Format reviewed: 3DS eShop
Other formats available: exclusive
Website: Official Website
Ever wanted to be a heroes sidekick? Hidden in the shadows without a chance of recognition of your hard efforts and toil. Then, become an expert lawn mower, sharpen up your scythe and let the true heroes fight slimes, goblins and dragons in freshly slashed foliage. No self-respecting hero wants to get tangled in the undergrowth whilst dodging a nail encrusted club. In The Legend of Kusakari you'll play as the scythe wielding grass cutter Shiba Kari through over 50 adventure puzzle levels.
The Legend of Kusakari looks great. It's crisp. With an isometric top-down perspective the action is beautifully rendered, especially with the 3D turned on. The added 3D effect gives depth to the self-contained small areas that house each level, and suits the game style very well indeed. The main character resembles a slightly rounded paper cut-out who can look in 4 directions, but walks with full analogue control. Press the B button to cut with a single swing, leaving the A button for a far more powerful spin cut. The spin cut is gradually leveled up in power by the successful cutting of grass with the B button. The more you cut with B, the more power the A button spin cut has. All the action is smooth and fluid with not the slightest sign of frame drops, input lag, or any other sort of discrepancy between input and Shiba Kari's movement on screen.
Three differing levels of spin cut power correlate perfectly to the 3 types/depths of normal grass available throughout the title. Normal height grass takes one swing of B to remove, medium height grass takes two swings, and obviously, the deepest grass takes three swings. But fully charge up the A button and you can cut down any level of grass in one slash, perfect for those speed runs. L and R shoulder buttons are resigned to let Shiba Kari dash. There is a quite a lot of inertia to this move, but it is vital to travel over long distances between grass cutting areas, or essential to dodge fast moving enemies littered around the stages.
The only other type of grass that appears throughout The Legend of Kusakari is of the blue sort. That's right, blue grass, which comes in two varieties. Normal blue grass when cut heals one of your five starting hearts. Shining blue grass completely replenishes the entirety of your health meter. It's essential to cut the right blue grass at the right time due to your ever depleting health, so planning your way around the level is essential for speed runs. Ever depleting health I hear you say, sounds like this is a time based game. Well, yes and no. When not cutting actual grass, swinging at air does not count, your health depletes quite rapidly, so speed is of the essence to find that next patch of removable foliage or a blue replenishment. When plowing down the weeds your health meter stays stationary. Planning your route around levels becomes very strategic in later levels. Other obstacles, such as slimes, goblins, villagers and dragons, hinder your health meter with the slightest of touches, so watching out for enemy movement patterns and traversing the stage at the right time adds yet another level of complexity/infuriation at the harder stages.
Each level has 3 objectives to complete. First, finish the level alive to proceed to the next. Second, a time based speed run giving you a rank S to C (at least I haven't seen below a C). Lastly, collectible 'Greenthumb Almanac' achievements, a trophy system received for clearing a level without wasting a single scythe swing, without taking damage, or without using healing items. Objectives allow for repeated attempts at a level, fortunately The Legend of Kusakari is enjoyable enough to warrant repeat attempts at the same level.
The Legend of Kusakari has two main game modes to play through. The Mission Mode includes all 50 levels, unlocking one at a time upon completion of the previous stage. Completion of enough levels with an S rank opens additional bonus stages upon completion of the game. For every four S ranked stages successfully traversed, one bonus level opens up, with a total of 10 bonus levels available. Endless Mode is played within a large-enclosed rectangle, filled with pockets of slowly regenerating grass. Cut as much of it as you can until your inevitable demise. It's essential to race to the limited blue grass, when that randomly appears, to replenish that ever depleting heart count, whilst dodging all those heart sucking slimes. The top 100 scores in the world are displayed in the Endless Mode's Online Leaderboard/Rankings. Options are limited to turning on and off BGM/SE, viewing your Greenthumb Almanac (trophies), and viewing credits once the main mission is completed.
Music is suitably styled for the game's content. Old style marches fitting the old dungeons and dragons style Kingdom at war fantasy realm style. However, and this is one of the best things about this game, and worth the asking price alone, is that one of the trumpeters is drunk. His proficiency is at best questionable, but it all lends an air of hilarity and tongue in cheek humour that is found throughout the whole package at all times. Come for the game, stay for the music.
The Legend of Kusakari is exacting in its fluid fast paced gameplay puzzle mechanics. A little short overall, with only 50 small levels, plus 10 bonus ones, but the endless mode and beautifully off kilter music will make replaying all the levels a joy. What are you waiting for, get the hedge trimmer out!
Review by Lee Davies for Nintendo: Review