Hunter X, it is likely that this title does not remind you of anything. It probably went unnoticed when it was first released on Steam, where the game has a small community that is quite favorable to it, and it probably won’t do any more with its last release on July 4th on Switch. Which would be a shame, because it deserves to be better known. Admittedly, the game from the Korean studio Orange Popcorn doesn’t look like much, especially if you look at its aesthetics, but it has enough power to offer an honest, albeit a little demanding, entertainment.
A young girl and demons
Hunter X sends us to a universe where demons are masters and our avatar, a hunter specialized in tracking down such creatures is propelled there. Her objective is simple: to exterminate her enemies who, by the way, are also those of the human race.
A story that is therefore quite summary. In fact, talking about a storyline here would not really make sense. The game doesn’t want to tell anything, and if it does by chance, you won’t remember much of it. Besides, that’s not the point. There are some interactions with characters, but they are just pretextual dialogues, that’s all. We won’t learn anything really crazy from them and necessary to the adventure, or rather from them (the cast being exclusively female). Well, yes, they will tell us a little about the game’s lore, but well… it’s quite dispensable. In fact, they will have only one purpose: to offer our protagonist spells, objects… in order to allow us to prepare the future confrontations to come, some of which will cause many problems.
In essence, the game can simply be summarized as a succession of confrontations and exploration. And, we agree, this may not be to everyone’s taste, to those who need story and stakes to move forward. You progress, corridor after corridor, you get rid of a lot of assailants, if of course it presents any inconvenience – unless you especially want to fight -, and you come across the inevitable confrontation against a formidable, even very formidable enemy.
Labyrinth… you name it
Metroidvania oblige, it will not be surprising to get lost more than once in the places that Hunter X offers us. And some of you might even think that it happens a little too often. Which, we agree, can really get tiresome after a while. We go back on our steps, we explore rooms or places that we could not reach before, etc. In short, the very principle of this kind of game.
As you progress through the game, several paths open up to you, so you are free to take them as you wish. There is no real objective to accomplish – except to get rid of monsters – or particular points to reach. So we are left to wander as we wish. Only, it’s hard to say if you are really free to go where you want. In any case, the illusion of freedom is well and truly maintained. And, as said, this may be a bit annoying for those who are not really fond of this kind of journey. However, good thing for them, there is the possibility to avoid going through a long way again to return to places already visited. For this, you will have to rely on the various teleportation portals that exist here and there.
During your journey, you will acquire various objects. We will count among them items such as potions of life or others being used to increase your strength of attack for example. However, for this last case, we must admit that it is rather dispensable. Your offensive will not be more effective. On the other hand, all the arsenal that you own will be of great importance. It is a powerful ally in battle… an ally, but only one of many. During your adventure, you will also have access to several other elements that will give you the opportunity to harden yourself and thus facilitate your task.
Bitter battles await you
But first, at the opening of the title, you have only one sword at your disposal. You will then be allowed two moves, the simple one and another much more powerful one, which uses “MP” points. Well, the latter is not really included from the start in the panel of moves available to our character. But it won’t take long, a few seconds after launching the game, to be able to use it. In fact, it’s an acquisition that is done very quickly and, at the beginning of our journey, has only one purpose: to show us a little of the system – an RPG system precisely – on which the game is based. And so, as you are told via a tutorial, the more you advance in your journey, the more you will be allowed to increase the number of your moves and attacks. All this will be possible thanks to your skill tree. Once you have “Talent points” in your possession, you will be able to unlock faculties. This means new moves, but also increased resistance, etc. However, despite all this, and their usefulness, we regret the lack of variety of moves at our disposal, because, in terms of combos, we don’t have much choice. We always perform the same moves without having the possibility of obtaining more powerful combinations.
As you progress, you may have the opportunity to master a whole bunch of equipment: axes, weapon hammers or other much more powerful swords. And, in addition to weapons, there are also various occult powers that will be quite effective and have an advantage over weapons. Unlike them, some of these abilities allow you to attack from a distance, such as, for example, fireballs. For them, it will be possible to make improvements. However, their use is limited to a certain amount that can be increased. There are also other items, such as rings, etc., which will boost your stats a little and make you stronger.
The loot is therefore quite considerable and it is more than welcome, especially since the enemies that await you are not kidding. If some of them do indeed inflict significant damage, it will be nothing compared to the big customers.
The bosses are indeed big opponents, and they are the big highlight of the game. At first glance, they don’t seem to be that difficult to deal with. Big mistake… And, if at first, you can maybe take the advantage easily, everything gets complicated when the enemy enters his second phase. The patterns change and it is sometimes very difficult to avoid the projectiles or attacks, which, as a result, become more effective. You will lose a lot of feathers before you reach your goal. Therefore, you will often visit the checkpoint, where you can save and refill life potions as well as improve your experience level.
And if the confrontations are very appreciated, the same can be said about the variety of the bestiary we are confronted with, even if we have to admit that as far as the chara design is concerned, it’s quite classic. Not a single monster resembles anything we haven’t seen before, in fantasy works for example. But, anyway, you will have understood, Hunter X does not reinvent the wheel. And the same goes for its experience acquisition system.
Little by little, you will gain power, but the task will still be as difficult as ever.
To level up, you need to have enough karma points, which are mostly acquired by defeating your enemies. But be careful, one death and you lose them. Well, not really. Like in Souls Like, you can get them back by returning to the place where you died before. And this is not the only element that reminds us of FromSoftware’s formula. It goes from the difficulty to the imitation of the game over screen.
In short, the more you evolve – whether in terms of power or stamina (useful for dodging) – the more resources you will be asked for. So the system logically pushes the player to cross swords, but not so much, because you can very well defeat your enemies (especially the bosses) with the minimum of strength, you just need to show more skill and patience.
But, if you get hit, you can expect different types of damage. First of all, there are the ones that we’ll call normal, and then there are the ones with more lasting effects: burns, paralysis, etc. For this, there will be remedies, rest assured. However, in the case of a deficit of providential objects, be prepared to see your life diminish. It will decrease very quickly in case of an attack, especially since sometimes your opponent won’t let go of you, and you should also expect a drop in HP when you face platforming phases that require a lot of skill. In fact, it’s not so much this part, although in this case we’ll notice a certain problem (the accuracy of the jumps), as the presence of some traps that can be fatal for you, because we must admit that they represent a little challenge. Of course, they won’t kill you in one go, but they will still have a big impact on your life bar. So, be careful, although we still wonder if it is really possible to avoid them all… but well, no need to worry about that, there are not many traps.
Not very beautiful but not ugly either…
Visually, it’s true that when you first get used to it, it’s really hard to get used to it.
But it is not on the side of the artistic direction that we will have some reasons. Although it is rather sober or rather common for such a universe where caves, gothic castles, etc. coexist, it is rather nice. No, we are somewhat disconcerted by the graphic quality that we are offered. When the game opens, we know immediately what is waiting for us: a horizontal scrolling title with 2.5D scenery. That’s not the problem: everything (environments, etc.) is quite neat overall, even if some textures are a bit rough. However, what will put you off a bit is the lack of detail in the characters that populate this world of Hunter, and in particular their faces. And the same goes for the modeling of some enemies. For some of them, their color sometimes hurts the eyes and their chara design seems to be a bit different from the atmosphere conveyed by the levels.
No, it is rather for the musical composition that one will have some grounds for complaint. It is very uneven. If sometimes, we can see a few dazzling pieces, with pieces that are quite attractive to the ear, we have more generally a rather ordinary content, even just passable. But, that’s not going to stop us from getting lost in the world of Hunter X for hours on end, because yes, it will take a long time. And that’s for the best. In the end, you’ll find yourself struggling to get the upper hand on your enemies, who are as varied as they are powerful. It’s full of challenges, and that’s good.