Cutting through the Yakuza like a Ginsu knife
Developers Ludic Studios drops a bombshell on us with this fast-paced hack and slash arena title Akane. Taking place in the neon-lit, blood-soaked streets of Mega-Tokyo, the game puts you in control a swordswoman named Akane, a deadly warrior who is pretty damn handy with a blade and guns. Cut through all adversaries to prove you are the best there is in this retro-laced slasher-’em-up and let the way of the sword be your guide.
Yeah, I killed your friends – is that a problem?
At first glance, this top-down hack and slash game doesn’t seem like it offers much more than twitchy ultra-violence, and that’s not necessarily wrong. There are five types of enemies that stand in your way; a yakuza guy, tank, shooter, cyber ninja, and Katsuro – the end-of-level boss. Your objective is to kill as many of them as you possibly can before they kill you. Doesn’t seem too hard to do, right? Well, it tends to get a bit insane after awhile. You have to kill a whole lot of enemies – 100 to be exact – to move on to the boss. Once you reach and defeat him, you will have to continue the cycle until you defeat another 100 enemies. Now, while this may sound easy as pie, our good ol’ pal Katsuro is getting smarter and evolving all the while. Eventually, he’ll begin employing all kinds of new tricks ranging from unloading on you with his pistol, faster dashes, oh and let’s not forget a rapid, multi-dash that leads into a devastating slash to your guts. The way Katsuro evolves makes the boss battles more engaging as you progress.
To help you mow down this nonstop horde you have a trusty sidearm to help keep your combos going and keep your stamina bar up. That’s right, there’s a stamina bar, so there’s no running around mashing slash to kill your foes – you’ll have to make sure you alternate between your gun, your sword, and deflect ability to keep your attack chain and life going. Things start to get crazy, and you may even feel the urge to smash your controller when you reach an insane amount of kills. But don’t fret – your gun isn’t the only thing helping you reach a new level of badassery. You’ve also got two special attacks to help clear up some of the fodder in your face. “Dragon Slash” is an attack that clears out everything in a straight path in front of you but can leave you open to attacks. “Dragon Slayer” is the proverbial “I win” button as it pretty much slaughters everything within your field of vision (everything on screen) for the cost of three adrenaline bars. At some points, this powerful attack seemed a bit glitchy, but this may have been a mechanic to add some form of difficulty. At times after your “Dragon Slash,” there would be a moment where you’d be wide open to attack and that could spell disaster.
Customized for slaughter
There is a little bit of customization available in Akane. And while there’s no super in-depth skill tree to work your way through, I did notice it can make a slight difference in your play style. Long story short: you get a few items that you can equip to help change the way your character dashes, attacks, and so on. For instance, you get shoes that change the way that Akane dashes, or a bracelet that lets you split deflected bullets. There’s a total of six slots: two for items, one for shoes, one for smokes, another for your katana and the last for your trusty sidearm. One thing I enjoyed was all the various ways you can have fun slaughtering your enemies, all the while watching some pretty epic death animations. One sword allows you to gain a special attack where you toss that bad boy like a boomerang from hell, allowing you to ricochet bullets off the planted sword, killing even more foes. Another small yet fun detail was the effect of your cigarettes – whenever you’d dash they’d leave behind a colored trail and each pack gave you a different color. Now I know it’s just a little touch, but it’s still something small I did quite enjoy.
Unlocking the different items was simple enough. There were a few tasks I had to complete, and once done, I had a new piece of gear to help with my slaughter. Some tasks could be a little annoying. But for the most part, these new items are easily obtained. While the customization does make for some pretty fun and exciting ways to play, it doesn’t make up for the game’s glaring lack of stages or its severe shortage of enemy variety.
That’s right, Akane only has one freaking stage that grows progressively more challenging as you play. That said, if you’re looking for a game with a wealth of locales to explore, visual variety, or an in-depth story to enjoy, then Akane probably isn’t the game for you.
Got my sword and some dubstep
In terms of audio production, Akane’s soundtrack is nothing short of amazing. The game’s pumping electronic arrangements are infectious and do a great job of getting your adrenaline pumping. I couldn’t help but put the television on full volume whenever I got the chance. It offers a wide variety of musical styles including dubstep, synthwave, with some Asian flare. Each song feels just right, and the way the music transitions during battle is, for lack of a better word, dope as hell. Every last piece of music fits the action so perfectly.
Cutting to the Heart of Akane
Overall, Ludic Studios has put out a pretty awesome title with Akane, and I thoroughly enjoyed its simplistic yet fun style. The pulse-pounding, adaptive soundtrack and non-stop slash and gash action will keep you entertained for good while, but once the repetition sinks in due to the game’s lack of enemy, boss, and location variety, you’ll begin to see that the replay value isn’t quite there. Despite these shortcomings, Akane remains a worthwhile addition to your Switch library and a satisfying score-chaser for those seeking a blood-soaked challenge. Overall, Akane is a fast-paced, non-stop gore-fest with some killer tunes. And even though it can get pretty repetitive, it’s still something fun to come back to from time to time to see if you can crush that old kill counter.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: Switch (Reviewed); Publisher: QubicGames; Developer: Ludic Studios; Players: 1; Released: May 17, 2019; ESRB: M for Mature; MSRP: $4.99
Full disclosure: This review was based on a copy of Akane given to Hey Poor Player by the publisher.