Is Kena: Bridge of Spirits Good?

Kena Bridge of Spirits
Kena preparing for her adventure and trying to get clean

Is Kena: Bridge of Spirits Good?

Kena: Bridge of Spirits was the first full-length PS5 game I played, and it turned out to be a very solid choice for that honor. This was a game not without its flaws, but its beautiful world drew me in with ease. And then there was the story (warning here, I will be spoiling the ending plot twist in this review as I feel it merits discussion). For me, this was truly a game greater than the sum of its parts, but I’ll still break down those parts here.


10. Graphics

The world of Kena is beautifully Pixar meets Ghibli 

The first thing that struck me when I started this game was its visuals. They were truly a thing of beauty, and not just because of the graphical power of the PS5. 

Calling them a mix between Pixar and Studio Ghibli feels like an apt comparison. The world has a fantastical feel to it not dissimilar to the works of Ghibli, while the childlike wonder of Pixar is also present in doses. It's a bit of a strange mix but is pulled off exceedingly well, giving the world a charming feel that… more on that later.


9. World Design and Inspiration

A very Eastern-inspired world 

This inspiration doesn’t stop at merely the visuals. The little black Rot creatures that accompany you in your quest instantly brought to mind the Susuwatari (or soot gremlins if you’d prefer) from the likes of Ghibli’s My Neighbor Totoro, immediately endearing them to me. 

As for the world itself, it is at once unique and familiar. It clearly draws from Eastern architecture and landscapes, that much is certain. But the way nature encroaches on the world, both when the darkness covers the land and when it doesn’t, feels wholly different. It's as if this world is dying and returning to nature, perhaps a bit of a hint at the course of the story. 


8. Updates

Kena in a pretty new outfit…. good luck getting it

Kena did receive a sizable update a while back, and it's… fine? Definitely not the game’s best content, not by a long shot.

A new difficulty mode was added (more on that later), plus new equipables known as charms. These are hidden much like any other collectible and require points to unlock just like the game’s abilities in the skill tree. They do offer some nice buffs, but they are very much optional.

Also added were the trials back in the game’s main village, and these…. are pretty rough. I only gave them a slight try myself and that was enough. The conditions required to unlock the rewards in these are incredibly strict and expect you to have near mastery of the game. Not impossible for sure, but definitely time-consuming and only worth doing if you really want to.


7. Combat

Kena facing a funny thing with a stick and a bulky tree

Kena’s combat is pretty standard action game fare, feeling familiar to those who’ve played the likes of Dark Souls, among many others. It isn’t quite that level of difficulty of course, but the basic feel and flow of the action are quite similar. 

You have three core weapons in combat. Kena’s staff is your physical weapon, while her bow once you obtain it allows for distance strikes. In addition, your little Rot companions can help you to a limited extent, as they can only be used once per unit of meter. They are essential for certain sections though, so you must learn how to use them properly. 

The same can be said for the combat overall. It's not that complicated, but the skill tree does expand your options. And you can’t get by with not getting better at it or the game will leave you far behind as you near the end.


6. Music and Sound Effects

Kena has a very relaxing soundtrack, except when it doesn’t 

Kena’s music is, well not a masterpiece, perfectly fitting for its world. This applies to the sound design as well, combining to make the world feel at once pleasant and foreboding. This world definitely feels off and it can take some time to figure out why. And when you do, the musical accompaniment makes it all click right into place.

Kena: Bridge of Spirits Full Original Soundtrack


5. Fun Factor

Oh hey there little guy

I can’t speak for everyone, but barring one element I’ll get to in a bit, I had a blast with this game. It's designed in such a way, with its convenient checklists for each area, that doing everything isn’t a chore in any way. For a completionist such as myself, this was excellent. 

But even if you’re not going for everything, this is a beautiful world to simply explore and wonder what happened. You won’t gain any answers until the very end, but the air of mystery really adds to the world. There are people here, yet there aren’t. The world feels alive, yet it feels dead. This mystery, when combined with the overall smoothness of the game, makes it fascinating to keep going.


4. Replayability 

A scene from very early in the game

And then it ends with… that twist (which I will go into at the end of this review). Suddenly the truth is laid bare, and this once bright and colorful land feels dead and barren. Visually, nothing has changed, but the knowledge of the ending makes all the difference.

That is the impact of an ending that shatters the way you view the game’s world. You can play it again and the core gameplay will be about the same. Carrying over abilities and such does make it easier unless you up the difficulty, and you may remember how to do certain things and progress faster. 

But that knowledge makes everything different. It adds an inescapable weight to things and makes every moment with the characters feel much more precious. I would say this is a good thing, but it is also so rare that it is hard to judge properly.


3. Balance

He has a much bigger stick now

Okay, no more beating around the bush: this game is HARD. It's not quite Souls game levels of course, but it slowly escalates in challenge until you may find yourself overwhelmed. And that’s to say nothing of the multi-stage final boss that has no checkpoints.

There is one thing that saves this from being a major strike against the game: you can turn down the difficulty (or raise it) at any time. This turns what would otherwise ruin the game into something you can work around. For me, this renders it a non-issue, but I’d understand if it's not the same for everyone.

Despite this increase in difficulty, I generally was still able to beat the game with relative ease. The only major issues came from some side challenges and the aforementioned final boss. That one was very much a “I don’t have time for this” moment when I lowered the difficulty, and I feel that’s perfectly okay. It's better to beat the game on easy than not at all.


2. Characters

You will likely grow quite attached to these characters

I won’t detail the characters much as they are best experienced firsthand, but here’s a sampler. 

Our main heroine Kena is a rather hard-to-read young girl who, like everyone you meet, has lost someone close to her. We never do learn much about her, instead finding more info about the characters she meets.

And these characters are largely good ones. There’s a pair of young siblings forced to fend for themselves, a mountain hermit who longs for companionship, and a mayor who cared too much for his village. And throughout all of this, they all share one thing: they lost someone important to them.



Which will make the ending realization all the sadder

Everyone except Kena is dead.

The hints were there, looking back. Including right from the beginning when you realize the titular Kena is a Spirit Guide. But the characters all felt so lively and real that it's an easy thing to brush aside, to pretend can’t be the truth.

But it is real and can’t be escaped. And at least it does make one thing better. Kena is helping these spirits find peace, and that means they will soon be reunited with their loved ones who died before them. They may be dead, but this allows their pain to finally end.

And that is the note Kena: Bridge of Spirits ends on. With Kena finishing her duties and leaving, seemingly in pursuit of more people to help. She still has her pain, but she knows how to deal with it. And perhaps that’s enough to show she is a hero.


Score: 10/10


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Gamer Since: 2002
Favorite Genre: RPG
Currently Playing: The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D, Deathloop, Final Fantasy IV, God of War (2018)
Top 3 Favorite Games:Mass Effect 2, Assassins Creed Syndicate, Mark of the Ninja