The next stop on the Halloween tour of obscure old horror games is Kuon, a largely forgotten game from the now-household-name From Software. To be fair, it’s understandable why Kuon didn’t propel From Software into mega-fame back in the day. It’s a pretty basic Silent Hill clone in a console era where there was already an abundance of such games. It does try its best though.
Set in the olden days of Japan, you play as one of two ladies who find themselves in the middle of a mysterious bout of THE SPOOKUMS! It’s a very strange plot involving a rogue priest who unleashes a demon curse in a local mansion, one that seems to be turning people into freakish monsters and making ghosts pop out all over the place. I won’t spoil the secret behind it all, but it’s quite weird. As interesting as the core plot is though, it’s pretty thin overall. The characters are pretty flat and the interactions between them even more so, and most of the story revelations occur in the form of text files.
Luckily, the game has a nice creepy atmosphere to somewhat make up for the failings of the plot. Instead of having fog all over the place to obscure your view, Kuon uses darkness. This is one poorly lit game, but it’s fitting for the time period that there aren’t streetlights and flashlights everywhere and it’s used in an effective manner that feels like it adds to the tension instead of just being a lazy way to cover up bad textures.
Naturally you don’t have any modern weapons here either. The ladies have incredibly short range melee weapons, but your main means of defense in Kuon is the various spell cards you find. These mostly consist of varying levels of fireballs, but there’s also a super powerful ice spell and several different types of summons. Your horror game instincts will tell you to conserve these things, but you actually get a pretty generous amount so you can just go nuts if you want.
Combat is a bit clunky though. Functional and fair, but definitely clunky. You can’t move while you shoot and the attack animations are terribly slow, so you usually just kind of shit there mashing an attack button over and over, occasionally stopping to mash all buttons to get a grabbing enemy off you. If it’s one of the rare tougher enemies, bosses, or groups of two enemies, you might have to enter the pause menu and pop some health, but again, you get a TON of those too. Wayyyyy more than you need. Especially when you realize that the meditation ability doesn’t just shake off the mental effects of SPOOKUMS, it also heals you for free. I got through a good 1/3 of the game before I remembered that and still had more health items than I needed.
One other noteworthy feature is the fact that the two ladies campaigns work in a Resident Evil 2 kind of way, where you have to finish both to unlock the real ending, which actually takes the form of a third character with a very short section of their own where all the paths intersect and conclude. It’s not as much work as it might sound though. It only takes around ten hours to complete all three.
Anyway, Kuon isn’t a great game, but it’s at least a good one. One that’s worth visiting (or very rarely re-visiting) for fans of weird old horror games, but you probably won’t want to go too far out of your way to do so. You’re not missing that much.
Now off to the next stop on the Halloween tour…