Takeshi and Hiroshi Review: A heartwarming brotherly bond brought together through a unique take on RPG gameplay
Played On: Nintendo Switch (Original)
After catching Nintendo’s Indie World presentation for August, there were a slew of games that caught my eye, but there was one in particular that piqued my interest with its unique animation, for gaming, and intriguing concept – Takeshi and Hiroshi.
The game has players take control of Takeshi – a fourteen-year-old boy who aspires to be a game designer. After his father died, Takeshi has been a major father figure for his younger brother Hiroshi. Hiroshi heavily looks up to Takeshi and is eagerly excited to try out his RPG game – Mighty Warrior. However, Takeshi hasn’t finished programming the game yet and doesn’t even have enemies and the story fully programmed yet. With Hiroshi falling ill though, Takeshi decides that he is going to secretly take control of enemies in real-time as he plays. With his brother eagerly excited to play through the entire game, Takeshi must create new challenges and chapters for Hiroshi to play to help him through this tough time.
The concept of being in control of what enemies Hiroshi faces is great and it’s further explored through this brother dynamic. While it might be tempting, as it is for any older sibling, to create a tough enough challenge that sees Hiroshi getting more “game overs” than kills, that’s not the point. Takeshi is creating the game so that Hiroshi can be happy during a tough time, rather than constantly frustrating him and making him feel worse. Frankly, I know exactly how he feels since I’ve basically stayed away from everything that FromSoftware, makers of Dark Souls, makes because I just don’t want to be overwhelmingly frustrated from start to finish. That’s the beauty of what this game presents as players are tasked with creating a balanced experience for Hiroshi that’s both challenging and fun.
Before each battle, players will create a group of enemies, ranging from worms with shield to orcs wielding giant axes, to face Hiroshi in battle. Through five rounds of battling, players will have to damage Hiroshi’s hero enough to create a pleasantly stressful battle experience for him that raises how much joy he’s having without creating an experience that’s too difficult that he won’t want to keep playing or one that’s too easy and make him bored. It’s an incredibly unique battle concept that’s a lot of fun to figure out as it’s sort of like solving a puzzle. From figuring out the damage outputs and health of different enemies to creating an order that allows the best damage ratio, it’s a uniquely fun challenge that turns the RPG genre on its head with some of the added RPG elements thrown in.
Ironically, a lot of things that generally help players in an RPG are used against you as it throws some different variables in finding the right combination. There’s a dodge mechanic that players can utilize to help make an enemy miss an attack that could drop Hiroshi’s health to zero as well as a critical hit mechanic that can make him do triple damage against the next enemy he attacks. Ordinarily, these aspects would be beneficial for players, especially to control, but here they can make the battle too easy if players use them in unnecessary times. It makes players actually have to strategize and time their attacks and it’s what makes the gameplay so interesting. Even just Hiroshi leveling up adds a whole other layer to how players have to strategize, and it’s ends up creating a very satisfying experience that has players utilizing common genre elements in all new ways.
The gameplay also has a really nice art style that evokes more kid-friendly classic adventure games and perfectly ties together how this game is such a refreshing and exciting take on RPGs. Nothing, however, compares to the animation in the cutscenes as the puppet animation looks absolutely incredible. It’s easily what makes Takeshi and Hiroshi stand out and is incredibly unique to the gaming world. The look of the animation is a mix between Robot Chicken and The LEGO Movie that’s an absolute delight to watch and the great puppeteering is really effective in creating very emotive characters. The design of the character is also great as it’s simple and easy to distinguish. The mouth movement is also synched up very well with the dialogue bubbles and the sound design is perfect.
The animation also helps evoke an amazing amount of emotion as the brother dynamic of Takeshi and Hiroshi steals you heart. The way that Takeshi sees himself as the game for Hiroshi is absolutely heartwarming and never gets old and a relationship like this, between brothers, is rarely seen in gaming. It’s hard not get emotional when Hiroshi struggles with his illness and Takeshi beats himself up over hitting some rough spots in developing the game and it’s a testament to how compelling this story really is. Their story is absolutely about looking out for one another and Takeshi’s desires to keep Hiroshi happy and make it the best experience possible while he’s dealing with his sudden illness makes this game a story about two heroes.
Even the extra story beats with Takeshi, his friend Erika, and a new kid named Yosuke, who is also a game designer, is great. It’s awesome to see him draw out new enemies for the game before you utilize them in battle, come together with both of them to help create a strong ending, and it was especially cool to be able to also play Yosuke’s zombie escape game – which was also a lot of fun. There’s also a really great moment of Takeshi and Yosuke talking about their love for gaming and how the medium can actually help people get through tough times and even inspire them to take on new challenges in life. If anything, Takeshi and Hiroshi are a true embodiment as to why gaming can be such an impactful medium and it displays that in both the gameplay and story – for the most part.
There’re definitely some flaws, both in gameplay and story, that do hold Takeshi and Hiroshi from being a completely sweet experience. In terms of gameplay, the “Erikagoyle” enemy has a game-breaking screech attack that puts Hiroshi in a dizzy state, and it can continue to keep him there for a while if it wants. There’s no consistency to the attack so it can literally come out of nowhere and put players in a dying situation they can’t control. As for the story, the game lacks an impactful ending that lines up with the goal of what Takeshi wants to say to Hiroshi. The whole point of it is to try and get Hiroshi to transition past the challenges he’s been facing and be ready to return to normalcy, but it’s kind of just glosses over this point. The game just ends abruptly, and it misses out on landing a satisfying close to an otherwise excellent story. Perhaps if the game was longer than just seven chapters that can be completed over the course of a couple hours, the ending could be fleshed out more and we might get a strong epilogue. We don’t though, so the game feels like it ends a little too early.
Takeshi and Hiroshi is a sadly short, but supremely sweet tale of a brotherly bond that’s beautifully animated through puppets, gives a unique take on RPG gameplay elements that players will love, and contains a story that will surely warm your heart. Not to mention, with the game being under ten dollars, there’s no reason for Switch owners to miss out on a truly unique game.
*All Photos Used Here Were Taken by the Author