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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Mahokenshi is a downloadable single-player strategy card game currently available for Windows-based PCs. Players will take on the role of the mahokenshi, magical samurai who protect the Celestial Islands, a nation resting in the heavens. When evil sorcerers and rogue goblins show up, intent on resurrecting terrors the likes of which the Celestial Islands have never encountered before, it's up to the mahokenshi to draw their blades and wipe out the evil scourge before it destroys everything they hold dear. In their quest for justice and honor, blood will inevitably be spilled on a grid-based map that dictates the action. In terms of violence, characters will swipe at one another with swords, hammers, and daggers (to name a few), but the appearance of blood in the midst of battle is minimal – only shown in brief spurts. Some of the illustrations on the in-game cards can get a little graphic, showing some characters being poisoned or suffering from visible battle wounds. Otherwise, this is a thoughtful game with plenty of diverse characters and a deep sense of culture – mainly borrowing from Japanese folklore to flesh out the game's many unique components. With the ability to not only help the sky-bound nation, but many of its inhabitants with various tasks to offer meaningful support, Mahokenshi goes above and beyond to push forward themes such as compassion, empathy, and bravery.
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What’s It About?
In MAHOKENSHI, the Celestial Islands, an entire nation in the skies, are being threatened by cultists and dark sorcerers who want to bring forth evils that threaten to destroy everything and plunge the islands into eternal darkness. Choosing from four samurai classes, players will journey across the islands, using a variety of methods to come out on top. Whether it's Ayaka (discard and attack), Kaito (multi-enemy defense), Sota (lures, poison, and stealth), or Misaki (trickery and deception), players will start with six basic cards and build out their deck by finding cards on the grid-based map, buying new cards with gold, and upgrading and removing cards via special buildings that best fits a particular playstyle. This is an ordeal you may not be prepared for as every turn could be your last if you aren't making the most out of managing your time and deck to overcome the coming corruption. Or perhaps you're more resilient? Are you up to the challenge?
Is It Any Good?
The strategy and deck builder genres have seen many collaborations in the wide world of gaming. But Mahokenshi is in an entirely different league all on its own. Now, the opening hours of this game will be excruciating – and not necessarily in a negative way. You'll lose many, many battles as you learn the game's mechanics from how decks are built and optimized, to how certain terrain on the grid-based map works to your advantage (or disadvantage), to how your enemies will always find new ways to surprise you – forcing you to pivot from what you believed to be a well-executed plan. The four samurai houses you can choose from to start any one mission all have different playstyles, as well as variations in their own card pools to experiment with as you level characters up and gain more upgrades to carry into battle. There are so many options that it's almost overwhelming, and part of the sublime give-and-take of Mahokenshi is having the patience to be knocked down and humbled so you can attack a seemingly hopeless situation with a new character (or deck direction) and a renewed determination.
The missions themselves are also more than you would expect as there's always a shifting objective to complete. Though the core of each mission indeed boils down to "go take out these bad guys," the game structures its challenges with enough nuances to force players to always change the manner in which they engage with the game. You have little choice but to take on a slower, more methodical pace in order to succeed, and sometimes, it's simply a matter of not getting the right cards at the right time that will prove to be your undoing. While you can earn crystals that will give characters permanent minor benefits between missions, you will mostly always begin from the absolute bottom – with basic cards and a need to get a lay of the land fast or risk a swift defeat at the hands of your rivals. Mahokenshi not only reinvents the strategy/deck builder hybrid style of gameplay, but makes it an endlessly fun, challenging, and thoughtful experience that players will find utterly undeniable.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about difficulty in video games. As Mahokenshi is a difficult game that rewards patience and perseverance, is it worthwhile to get younger audiences to play harder games in order to sharpen their ability to persevere against escalating odds? Or are video games best when they offer a means of escape and entertainment without seeking to engage with more thought or intention?
What other video games can you think of that have meaningfully benefited from having diverse characters or regions (real or fictionalized)? What made those experiences unique? What cultures or diverse peoples would you like to see represented in a video game, and how?
- Platform: Windows
- Pricing structure: Paid ($22.49)
- Available online?: Available online
- Publisher: Iceberg Interactive
- Release date: January 24, 2023
- Genre: Strategy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Science and Nature
- Character Strengths: Compassion, Courage, Gratitude, Perseverance
- ESRB rating: NR for No Descriptions
- Award: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: January 27, 2023
Our Editors Recommend
Deck-building adventure is a brilliant blend of concepts.
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Card game/adventure hybrid brings the best of both worlds.
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