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Overview

Kuon is a 2004 survival horror game for the PS2 that was developed by From Software and published in North America by Agetec. The game is set during the Heian Period of Japanese history, in an age where mystics known as onmyouji held sway in the imperial court. The game is set in the haunted Fujiwara estate, where the player must unravel its mysteries as either Utsuki, the daughter of the onmyouji Doman, or as Sakuya, one of Doman's apprentices.

Gameplay

Kuon uses many of the gameplay systems found in survival horror games: an adventure game-style exploration of an environment complete with items used to pass barriers or solve puzzles. However, it does have a few unique systems. At times, the player can encounter Tempests, startling events that cause a drop in health and often bring enemies. If the player is running when they encounter a Tempest, the screen blurs and they are unable to use magic for a short period of time. Also unique to the game a meditation button, allowing the player to heal after a period of charging. This takes time and renders the player immobile, however, meaning it can't be easily used in combat; instead, the player can use items to heal.

There is a fair amount of combat in Kuon as well. Players can attack in one of two ways: with a melee weapon (different weapons for each character) or magic cards. These cards have a variety of effects but can be broken down into two types: attack cards and summon cards. Attack cards are direct attacks that fire at enemies, with some tracking automatically and others having to be aimed. Summon cards temporarily conjure a creature to fight with the player, with each creature having different attacks and behaviors. Cards are limited, meaning the player needs to conserve them for harder creatures or bosses by avoiding encounters or using the melee whenever possible.

Story

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Kuon takes place in ancient Japan, set in an area near modern-day Kyoto. The player plays as three different characters during the game: Utsuki, Sakuya, and a fictional woman version of Abe no Seimei, a famous figure in Japanese lore. Initially, the player is given a choice between playing as Utsuki (called Yin Phase) or Sakuya (called Yang Phase), with the final character's story (called Kuon Phase) opening up after beating both Yin and Yang. Much of the story revolves around a ritual called Kuon, where a person enters a wicker basket and consumes progressively larger creatures. After nine times of doing this, they will be reborn.

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Utsuki's story revolves around her sister Kureha and her father, often referred to as the Doman. He was called to exorcise a manor owned by the Fuijiwara family but hasn't returned in some time. The sisters go to look for him and are quickly separated. As Utsuki explores the manor and surrounding areas, she eventually realizes that her sister has been dead for some time. Twin evil spirits, who draw their powers from a pair of mulberry trees, killed Kureha and used her body to carry out the dark Kuon ritual, leading to the various spirits inhabiting the manor. Furthermore, Utsuki learns that she has fused with eight corpses already, the dark magics corrupting her mind and body. Her chapter ends with her hunger becoming too great, causing her to attack Sakuya.

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Sakuya's story begins as a group of the Doman's disciples, including Sakuya's older brother, arrive at the manor also intending to search for him. She quickly meets Utsuki, saving her from a demon, and feels the need to help her find her sister. The two often go their own ways, exploring different parts of the area while occasionally reuniting for a brief period. Eventually, Utsuki meets up with Doryo, Sakuya's older brother, and he also offers to help her find her sister. Not long after the group meets up, Kureha's spirit attacks them, killing Doryo and fusing with him. Sakuya defeats him and burns one of the two mulberry trees, killing one of the twin spirits. Sakuya also learns of her master's deceitful intent in bringing his disciples to the manor for the explicit purpose of using them for the Kuon ritual. Sakuya tries to escape but runs into a hungry Utsuki, getting grabbed at the end of her chapter.

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The final chapter stars Abe no Seimei, another exorcist who abhors the evil ways of the Doman and seeks to stop him. She quickly runs into Sakuya, who managed to escape Utsuki's clutches while she fought off her hunger momentarily. Upon entering the deep parts of the underground, she also encounters Utsuki, deformed and weak. Abe offers to help the girl if she can, but both seem to realize that likely won't happen. Soon after, Abe encounters the Doman and the two engage in a magical duel, with Abe becoming the victor. Utsuki runs into the room, stealing the corpse of her father and entering another wicker basket to complete the ritual. Abe follows, sealing the second mulberry tree by using special enchanted spikes. She then moves to destroy Utsuki before she can be reborn but is stopped by a pitying Sakuya, begging her to let her be. Reluctantly, she agrees and leaves the girl on her own.

As the credits play, the player sees Sakuya leaving the manor grounds, looking in much better shape. She calls to someone off-screen, urging them to come outside and see the world. A young girl pokes her head out, clearly similar in appearance to Utsuki. She is amazed by what she sees and joins Sakuya as they head out into the world.

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