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As an action hack’n’slash, SAMURAI MAIDEN remains extremely enjoyable throughout its many maps and boss battles. Although Tsumugi begins the game with a single sword, she’ll later unlock additional weapons that favor heavier attacks or come with special abilities that help fine-tune your play style.

For the most part, combat involves a series of light and heavy attacks, which can trigger combos unlocked via the bonding mechanics (more on that later). Each of your three ninja girls can offer their support in battle, deploying a unique ability such as an explosive bomb, or an area-of-effect frost hammer. Tsumugi can deal with airborne enemies by leaping into the air and hammering away, and on the ground, quickly tapping the shoulder button will see Tsumugi dash away from enemies.

In the early game, combat can be quite challenging, especially when you haven’t gotten all three of your companions yet. Killing enemies yields resources called “inga,” which you can spend post-mission to upgrade your weapon, giving you greater attack power and increasing your maximum health. You can also upgrade your ninjas’ weapons too, giving the girls far more powerful effects when you call for them.

Iyo, Hagane, and Komimi can only offer their support when their support gauge is full, but thankfully that gauge accumulates quickly enough when you start smacking up enemies. Over time, you can increase both the number of gauges and the speed with which they regenerate. Late-game maps will have you constantly deploying these abilities just to stay alive.

Make no mistake—SAMURAI MAIDEN can, at times, be a pretty punishing game. Individual missions might only last 8-10 minutes, but enemy damage is brutal, and when the enemies swarm on you, it’s easy to get sent packing. Respawns are fast and never an annoyance, but some levels humbled us quickly, forcing us back to repeat earlier missions and upgrade our weapons before making another attempt.

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