Akane is a game going for a single uncompromising objective. You against an endless horde of Yakuza with only a katana and a pistol between you and a quick death. At only $5 on the shop I wasn’t sure what to think. The pixel art and concept art on display are striking. Images of a katana wielding woman in an elevator filled with bodies. The entire thing aglow in a blue and pink neon glow gives it a very cyberpunk future feel. You start the game in standoff-mode with four thugs surrounding you. You give them the warning that you’re all going to die tonight and the game is on.
Akane makes a good first impression. Running around the cyberpunk arena that looks like the rooftops of some massive city looks cool. There’s plenty of neon signs lit up around the arena and the pixel art is simplistic, yet stylish. You have your basic katana slash with enough animation on it to keep you from being able to endlessly spam it. There is enough delay between slashes that you need to be wary of charging headlong into groups of enemies. You can also pull the left trigger to plant yourself into place and pull up an aiming reticle for your gun. The sword and gun are generally one-hit-kills for all the basic grunts, but you also run into bigger tank characters and eventually bosses who will take more hits.
In addition to the basic attacks you also have access to two special moves that are powered by a meter at the bottom of the screen. Rapidly killing enemies fills the meter, and you can press X to expend a portion of it to set a marker point down. Running to another location keeps a line traced back to your marker and hitting the button again will cause a dashing slice through anything along that line between points. It’s tricky to use at first but very satisfying when you can slice through a huge group of enemies. Charging the meter up all the way allows you to trigger your ultimate ability that essentially kills everyone on screen. Of course, powerful as you may be, the one caveat is that your character is just as fragile as any of the grunts.
One hit is all it takes for your run to end. This means even the most basic enemy is not to be overestimated. You can fly through a crowd of grunts slicing them up as you go, but all it takes is one missed slice, leaving an enemy ready to strike from behind you. Even the best run can be over in an instant. Make no mistake, this game is brutally hard. Even with a simple dash to get out of trouble, and a block attack that can help parry bullets away, or block sword strikes, you will find yourself dead time and time again. Of course death is not the end.
This game is rogue-like in a sense. You are given a list of objectives to try and complete on a run in the game. Doing so will reward you with a new item for your character. Equipping these between runs can help you overcome the game a bit more, but having played a handful of hours of this game already I can tell you, it isn’t easy to complete this stuff. There is very little entry ramp into the game as well. Your first set of objectives in the game are all fairly daunting tasks that it will take you a good handful of runs to even start working towards, and even then almost all objectives are something to try and do in one run.
Normally games with such sharp progression would push me off but Akane gives enough of a fun and contained experience that it’s great to pick-up and play a few runs on a bus ride or when just killing twenty minutes. Also being only a $5 title makes me feel like I’ve already gotten my monies worth out of the game, and I’m still striving to see more of the unlocks and see if a bigger narrative unlocks in the game.
Story is mostly non-existent from the time I’ve spent with it. It hints at a story with the optional tutorial, and with some interactions with characters that show up as bosses in the runs. It makes me think there might be more here than meets the eye, but overcoming the difficulty ramp to see it is not an easy task.
The only other true complaint I can lodge at Akane is that it is a very repetitive experience. As per its nature of being a rogue-like you will be making similar runs over and over again, but unlike many other rogue-like games there feels like even less variety in both enemy types and environment. Having the added bosses is fun and unique, but other than that it feels like I’m just fighting off waves of the same 3 or 4 enemies. However, taking into account the more budget nature of the game I don’t think this necessarily hinders the experience Akane tries to offer.
Overall Akane is a great little $5 game on the Nintendo Shop that is great for killing small amounts of time. It has a steep difficulty ramp and plenty of unlocks to keep you coming back to try and really nail a good run. However, if you’re looking for a deep cyberpunk experience or a narrative heavy game, I would look elsewhere.
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Plenty of Unlockables
Great Pixel Art
Not much Story
High Difficulty Curve
Can get repetitive