Here we are again bringing to you another indie release review. This time we have HunterX, an action side scroller using the now tired, but still welcome, Souls-like and metroidvania templates. I am personally a huge fan of the metroidvania formula, but not too fond of souls-like elements, especially when they’re implemented as just a way to capitalize on the ever growing hype-train that doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon with the release of Elden Ring. Fortunately, HunterX does more than just that; what we have here is a true classic metroidvania experience.
Tsuki is the token anime school girl devil hunter with a ridiculously short skirt and her trusty katana. One day, while patrolling the streets at night in search of her next demonic prey, she happens upon a dimensional gate; one that leads directly to the demonic realm. As she decides to investigate this other dimension, she soon realizes that the demons are planning to invade the human realm. With the help of her impish companion, Tsuki decides to take the battle directly to the demons.
Over the course of the game, Tsuki will find other hunters that are already in the demonic realm, apparently waiting for the next hunter strong enough to receive their help in order to save humanity. These NPC encounters are scarce, and they provide a bit of insight to the story, although, just as it is with Tsuki, they have almost zero backstory. As you may have noticed, HunterX’s story is as deep as a puddle, and is nothing more than an excuse to get the action going.
HunterX is a mixed bag gameplay-wise. It combines 2D side-scrolling arcade action, Souls-like character development, and an old metroidvania aesthetic and overall game progression as can be seen in Bloodstained or any other “Igavania.” Although there are some light puzzles and platforming, they aren’t as prominent as in more pure metroidvanias. As a result, the game’s focus is much more on combat rather than on exploration. Even then, the game progresses in a traditional metroidvania dynamic; as the player advances, new obstacles appear that’ll require the use of a specific skill such as a double jump, or an air dash. At the end of a given area, a boss battle unfolds. It’s this specific gameplay dynamic that makes metroidvanias fun, and it’s well implemented in HunterX.
With all that said, is HunterX the best metroidvania to be released after Bloodstained? Far from it. Its shortcomings are as noticeable as its qualities.
Tsuki can equip a variety of weapons ranging from katana to scythes, but apart from each weapon having a distinct visual and even sometimes a discernible difference in attack speed, they all have the same move set which is the basic two hit combo that you have in the beginning of the game. Even when you unlock new moves, they never change depending on the weapon that you’re using.
Enemy variety is another problem; at the beginning it seems fine, but as you advance further you’ll come to realize that they’re mere palette or skin swaps with few exceptions. This is less of a problem with bosses, but is still very noticeable.
With that out of the way, HunterX is still an enjoyable game and a good metroidvania in general. Tsuki can level up in statues, and that’s done much like in Souls game where you use your karma – the currency of the game – to allocate points to attributes such as strength or HP. By leveling up, you are given keystones that unlock perks in a skill tree. Those include invulnerability for your dash, an extra weapon attack while you’re in the air and many more.
The combat is fast and the controls are perfect; it feels good to trample your enemies with the use of your weapon or with occult magic that is unlocked by defeating bosses or even some regular enemies. The difficulty in HunterX is high at first with enemies, especially bosses, dealing heavy damage in just one hit; even a bump with a little bat is enough to deplete half of your HP, which is a bit ridiculous but I digress.
Graphically, HunterX is as simple as it can be. This comes with the territory when you’re an indie game dev, as the budget simply isn’t there. I have a high tolerance to low tech, low polygon graphics, which is exactly the case with HunterX. What I can’t stand is an ugly artstyle, and in this department, HunterX is a bit inconsistent. Some models are more detailed than others. The artstyle varies a fair bit too, with enemies ranging from chibi low-polygon big-headed goblins to more realistic and detailed ones like the provocative vampiress. The only thing that I can say is consistent across the board is how monotone and repetitive the backgrounds are. Sure, the locales are somewhat varied, and there are some cool lighting effects. We have an abandoned village, a castle, an underground passageway with its rustic and dungeon-like visuals and more, but the textures and layout design of these places are very repetitive and unimaginative. Thankfully, what HunterX lacks in its visuals, it makes up for it to some extent with smooth graphics and fluid animations.
Although the music in the game is mostly forgettable, it serves its function in providing nice tunes to enjoy during gameplay. The soundtrack is mostly upbeat music with a sense of danger to them. It won’t annoy you, but won’t stay with you.
HunterX mostly gets the classic metroidvania gameplay right, something that is disturbingly rare to see nowadays. With a seamless and addictive sense of progression, fueled in great part by its fast paced combat, HunterX certainly deserves a look by metroidvania fans, even if its flaws bring it down a couple notches.
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