A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
Themes of compassion, empathy, and bravery are present all throughout the game's story as the mahokenshi boldly fight for their homelands against unknowable evil forces with dark magic at their disposal.
Positive Role Models
The mahokenshi are magical samurai who want to save their lands from malevolent forces, and within that, they're able to help villages and people through side missions that put compassion and empathy at the forefront (though these conflicts are typically solved through violent means).
Borrows heavily from Japanese folklore to create a robust, fully realized world of diversity between characters and their respective clans with plenty of cultural nuances to spare.
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Ease of Play
This is a game that's easy to learn but difficult to master. Many minor mechanics aren't explicitly told to players, leaving them to figure things out through trial and error, which may be mildly frustrating for some. While it may take some time for players to find their footing, once they do, the game opens up tenfold and rewards players for their patience and perseverance.
Violence & Scariness
Players will use combinations of many weapons (swords/shields/daggers) and magical spells to take on their evil rivals. Violence is shown through characters attacking one another with a small amount of blood shown, but visually, this comes across in a tame, subdued manner. But some of the illustrations on the cards can get a little graphic, with people being stabbed or otherwise visibly damaged by a variety of weapons. Even then, these images never go too far in terms of excessive gore.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Some female-presenting characters have mildly provocative attires, but nothing too obscene.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
There are vague references to alcoholic drinks scattered throughout the game, but they're infrequent.
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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.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.