Indie Quickie: The Legend of Kusakari

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What is it and who made it? A top-down action-puzzle time trial game about cutting the grass by Nnooo and Librage.

What platforms is it on and how much does it cost? Previously released only in Japan, Legend of Kusakari makes its Western Nintendo 3DS debut today exclusively via eShop digital download for $4.99. There’s also a promotional deal running until September 22nd where if you buy Legend of Kusakari, you get 50% off Blast ‘Em Bunnies and escapeVektor for 3DS, as well as Cubemen 2 for Wii U.

How much did we play? Completed 30 stages and played somewhere around 10 attempts in endless mode in an hour and a half. There are 50 main stages plus 10 unlockable bonus levels, so I’m about halfway through. My top endless score is 1602, which is actually first on the leaderboard at the time of this writing. Who knew I had a hidden talent for slicing grass? Looks like all those years growing up on Legend of Zelda and Link to the Past really paid off!

Any technical concerns, hardware requirements, or other details you should know about? The scythe’s blades are sharp and ready to cut some grass without issue.

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Why should you play it?

    • The Legend of Lawn Mowing: Imagine playing the old isometric Legend of Zelda games with everything stripped out except for Link’s basic ability to slash his sword through patches of grass across the lands of Hyrule. The Legend of Kusakari turns this idea into its central gameplay mechanic, and it works surprisingly well. In the game you play as Shiba Kari. He’s not a great “chosen one” hero like Link, but rather a humble and brave groundskeeper who maintains the battlefields of Southern Cross so the knights can fight off the Demon King and its minions without getting bogged down in weeds. In terms of gameplay, this entails quickly mowing through short stages, using Shiba’s trusty scythe to cut down every tuft of grass on the map (which is shown on the bottom touch screen). Each stage is a time trial with letter grades awarded for Shiba’s work up to a max ranking of ‘S’. In addition to the timer that clocks overall speed, Shiba’s health meter serves as a ticking time bomb to build in another form of urgency. Half of a heart is lost every five seconds, while bumping into enemies immediately inflicts a full heart’s worth of damage. Other environmental factors, like moving over sand, increase the rate of the automatic heart drain, while magical blue tufts of grass can be cut down to refill heart containers. If at any time all hearts are lost, it’s game over.

    Moving Shiba around is controlled with the 3DS analog stick, holding either of the shoulder buttons sprints, tapping B performs a basic scythe swipe, and hitting A does a sweeping spin cut. Fundamentally about as simplistic as games get, Legend of Kusakari is ultimately about paying careful attention to the movement patterns of enemies, like slimes, ghosts, and evil tree monsters, so you can weed eat the maps as efficiently as possible, before running out of hearts. Subtle bits of strategy come into play through figuring out the best order to move through a stage in addition to a mechanic whereby using the standard chop over time builds up the power level of the spin cut. The higher the spin cut is leveled up, the wider the scythe’s cutting range becomes. However, each use of the spin cut lowers its level of power, so there’s a balance to knowing when to deploy the two attacks. The game’s not as cut and dry as dashing around while spamming the attack button.

    • Green Thumbs Wanted: One form of replay, beyond rerunning stages to increase time ranking, is collecting plants for the Greenthumb Almanac located in the options menu. Each level has a bonus objective–to clear without taking damage, without healing, or without wasting a swing. Successfully completing the task unlocks a plant entry in the almanac, including flora like the Fib Plant, which ensures no one will believe a word you say, or the Stink Plant, which makes you become a little gaseous. Now as far as I can tell unlocking these plants doesn’t directly affect the game, but they do add an extra motivation for completionists to go along with playing up the game’s oddball Japanese sense of humor. The visuals could have used a bit more charm and polish to match the humor though; the graphics are unremarkable, and the 3D effect adds nothing.

Parting Thoughts: The Legend of Kusakari is a quirky little Japanese indie 3DS gem that’s just perfect for killing time with bite-sized moments of fun. I suppose some cranky Nintendo purists will take issue with how closely everything from the logo, music, gameplay, and presentation blatantly apes Legend of Zelda, but it’s all done in good humor so to me it would be silly to be overly critical of what’s clearly meant to be jestful homage. For a game solely about cutting patches of grass, Kusakari is surprisingly thoughtful and strategic. It’s kind of a shame that the individual levels don’t have leaderboards for competing speedruns, however the Endless mode, in which you cut grass on a rectangular field that steadily regrows over time until you run out of hearts, does have an online leaderboard to post your high score to. Endless play is likely to be the mode players will come back to most often.

What is Indie Quickie? It takes a lot longer to fully review a game than it does to get a good sense of what a game is. Even with a full-time staff of writers it would be impossible to fully review the thousands of games that are released every year. Indie Quickie is our way to offer snap impressions of the countless indie titles small teams and one-man game studios are releasing literally every single day, and to help guide players to worthwhile games they may not have heard about before.

Disclosure: An eShop code for The Legend of Kusakari was provided to VGBlogger.com by the game’s publisher.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!