Throughout Kena: Bridge of Spirits, you come across multiple trapped spirits that are plagued with corruption and distress from events prior to Kena's arrival. As you play through each spirit's story, you start to see how the strife of the central characters is mirrored in the enemies you face. The world around you is primed with emotional anguish, which runs deeper than it seems at first glance.
With each battle, it becomes clear that the troubles that burden Taro and the other core characters are the same that give bosses their shape and motivation. What starts off as a simple tale of good vs evil, of clearing away corruption in a gorgeous Pixar-like world, slowly unravels into something more complex. To understand the world of Kena: Bridge of Spirits, you must first understand the monsters you’re forced to defeat.
Taro's Bosses Represent His Pain
Through cinematics we find out that there was a sickness that was killing most of the village in Kena: Bridge of Spirits, Taro's parents included. We see Taro attempt to keep Beni and Saiya from seeing so much death. As the elder sibling, he shouldered the responsibility of keeping his pain to himself, but his Spirit is now setting that pain upon the world. Fighting the bosses in Taro’s storyline confirmed my suspicions that each of them represents a different emotion that is haunting him.
The Mage boss is the physical form of how cautious Taro was feeling in the time leading up to the explosion at Sacred Mountain, and his bottled up emotions. Mage represents this through its fighting style. It keeps its distance until such a time it can inflict the most pain, in much the same way bottled-up emotions can often lead to violent outbursts.
Taro had to show courage when he became solely responsible for his siblings after his parents passed away. He clearly felt angry at himself after realising he’d let Beni and Saiya down. The Wood Knight is a clear physical manifestation of the courage Taro had to muster up in order to become the sole guardian of his siblings, as Knights are inherently seen as heroes and protectors. The behaviour of this particular Knight is ruthless and brutal. The Knight maintains a powerful stance throughout the fight. It ruthlessly slices through its own kind, often killing them in its attempt to destroy Kena. It did anything it took in its merciless attempts to destroy Kena. Taro had to adapt to being ruthless to survive after losing his parents.
Corrupted Taro Is Everything Combined
The main enemy that represents Taro's complex emotions surrounding his family is the final boss in his storyline, Corrupted Taro. The corruption that has infected the Forgotten Forest has infected Taro's spirit to form a seriously powerful and dangerous foe. However, the Corruption is not the only source of its power.
Watching the mannerisms of Corrupted Taro throughout the final battle, I noticed that a lot of its actions are that of a being in immense pain. In this form, Taro is a combination of every boss that you have met until this point, a twisted amalgamation of the different shades of Taro’s inner turmoil.
The key to beating Corrupted Taro is to repeatedly break the Lamp that hangs from its neck. This lamp is the final Relic that you collect for Taro and is a symbol for the final scrap of hope that he had of finding his siblings. At the beginning of the fight, it felt cruel to destroy the lamp. Ultimately, sometimes people in pain need to be brought back to reality to truly start to heal. Breaking the lamp eventually helps set Taro free and this leads to the idea that, no matter what, the love he has for his family was always meant to prevail.
A Powerful Reunion
The moment that I eventually defeated Corrupted Taro proved to be one of the most emotional moments I've experienced in a game, which was not something I expected going in. The intense build in the background music throughout the cinematic re-telling of Taro's story brought his emotional tale to its climax; the long-awaited reunion between Taro, Beni and Saiya. Watching Taro's admission of all of his guilt and anger reflected my thoughts about each boss representing a dark part of him. The emotional overload came once his younger siblings got to finally reunite with their long-lost brother.
It's no secret that in recent times, many of us are enduring separation from the ones we love, holding out hope for a long-awaited reunion. The strong feelings around the struggle of separation from ones you love, be it family or friends, is something that Kena represents with a surprising amount of accuracy.
Corrupted Adira Shows Her Heartbreak
After Taro’s story wraps up, you move on to the next trapped Spirit called Adira. Her story is about the powerful bond she has with the one she loves (Hana) and how that love provided her with power in a time when she needed it the most.
Adira found the strength to battle through the desperate situation in the Village from her love for Hana. The sheer power of her love for Hana is woven into all of the bosses in her storyline but it isn’t clearly represented until Corrupted Adira appears.
Corrupted Adira is impossible to beat whilst it's gaining power from the Village Heart. This echoes how strong Adira had become from her love for Hana, her loyal heart kept her going.
Throughout the boss battle, you can see a line that connects Corrupted Adira to the Village Heart. That tether is hard to break in a similar fashion to how Adira still felt her connection to Hana even though her fate was clear.
The only way to break the connection between the Village Heart and Corrupted Adira is to open it. When broken, the Village Heart turns into cracked and shattered pieces which again is a good representation of how broken she felt inside when losing Hana. After the heart is opened, Corrupted Adira is vulnerable in the same way that her heartbreak made Adira herself vulnerable.
Kena: Bridge of Spirits seems simple at first. But by connecting the emotional states of the main cast of characters directly to gameplay mechanics, it gains surprising depth. The bosses mirror these characters in the way they fight, and in their corrupted forms. Battles are given extra weight as a result, leading to an emotional payoff that completely took me by surprise. It’s clear that with Kena: Bridge of Spirits, there’s much more than meets the eye.