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Video Game / Kena: Bridge of Spirits

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"I know your kind. You sense the power that flows through this land. Yet, you do not fully understand it. Driven by the belief that you can help these troubled spirits. But you cannot hide your weakness from me. You have no power here... Kena."

Kena: Bridge of Spirits is an Action-Adventure exploration game developed by Ember Labnote  for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and Windows released on September 21, 2021.

The story centers around Kena, a young Spirit Guide, who travels to an abandoned village in search of a sacred shrine. There, she must uncover the secrets of the forgotten community, now filled with trapped wandering spirits, while also collecting timid little spirits called the Rot to help her in her journey.

The product page on the Epic Games Store can be viewed here. The trailers can be seen here and here.

Kena: Bridge of Spirits provides examples of:

  • Ability Depletion Penalty: Your shield has a limited capacity to withstand enemy attacks. If it breaks, you receive minor damage, but furthermore, you cannot use the shield anymore until its Shield Meter is fully restored.
  • Ability Required to Proceed: During the game, you receive three major ability upgrades: The Spirit Bow, Spirit Bomb, and Spirit Dash. Naturally, once you get them you need them all over the place, from platforming sections to defeating the next bosses.
  • Absurdly High Level Cap: Kena's maximum level is 5, which doesn't sound like a lot. However, level progression is tied to collecting Rots, and while reaching Lv. 4 only requires getting 64 of them, you will need all 100 Rot to reach Lv. 5, which means you will have to explore every nook and cranny of the game world and you can only reach it immediately before the final boss fight, if at all. Thankfully, there are no new abilities that are tied to reaching Lv. 5, it merely increases the Courage Meter.
  • Action Bomb: There are two kinds of suicide enemies. The first is a bug-like enemy with a giant, explosive sac, which will try to charge into you and explode. It can be detonated early with a bomb, arrow, or even the basic energy pulse. The second is a tiny masked warrior that will attempt to cling to you and then explode. It's harder to kill, but can be shaken off if it attaches. Its head also explodes a few seconds after you kill it.
  • Action Girl: Kena, a Spirit Guide who travels to an abandoned village filled with hostile spirits and can hold her own in a fight.
  • An Aesop: Change is a necessary part of life, and holding on to what is lost can be self-destructive.
  • And Your Reward Is Clothes: Finding certain chests and completing trials will unlock hats for the Rot and outfits for Kena that you can buy at the store. These don't do anything outside of looks.
  • Antepiece: On receiving the Spirit Bomb, you're introduced to energized platforms safely: Once infused with a bomb, these platforms hover in the air for a finite amount of time, and when the time is over, you will fall with them. The first few times, you just fall on the floor, but soon, you will fall to your doom if you don't pass in time.
  • Attack Backfire:
    • The Mage will throw off any bombs attached to it after a few seconds, though you can shoot the bomb if you're quick.
    • The Hunter will snipe at any bombs on the field, even if you're holding them.
    • Toshi will reflect both bombs and arrows back at you, assuming he isn't in the middle of an attack.
  • Attack Its Weak Point:
    • Most of the miniboss monsters have one or more yellow crystals on their body. Shooting them does extra damage and generates courage for Rot attacks.
    • Corrupted Taro has a lantern hanging around his neck that can be shot to stun him briefly or interrupt certain attacks. It regenerates every so often. One of the trials requires shooting it in the middle of his grab attack.
    • The Corrupted Woodsmith has a crystal buried in her body that can be exposed with a bomb, stunning her for a decent period if you can destroy it quickly. The catch is that the Woodsmith will destroy bombs and retaliate under normal circumstances, so you have to wait for an opening to stick one on her.
  • Attack Reflector:
    • Parrying certain attacks will send them back at the attacker. The Hunter's explosive arrow is one example.
    • Toshi will reflect your arrows assuming he's not in the middle of attacking, though not with perfect accuracy.
  • Badass Adorable: Kena is a young, cute girl who is nonetheless shown taking on corrupted spirits many times her size.
  • Big Bad: The masked spirit Kena meets at the start of the game. Kena sees him as a tortured soul in need of guidance, but he continuously rejects her pleas at every turn. Toshi's status as an antagonist stems from his refusal to believe that the famine plaguing his village was part of the natural cycle and challenged the Rot God, in turn setting the game's events in motion.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Some of the lines that Kena might say to her Rot companions are in unsubtitled Indonesian.
  • Blue Is Heroic: Kena's outfit is primarily blue and she's the main protagonist of the game.
  • Boom, Headshot!: Certain bosses can be staggered or have their attacks interrupted by headshots. The Hunter in particular will not stand still unless shot in the head.
  • Boring, but Practical: The Seismic charm increases bomb damage with no conditions. This is extremely helpful if you've upgraded the bomb skill completely.
  • Boss Arena Recovery: Almost every boss fight has up to three healing flowers spread around its edges. Using Rot Courage, Kena can heal herself with these.
  • Boss Corridor: The final level is one big long empty corridor just leading up to the boss - first, you climb up the snowy Mountain Shrine, before you defeat Toshi for the first time and follow him into a new dimension, which is just a huge, empty ice field forboding the true final fight.
  • Boss Rush: The final trial is a battle against the three spirit world bosses (Warrior, Hunter, Mask Maker). The Warrior and Hunter spawn as a Dual Boss, with the Mask Maker replacing whoever is killed first. Part of the challenge is managing to kill the first two at nearly the same time so the Mask Maker's teleportation doesn't pose as much of a threat.
  • Broken Bridge: Multiple. The way to Rusu Mountain in particular is littered with them. One big stone one is never repeared and has to be circumvented by a long detour, another is held in place by the Rot just long enough for Kena to pass.
  • Broke Your Arm Punching Out Cthulhu: Toshi managed to fight and defeat the Rot God, but doing so killed him and everyone in the village that hadn't already died from the famine.
  • Bullfight Boss: Corrupted Taro's battle strategy is circling around you and suddenly rushing at you to cause significant damage.
  • But Now I Must Go: At the end of the game, the Rot bid Kena a fond farewell before reuniting to form the Rot God.
  • Call a Hit Point a "Smeerp": The Special attack meter is called "Rot Courage", and it has an in-game explanation: The Rot are scared of enemies and go into hiding unless you perform some attacks, after which the Rot "muster their courage" and aid you in battle.
  • Collision Damage: Contact with the red corruption causes Kena to be knocked back and receive Scratch Damage.
  • CoolDown: The Spirit Bow and Spirit Bombs have a cooldown that governs when you can use the attacks again. For the bow, you have four arrows and replenish one roughly every two seconds, and the bomb cooldown takes around five seconds.
  • The Corruption: Ironically enough, not the Rot, whom are instead beneficial allies to Kena, but the Deadzones, areas where there is no life— nor even a soundtrack once Kena enters one— and have pulsing Red growths around them that Kena needs to restore to restore the area to its natural state of lush greenery. This actually makes sense, as rot and decay is a natural part of the cycle of life, and ignoring that cycle is where true imbalance is created, hence why Deadzones are utterly devoid of both life and motion, as everything is in a twisted state of stasis.
  • Critical Status Buff: With the "Last Stand" charmstone, Kena's staff damage is greatly increased while she is on her last hit point.
  • Dead All Along: Aside from Kena, the Rot God, and the Rot, every character in the game is a spirit.
  • Deathbringer the Adorable: "The Rot" are not only your allies, but also cute.
  • Deflector Shield: Kena can generate an energy shield to guard against attacks. If it takes too much damage, it breaks, requiring time to recharge. The parry mechanic involves activating it at the precise moment an attack would land, staggering the enemy.
  • Degraded Boss: Most (mini)boss encounters in the game (such as Sprout, the very first boss) serve to introduce large, tough enemy types that you'll meet again repeatedly throughout the game.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: The Final Boss of the game is the Corrupt Rot God, but Kena manages to defeat and restore him to his original form.
  • Doppelgänger Spin: The Mask Maker boss has a move which traps you in an energy cage while six copies of him spin around it. If you don't shoot the right one in time, you get hit with a powerful blast.
  • Double Jump: Kena can launch herself mid-jump by channeling her magic. In a subversion of typical double jump mechanics, the second jump doesn't give her a lot of forward motion and is more vertical (which kind of makes sense, since she isn't kicking off anything to vault her more forward in mid-air).
  • Elemental Armor: The Stone Guardian is covered in rocky armor that can be temporarily blasted off with a bomb. This exposes the crystal weak points within, allowing for a quick burst of damage. A much smaller regular enemy shaped like a ball uses a similar mechanic, protecting a fragile core with a rocky shell. A bomb temporarily exposes the core and paralyzes the enemy, and it will die instantly to a fully-charged arrow.
  • Energy Bow:
    • Early in the game, Kena learns to use her staff as one of these by channelling the energy of the mountain. The bow can hold four shots (six with upgrades) that recharge over time.
    • The Hunter boss wields one against you, with far more attacks.
  • Essence Drop: Defeated minor enemies occasionally drop yellow orbs called "Courage Drops" that fill up a good part of the Rot Courage meter.
  • Final-Exam Boss: The final part of the game comprises battles against Toshi's three virtues - Mask Maker, Warrior, and Hunter. These battles roughly resemble the three main fighting styles you can undertake and force you to use about any ability at your disposal to defeat them.
  • Fission Mailed: Near the end of the game, when you challenge Toshi for the first time, he just wipes the floor with you, destroys your staff and sends you to the spirit world. In a lengthy cutscene, Kena meets her child self there, and eventually pushes through back to the main world.
  • Flunky Boss: Most bosses will spawn basic enemies at regular intervals, giving the player an alternate means to build courage rather than direct attacks against the boss, some of which can block attacks and are thus harder to build courage against without parrying.
  • Freelook Button: Camera mode allows you to freely move the camera away from Kena (up to a certain limit) and thus see around corners or below areas you're not supposed to.
  • Genre Throwback: As noted by multiple game reviewers, the game is a throwback to 6th-gen era platformers and action-adventures. From its obvious Pixar-esque visuals and character designs to the prevalence of gameplay over story and going through the Plot Coupon collecting and light displays of personality and character development for most characters, it hearkens back to past 3D The Legend of Zelda and Jak and Daxter games. At the same time, it does deliver lavish visuals and some current-gen mechanics in its combat.
  • Ghost Town: The Village turns out to be a literal example of the trope, as every single human inhabitant Kena meets is a spirit.
  • Harder Than Hard: Beating the game on any difficulty unlocks Master Spirit Guide. In this difficulty, enemies become significantly more aggressive and many can One-Hit Kill Kena if their attacks connect. Rot also lose courage whenever Kena gets hit by an enemy, meaning the player will have to master parrying and guarding to maintain the momentum and finish the fight.
    • Taken to a whole new level in the New Game Plus, which buffs up every combat encounter with hordes of enemies (including endgame enemy types, and even some brand-new ones, appearing from the start of the game), as well as adding new phases to the main story bosses. Encounters can verge on Bullet Hell as you're bombarded by hard-hitting ranged attacks alongside very mobile and aggressive melee enemies, and the fact that you have to do this with your health upgrades reset drives the NG+ deep into Early Game Hell territory. The saving grace is that the same update that introduced the mode also includes new charmstones to buff Kena up, on top of the skills you unlocked in your previous playthrough.
  • Hitbox Dissonance: Certain attacks (mainly all-around hits) damage you before they physically connect with Kena's body. That makes it quite hard to get the parry timing right.
  • Jiggle Physics: Kena's topknot bounces around with every movement she makes and will also tilt to one side should she turn her head.
  • Last Chance Hit Point: No matter how strong an enemy attack is, you will always have one last chance with exactly one hit point. The screen is distorted during this last stand as well to inform you that this really is your last shot.
  • Magic Staff: Kena's weapon is a magical staff topped with a blue crystal. Aside from casting magic and using it as a melee weapon, Kena can also use it as an Energy Bow.
  • Magitek: Adira the Woodsmith made a variety of devices with her mastery of the energy of the sacred Mountain Shrine, including a golem-like "Ox" that is made from stone and power crystals.
  • Malevolent Masked Man: Toshi is this, donning a mask with burning red eyes in the very first cutscene of the game.
  • Multi-Stage Battle: The final boss fight against [[spoiler:the Corrupted Rot God is this. First, you have to shoot at his weak points, then, you're teleported into another dimension and have to fight a long series of enemies, all still without your Rot Power, before you regain one point of Rot Courage. Then, you shoot at the God's weak points again, before you are teleported into a platforming section and regain your remaining Rot Power. Finally, you fight the Rot God directly one last time before the battle is truly won.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: At the end, Toshi regrets his actions, namely having caused the corruption of the Rot God and consequently plaguing the land with the Deadzones.
  • New Game Plus: The anniversary update, released in September 2022, introduced this option, allowing you to retain your abilities, Rot upgrades and collectibles such as outfits and Charmstones from a previous playthrough. Notably, you do not retain your health upgrades, forcing you to start at base health and collect meditation points all over again to upgrade your health as you progress. Flower Shrines, Spirit Mail, and Cursed Chests are also reset. The mode also increases the number of enemies in combat encounters, introduces new combat encounters (including late-game enemy types ambushing you in early-game areas) that reward either new hats or Charmstones, and gives each main story boss an additional phase where they regain some health and throw new moves at you.
  • New Weapon Target Range: At the peak of Rusu Mountain, after you receive the Spirit Bow, there are many tutorial areas supposedly built up by Rusu himself, helping you to get a good feeling of your new weapon.
  • No Cutscene Inventory Inertia: The game's first anniversary update adds collectible outfits for Kena... which don't show up in pre-rendered cutscenes, where she's still wearing her vanilla outfit.
  • No-Sell: Toshi completely counters Kena's attempt to purify him with the Rot, instead corrupting them into the Corrupt Rot God.
  • One-Hit Polykill: The Rot Arrow will pierce through all enemies in its path. There's an achievement for hitting three enemies with one arrow, and the more difficult accuracy challenges often involve shooting down a line of targets with it.
  • Point of No Return: Toshi's boss fight is an example of this, as proceeding from that point will lock the player out of any collectibles, upgrades, or fast travel for the rest of the game. While Zajuro does warn the player to prepare ahead of time, starting the mission actually unlocks three additional mask missions and allows continued access to the game's world. What makes this a Nasty example rather than a Polite one, however, is that the game's warning is implied for the initial encounter, not the next one that leads to the boss fight. Moreover, upon starting the boss fight against Toshi, the player is not warned that beating Toshi will strip Kena of her Rot powers and lock the player into the endgame.
  • Pre-Rendered Graphics: All cutscenes are notably upscaled compared to the regular game. It's especially evident with Kena, who looks a lot more lifelike during these scenes.
  • Pressure Plate: Many doors can be opened by Kena stepping on a pressure plate and using her shield ability to activate a door opening mechanism.
  • Regenerating Shield, Static Health: Kena's shield regenerates constantly, but health damage within a battle is permanent, except for some healing abilities such as healing plants.
  • Respawning Enemies: While enemy mobs don't return once defeated, many combat encounters are structured around 1-2 tough enemies surrounded by groups of low-level enemies that continuously respawn until the larger enemies are defeated, forcing you to stay light on your feet and be constantly aware of your surrounding.
  • Rewatch Bonus: The very first Rot that Kena finds and who later acts as her Shoulder Pet has a mossy mane growing on its back and tiny wooden antlers. It's also the only Rot who doesn't hide but instead bravely snarls at the Big Bad threatening Kena. This Rot is a surviving piece of the Rot God, whose true form looks like a lion with a green mane and antlers and who has very personal reasons to be upset at the game's antagonist.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: The Rot - small, dark blue spirits with big black eyes that inhabit the forest and will follow Kena around as she discovers them. They can help you traverse the world as well as in battle. The best part is that you amass an army of these little guys and you can interact with them, getting them to do cute animations for you. They also hang around the environments and pop in on top of objects or cluster around Kena's feet. One Rot in particular (the first one you meet) likes to sit on Kena's shoulder and will aid you in discovering more Rot.
  • The Sacred Darkness: Kena is a Spirit Guide who seeks out Rot spirits, friendly beings that are explicitly stated to be a force of good by maintaining the balance of the world by decomposing dead things. Also, they're adorable.
  • Scenery Porn: A gorgeously designed game all around, with several captivating shots of mountains, plains, forests and other terrains.
  • Shoulder Pet: A Rot with moss/grass growing from its back can ride around on Kena's shoulder. It's the first Rot she finds, being around half the size of its compatriots, and generally acts as a Notice This indicator for Kena.
  • Story Difficulty Setting: The lowest difficulty is aptly called "Story Mode". Enemies are less aggressive and cause significantly less damage, and your courage meter almost constanly refills.
  • Straight Gay: During the quest to free Adira's spirit, Kena will learn that she was in a romantic relationship with Hana. While the two are lesbians, at no point does the game drum out any LGBT stereotypes nor is their relationship ever seen as a point of objection or controversy within the village.
  • Sword Drag: The cinematic before the boss fight with the Corrupt Woodsmith shows the boss grabbing and dragging her big hammer as she gets ready to fight Kena.
  • Throw Down the Bomblet: The final weapon unlocked is an energy bomb. In addition to its use as a weapon, it can be used to bomb certain glowing rocks, creating platforms or unlocking certain puzzles. An upgrade allows it to split into several homing bomblets if shot, attaching to the nearest enemies for a weaker blast.
  • Time Stands Still: A Rot-charged bomb will stop any enemy within its area of effect for a brief period, allowing Kena to attack with impunity.
  • Time Trial: Many of the Trials have an optional task to beat the challenge within a certain time frame, e.g. defeat all the enemies within eight minutes.
  • Together in Death: While Hana and Adira died many miles apart, the couple's spirits are reunited after Kena defeats Adira's corrupted form.
  • Turns Red: The story bosses usually have a second phase where they gain more attacks. New Game Plus adds a third phase on top of that.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Toshi, the village leader, attacked Zajuro and the Rot God in refusal to accept that the famine affecting the land was part of a natural cycle. All he wanted was to protect his people, which Kena and Zajuro understand.