas as a prolonged press unleashes a heavier blow, especially when the sword is above your head.
Gameplay is quite simple, pitting you against an opponent over a set amount rounds. The first person to reach the required number of victories wins the round, leaving the other player to commit Seppuku at the keyboard. Okay, not really, but they might as well because everything else feels so authentic!
Each round places you and an opponent on opposite sides of the screen and, if you want to win, you’ll need to make ground on them. I’ve found blocking opponents into the corner to be a most effective strategy, but you’ll need to learn how to counter and when to tactically retreat to give yourself some breathing space. When the time is right to make a blow against your opponent a quick tap of the space bar will send your sword slicing the air down on their heads. A grizzly yell and a satisfying splash of blood await you if you timed it right, and a gut-wrenching counter attack if not. Kiai Resonance‘s sword fighting is tense, satisfying stuff and feels more precise and calculated than the likes of Nidhogg.
If you prefer something a bit more quick fire you can try ‘Rush mode’ which sends you and your opponent barreling down on each other. This mode leaves you no time to stop and smell the roses, instead it demands that you make a quick call on how to attack your opponent and to stick with it. Any second guessing will result in a quick death so pick a stance and may your swing be true.
If you are a bit rusty with the blade you can take on some mini game style challenges which allow you to sharpen your skills, from mastering your stances, proper counter attacks and timing your own attacks. The ways of the samurai are complex, so I highly recommend that you try some of the challenges before playing against the CPU or online. You can also play locally using the same keyboard if you can’t find anyone online to play against.
Every aspect of Kiai Resonance feels authentically Japanese and well researched. The game’s three unique areas, suitably named ‘Wind’, ‘Fire’ and ‘Water’, have been painstakingly created using ancient Japanese art as a point of reference and look absolutely gorgeous in motion. A soothing Shamisen soundtrack in the menu gives way to a stirring taiko drum beat during battles and will surely get your heart pounding along. That I haven’t seen more of a stir about the game is a great shame, especially given how well put together it is.
Don’t let Kiai Resonance fly under your radar any longer, get your feet bound, don your kimono and pick it up at a bargain basement price from Absorb Reality’s website.