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Kena Bridge of Spirits Sees A Physical Console Release

Courtesy of Ember Lab

Kena: Bridge of Spirits

Developer: Ember Lab
Publisher: Ember Lab, Maximum Games (Physical)
Release Date: November 19, 2021
Available as: Digital and Physical

Kena Bridge of Spirits Is Now Available At A Retail Store Near You

Originally released in late September, Kena Bridge of Spirits was one of the few Sony exclusives to bring something new to a common genre. The action-adventure 3D platformer is one that has existed forever. On the PlayStation alone there are celebrated "mascots" including Sly Cooper, Ratchet, and Jax. In the late Summer, a new girl entered the long list of Sony 3D platformers, bringing a whole different vibe to the genre. It has been a while since a game had felt comforting quite like Kena's tale had.

Originally pitched by two brothers who would start up Ember Lab, a console exclusivity deal with Sony was enough to ensure the development of Kena Bridge of Spirits. Originally released digitally, both on Sony consoles and EGS, Kena received surprising critical acclaim. Its initial run was enough to warrant a Deluxe physical edition released in mid-November. The Deluxe edition included a bonus Rot skin, a staff skin, a digital soundtrack, and stickers. With the retail version of Kena now live, more players are able to discover what many are considering a GOTY contender.

Kena Bridge of Spirits - PlayStation 5 Direct Capture
Kena Bridge of Spirits - PlayStation 5 Direct Capture

The Rot Helps Kena By The Numbers

Kena is a spirit guide tasked with sending restless spirits into the afterlife as a greater threat looms. One vengeful spirit, bound to the realm of the living for unknown reasons, has the power to transform the world around them. The once lush green landscapes are transformed into bleak dark red harmful protrusions. Upon entering these "zones," like-minded spirits will engage in combat with Kena, who must use her combat prowess to emerge victorious. Of course, Kena isn't alone in her endeavors as she has the Rot to look after her.

The Rot are these tiny fuzzy furball friendly spirits that immediately take a liking to Kena, aiding her in and out of combat. While cowardly on their own, the longer Kena fights, the more they become motivated to protect her. These include seeking items to heal Kena while she's in battle, stunning her enemies long enough to fight back, and interacting with the environment. Over time, Kena will find more Rot until they become accessible to the double digits. Kena is required to obtain a certain number of Rot in order to purify a corrupt land, but she can also use them to lift and move heavy objects. At one point, Kena can command them to attack corrupted areas in a massive group.

 Kena Bridge of Spirits - PlayStation 5 Direct Capture
Kena Bridge of Spirits - PlayStation 5 Direct Capture

Kena Plays Itself Out Like A Disney Pixar Film

From the beginning, there's a unique charm to Kena that feels both unique and nostalgic, garnering inspiration from Pixar films of the past. The round cute Rot, combined with the animated expressions of Kena and her allies, are evidence of this. Watching the cutscenes, it's easy to mistake the game with a movie of sorts, even as gameplay is resumed. There's a sense of comfort and humor, with the utilization of the Rot similar to Abe's usage of the Mudokons in Munch's Oddysse. There are two graphic modes, Performance and Fidelity, with both modes looking amazing on the PS5.

While Kena offers impressive visuals, gameplay, music, and aesthetics, what's more interesting is its inspirations. The world around Kena draws influence from Japanese archipelagos as well as Bali jungles. The former is what can be considered a major core in Kena Bridge of Spirits story and culture. If there was ever any doubt the amount of influence Bali had in Kena, Kena's voice actress Dewa Ayu Larassanti is of Balinese descent.

 Kena Bridge of Spirits - PlayStation 5 Direct Capture
Kena Bridge of Spirits - PlayStation 5 Direct Capture

Despite Its Console Exclusivity, Kena Should Be Played By All

Rarely is there a game that I have to force myself to stop playing while doing these "First Take" previews. By the 40 minute mark, I've felt I've "seen all that the game could offer me" to write my thoughts about it. In the previous game that we looked at, Farm For Your Life, I was frustrated with the number of bugs that prevented me from experiencing what the game had to offer. Compared to Kena: Bridge of Spirits, it's almost inexcusable how such a game with love and care put into it is an indie studio. There have been so many games developed by indie studios I've played in the past that felt lazy.

That said, regardless if you're a fan of the action-adventure 3D platforming genre, Ember Lab had put together an amazing game. If I was stunned by the first hour of playing Kena, I can only imagine what the full experience would be like. Don't let the console exclusivity and the EGS exclusivity deter you from playing what may be 2021's runaway sleeper hit.

Kena: Bridge of Spirits is available on PC, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5

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