Takeshi and Hiroshi is a heartfelt little game that doesn’t waste your time and encourages you to come back for more even after you’ve beaten it. Upon booting the game up, the player is dropped immediately into the story. In an attempt to help his sickly younger brother Hiroshi feel happy and gain confidence, the titular Takeshi works on “Mighty Warrior,” an RPG of his own creation that he has not yet fully programmed. As a result, Takeshi must log into his laptop to transmit information to the game as Hiroshi plays. There are seven story chapters in total, and the tale is told via cutscenes comprised of precious puppets surrounded by captivating clay props. Character individuality comes across clearly through wonderful use of facial details and musical flourishes associated with the characters’ “vocals” and movements. But the heart of the game, so to speak, is the RPG experience you, as Takeshi, help build for your little brother.
There are six Mighty Warrior levels in which the player has to select monsters to put in Hiroshi’s path. Just like in a standard turn-based RPG, Hiroshi’s character will trade blows with the enemies placed before him. Each monster has its own unique properties, such as a slime that explodes upon death, or a snake with a shield that cannot be felled in a single swing. The goal is to provide enough of a challenge for Hiroshi to have fun without his character dying. The tougher the battle, the higher Hiroshi’s “joy.” But if a set of enemies are too easy to defeat, he won’t have fun, and his enjoyment will decrease. Every level features five battles for the player to craft, with a higher target joy value for each new level.
So while gameplay consists only of selecting enemies, each level is really a puzzle to determine how to reach the target joy value. With a randomly generated pool of enemies to select from and each enemy having its own skills and parameters, players need to consider a surprisingly profound number of elements when selecting enemies. There are additional factors that can affect battles moving forward as well, such as Hiroshi leveling up. This gives the game a slight element of trial and error as parameters change, but it’s appropriately forgiving. Players can retry levels immediately and as often as they please, and a checkpoint also activates after clearing the second battle of a level. This allows the gameplay — simple on the surface but complex at heart — to really capture players’ attention.
Throughout the story, Takeshi himself overcomes personal challenges and gains some heartfelt allies along the way. Fellow student Yosuke has a game of his own that players can partake in: “500m Zombie Escape.” Like Mighty Warrior, the gameplay premise is simple — press A to take a step, maneuvering around obstacles and zombies to see how far you can go. The resulting awkwardness has its own short-term charm as a silly and refreshing diversion from the rest of the game. What’s more, players can come back to it later to try and best their furthest distance.
Players can also return to prior Mighty Warrior levels at their leisure. The simple yet gripping nature of the gameplay makes Takeshi and Hiroshi easy enough to come back to when you’re looking for a quick little gameplay session, and the main menu keeps track of your high score for each individual level, a small but mighty addition. The inclusion of high scores is just the detail needed to really entice players to return after the fantastic story experience is over. The entire game is incredibly accessible, as the adorable cutscenes can be replayed at will as well.
It takes about two hours to beat Takeshi and Hiroshi, but players will likely think back on its charming story and return to its leisurely levels quite a bit. From its straightforward yet engaging gameplay to its lovable characters and delightful story, Takeshi and Hiroshi proves that a little can go a really long way.