Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
Kitsune Zero is a prequel for the upcoming game from Kitsune Games, Kitsune Tails. Yes, that’s a lot of Kitsune. While Kitsune Tails has yet to release, here’s hoping Kitsune Tails Zero will give you some of that retro 2D platforming action you’ve been missing in the meantime.
Kitsune Zero is a story about Yumi, a female Kitsune, a fox spirit in the service of the Goddess Inari, who has been requested by the local Onmyouji, what are essentially like the supernatural police force, in order to stop the Ogre Fang clan and their warmongering ways. Much in the same vein as old-school Mario games, you run, jump, and shoot fireballs on your way through multiple worlds, each with a castle at the end where one of the main baddies is waiting for you. Yes, you even jump on a switch to drop them in, uh, a poison river? It’s a little hard to tell, but it defeats them nonetheless.
Kitsune Zero is a short and basic game, consisting of four worlds with three stages each for the main plotline, with a few bonus worlds you can also go through. You move with the arrow keys, and run/shoot fireballs and jump with the “Z” and “X” keys. That’s all there is to it, really. So, the big question now becomes “how does it handle”. Well, like a go-kart with manual steering, I suppose would be the best answer. It’s rough, you’re drifting all over the place, and sometimes you aren’t certain when you should floor it and when you should ease off on the gas. Yumi, while running, slides a decent amount. On the other hand, not running means you get very little distance out of a jump, which means you have to figure out how far you’re going to slide before you jump.
In terms of difficulty, Kitsune Zero is actually surprisingly challenging. Thankfully you don’t have any lives, so you can fail as many times as you need to. This is really great in some of the later stages where you need some precision platforming across gaps you need to be running to make the jump for. If you’ve ever played Shinobi, you may recognize the “more bottomless pit than stage” theory on level design. One bonus world stage gets special mention for requiring you to jump on an enemy in a really aggravating manner to pull off.
In terms of graphics and sound quality, Kitsune Zero is about what you’d expect from a Mario based title, complete with an 8-bit style graphic nature and a pixel/MIDI sounding soundtrack. That’s not to say either of these things are bad, just very aged. Also, for whatever reason, hitboxes are weirdly strict. Your character can be basically overtop of an enemy and not jump on them, but god forbid your pinky toe gets too close. On the other hand, the sprite swap from the old goombas and koopas to rolling head things and…kappa, have been done well.
If you’re in the mood for more of a challenge, you can always turn on hard mode, which increases the enemy speed. It’s a little more challenging, but not super tough. Fair warning though, this is extremely inspired by the old school Mario games and it’s very obvious. Finishing each normal stage with a flagpole? Check. Having the stage 3 boss shoot fireballs and throw weapons in an arc at you? Check. Even the game info at the top of the screen is pretty reminiscent of Mario. Hey, at least it’s a pretty fun homage though.
Overall Kitsune Zero is a pretty decent blast from the past. It provides the fun of a Mario clone with a new set of sprites, tweaked in its own unique way. While the voice acting may be questionable and the total storyline rather short, the higher difficulty nature and limitless lives provide a way to pad out the gameplay in a way that doesn’t feel forced.
I’m excited to see what Kitsune Games has planned for Kitsune Tails when it releases, and if you’re looking for some old-school platformer action, you’ll want to check out both Kitsune Zero and Kitsune Tails.Score: 7.5 / 10