Kashicforce is an indie title developed by Endless Shirafu and published by Fruitbat Factory (a company known for localizing Japanese indie titles to the west). At first glance, this title looks like a pretty standard puzzle game, but it’s an odd genre-bender including puzzle, rhythm, and fighting game elements. It most resembles a fighter though since there is manic action and a lot of combos required to get better at the game and release devastating attacks. While blocks fall, and you need to hit them and use combos to attack your enemy, there are a lot of other elements that complicate the original top-down Tetris style gameplay and make this game almost impossible to cleanly classify.
There are many different game modes–often oddly named–and the entire interface of the game feels foreign. Going back to the title screen “returns to the root console”, and the generic game modes like story and tutorial, etc. are replaced by strange delineations never before seen on a title screen.
Kashicforce is currently available on Steam for just $12.99 (or regional pricing).
Firstly, this game is VERY Japanese. The hand-drawn sprites of all the cutesy anime girls immediately give this game a charm that lovers of Japanese culture and weeaboos will get excited about. Though hardly a novel aspect of a video game, it does make the game feel a little more light-hearted, which I welcomed, since I had no idea of what was really happening in the story, and everything from the main menu to the actual gameplay baffled me.
The story mode is called “Channeling”, and this was where I started, assuming this was the proper way to learn the game. I gathered that a bunch of anime girls had a mission, some loose competition with one another, and were rather obsessed with playing this game (Kashicforce). They each possessed different skills and playstyles, and the story was told between matches, assuming you won.
I am fine with this mode of storytelling; as a fan of the Puyo Puyo series, I enjoy a slight reprieve, often with some comedic relief, between my matches. However, Kashicforce is technically a sequel to another game, and I just can’t care that much about a story in a fighting or puzzle game. There is a narrative to experience, and for some, this may be a draw, but between the confusion, and my desire to actually understand the mechanics of the game, I found myself breezing through the story in order to get to the next match.
The gameplay in Kashicforce is hard to explain–and I am loathed to admit that I still don’t 100% grasp it. Blocks fall, and if these blocks fill up the screen vertically then you lose. That is puzzler 101, but actually playing this game feels nothing like any game I have ever played before beyond that.
You press the “Z” button for a basic attack, and the “X” button is a shield. Attacking is useful but it’s futile next to using combos, and it felt like I was mostly just button mashing with it. You can hold the shield down as long as you have energy, and this will block incoming attacks, but to be honest, I rarely used it. I couldn’t perform combos while holding it down, and blocks still fell even as my shield was activated.
The “C” button uses what is called a “Method”. It is basically a more powerful combo attack. You can use a basic move called a “Trash Wipeout”, which will eliminate four blocks of one color clustered together. Beyond that, they rely on combos to be destroyed, which you can see on the left. Some of the combos are pretty easy to pull off, but between the rapidly falling blocks and trying to coordinate attacks, I found the later combos very hard to activate. They require something like a six-button combination. The larger and more complicated the Method, the stronger it is. You cannot use a powerful method at any time though: you need to use weaker Methods and shoot blocks to build up the stronger attacks (they become highlighted when accessible).
The last attack used the “V” button. It seemed like an easier way to type in a Method. I enjoyed that this was available, but I am still not sure I understand the entire function of this feature. Sometimes it just seemed to flip my blocks or not really help me in any noticeable way.
Orchids is just a fancy name for characters. There are four playable orchids, and each has a different ability set. I initially chose my orchid based on appearance, but I quickly realized my favorite orchid, Aranha, was a character that was more complex than a couple of the others. After playing for an hour or so, I really began to feel that each character had their own playstyle rather than just being simple skins.
Shaty and Agatha seemed easier to use. Their Methods were much easier to pull off, and I especially liked Agatha’s ability to quickly line up powerful attacks in rapid succession. When it comes to Aranha and Hymeno, I still am perplexed on how to use them, especially with Hymeno, who I still can’t even seem to pull off a single Method with.
I enjoyed that the characters had their own playstyles, and it was fun to play against them and see just how they operated, but I do wish the game had a better tutorial on each character and how to use them. You essentially need to experiment to learn how to use them, and this can be hyper frustrating.
If the game wasn’t already complicated enough, there are gauges which dictate how the match will turn out and what attacks can be used.
The Providence Gauge on top of the screen is horizontal, and in a sense, tells you how well you are doing. You can gain points here and win the match, but to be honest, my eyes were almost always on the blocks.
There are also some super attacks. The first is the World Enchantment Guage. This is a special attack that automatically happens when the gauge is filled, and the entire screen will pulse and change appearance as it happens. I definitely saw this used against me far more than I had access to it.
The Eliminator Gauge is the hardest to activate. You can gain this by activating level 7 Methods and having the gauge filled. This is an odd part of the game, and the rhythm part really comes to life here. Your entire blocks screen changes into arrows, which you need to tap as directional arrows fall. While this could have been really fun and well implemented, it is difficult to even access in the first place, and the combinations of arrows are insanely hard to execute. It’s ultimately a feature that is more frustrating and difficult than fun and innovative.
The visuals in Kashicforce are imploring and definitely explode alongside the vibrant electronic soundtrack. Colors fall, slashes and explosions wipe out layers upon layers of blocks, and the whole game has a chaotic feel that is akin to watching a good fireworks show or being in a club with music that distorts your sense of reality.
The colors were well used, and the constant animations and explosions will leave players dazzled and any bystanders feeling like they are in a berserk, freakish party. If you like flashy colors and explosions then this game is for you. Unlike a lot of other games in the genre(s?), this game is absolutely sizzling, and the cute sprites and explosive and frantic battles don’t disappoint visually.
The soundtrack is definitely a high point. It may be the pinnacle of the game for me. I enjoy peculiar rhythm games like Lumines and Rez, and while Kashicforce may not have as strong a connection to the rhythm in the gameplay, shooting blocks and getting blazing synths and atmospheric keys were awesome. Even while I had no idea what I was doing with the actual gameplay, the soundtrack did manage to make the experience more enjoyable, and I admire the over the top electronic soundtrack, especially in tandem with how fast the gameplay is.
Kashicforce is definitely a unique game that defies definition, but what could have been a really cool genre-blending experience was instead one of great frustration and confusion. The game lacks a tutorial, and the best option you have is to go online and read the manual offered by Fruitbat Factory. Even then, I still had trouble understanding many of the game mechanics.
I won’t deny I had fun with some of the vs. matches, but I was mostly just button mashing and experimenting, and I never felt like I really had control or knew what I was doing. I could definitely see this game appealing to some hardcore fans, but casual fans will find this game’s learning curve to be unforgiving. A strong soundtrack and unique premise just weren’t enough for me to really want to keep playing Kashicforce or recommend others to try it.
|+ Visuals Explode||– No tutorial and confusing gameplay|
|+ Awesome soundtrack||– Overcomplicated mechanics|
|– Frustrating and difficult|