Hanako: Honor & Blade Review: A Touching Story
The story of the making of Hanako: Honor & Blade is really interesting. Developer Matt Canei created the game as a sort of tribute to his mom, who sadly passed of cancer. In development for fourteen years, it’s a testament to his and the rest of the development team’s passion that they were able to complete it. I definitely recommend checking out the game’s history on their website.
Having such a wonderful story behind it makes me wish I could be more positive about the game itself. Hanako isn’t unplayable or anything. It can even be a bit of fun now and then. It’s a very simple title, however, one which has significant balance issues which would need to be addressed in order to make it stand out in a tough multiplayer space.
Play The Ite
Hanako: Honor & Blade is a class-based multiplayer action game. With four classes to choose between, there’s variety available to help keep things fresh. The game actually has some interesting ideas, which help make it a more exciting game. The core gameplay, however, has some real issues.
Outside of a decent training mode, there’s no single-player content here. Instead, Hanako is a purely multiplayer experience. You can choose between a variety of samurai and ninja-based classes. You have the Kenshi who fights with a sword. The Naginatashi uses a pike to strike from a distance, though he’s slower. Ninjas fight with a sort of whip and can use it to swing on specific platforms in each level. The Ite is an archer.
Needs To Loosen Up
Controlling any of these classes is quite stiff. They move slowly and feel too much like tanks for my liking. If the goal is to make you feel powerful and in control, that simply doesn’t come together. Aiming, in particular, doesn’t feel good, especially with the archer. Once you pull back your bowstring, you’re pretty limited in your ability to aim. Even more of an issue, there’s no feeling of weight behind any of the combat. Your characters have such little response that hitting an enemy doesn’t feel much different from missing.
Hanako’s balance is a bit of a mess as well. The archer class is incredibly overpowered. Because they can attack from a distance and move while attacking, they can be very slippery to actually attack, except by other archers. If there’s any distance between you, it’s easy to keep backing up and firing. While you can sprint at your foe, most sprinting strikes leave you off balance, so if you don’t perfectly time it, they’ll again put distance between you.
Each class has various upgrades and moves they can purchase at the start of a match, allowing you to customize your character. I appreciated the customization, and some of the skills can be extremely helpful, though others rarely felt useful. Some of the moves can be mildly helpful, but many others leave you vulnerable too long for me to want to make use of them.
Keeping Things Fresh
You have the standard assortment of modes for a game like this. Capture the scroll. Base defense and capture. What is effectively team deathmatch. They’re fine, though none are all that interesting. Within those modes, though, there are some interesting choices. During deathmatches, each team has a set number of tickets. These are what revive you upon death. When you run out, though, the match isn’t over. Instead, everyone alive at the time gets one final life. Suddenly every life is precious when before you could take chances if the reward seemed worth it.
Each of the game’s maps also offers a variety of shrines. You can kneel at them for either rewards for your team or punishments for your opponents. Doing so leaves you vulnerable, which takes longer than you might expect, but the rewards can be compelling. Stopping your opponents from sprinting, even for thirty seconds, can turn the tide of battle. You have the option to kneel anywhere to heal your character as well. This again offers a nice risk vs. reward choice. It takes a moment to stand back up if enemies close in quickly, so you’ll need to keep your camera on a swivel, but healing up can be crucial in a close battle.
This AI Needs Its Own Tutorial
Each of the game’s maps is solid, though there aren’t any that particularly stood out to me. Still, they do provide nice variety as some provide a more open arena while others pack you into buildings or have walls to deal with. The fights you’ll have in those arenas, though, will mostly be against the game’s terrible AI.
I saw few other actual players during my time with Hanako. Rather than have you sit around waiting, the game’s quick match will drop you in with some bots. I don’t mind facing computers if that’s the only option, but the AI for these opponents is awful. They have eyes in the back of their heads, instantly knowing your location if you come within a certain distance of them. Don’t even try sneaking up on them; it’s a waste of time. They also will all rush at you or, in some cases, the objective, with no consideration of their health, the circumstances, or anything else. It isn’t uncommon to have four opponents in a solid line running at you as you back up and fill them with arrows. When an objective is in play, your teammates will do the same, running right next to enemies without trying to interact at all until they reach their destination. I also frequently found my teammates just standing around the map, particularly in modes based around base capture. Often they would even group up. It’s not a lot of fun to rush in against huge numbers of foes while your team is standing around doing nothing around the corner. Even with bots being the only opponents, Hanako still at times gives you uneven teams. At one point I was facing eight opponents with only four on my team for seemingly no reason.
Hanako: Honor & Blade has some interesting ideas, and the story behind its creation is wonderful. I genuinely like some of the choices the development team made, and I had fun at times. The core of the game, however, needs a lot of work. With poor balance, combat lacking any weight, and matches mostly featuring terrible AI opponents, there’s much the developer needs to do to make this one worth your time. If you get together with some friends and all pick it up, you might get a few entertaining afternoons out of it, but unless the development team keeps working to improve things, don’t expect much more.
Final Verdict: 2.5/5
Available on: PC (Reviewed); Publisher: +Mpact Games; Developer: +Mpact Games; Players: 24; Released: September 14th, 2021; ESRB: N/A; MSRP: $14.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Hanako: Honor & Blade provided by the publisher.