Akane Review (Switch eShop)
Some games try to be a lot of things and wind up being average at a lot of them. There’s not as many games that decide to focus on one thing and make it great. Does Akane get it right?
Set in Mega Tokyo in a cyberpunk future, Akane is a trained killer. Or at least someone who has been well trained with a Katana and gun for some reason. Besides vague bits of dialogue, there isn’t really a story as such besides Akane is about to take on the Yakuza. It’s just you, your blade, a gun and an arena full of guys who want you dead. I’m conflicted on how I feel about the amount of story there is, or the lack thereof. The training and start of the fight give glimpses/teases into this world, and bosses also bring out what little dialogue there is, but it just ends there. It’s not that all games have to have deep plots or even a story. When there’s just enough to pique your interest then only to find that digging deeper turns up nothing further it can be a letdown. On the other hand, it’s not really a game that requires a story, and the game itself never suffers for it.
As for what Akane is, essentially the game is a top-down arena-based survival game. One hit to kill most enemies, just as you can be taken down in one hit too. Akane’s trusty Katana is relied on for up close combat against the waves of thugs heading for you. But you can’t swing your sword around constantly, as you use stamina from a stamina meter every time you slash and slice. The Katana isn’t Akane’s only weapon, fortunately, and between moments of slicing people up, you can also shoot enemies with your handy sidearm. Like the Katana, the handgun isn’t limitless. You have a limited amount of bullets. On the plus side, bullets regenerate when you rack up kills. The bulk of the game will involve balancing your use of the Katana and gun. When it works it is a fluid gracefulness.
It’s not just your weapons you have in your arsenal, you have the ever handy Dash move at hand so you can zip all over the screen avoiding your enemies and putting some much-needed distance before becoming overwhelmed. When you combine these three moves you shouldn’t have much issue building up a meter at the bottom of the screen. When you fill up this meter you have access to two different attacks, the Dragon Slash, and the Dragon Slayer. The Slash doesn’t need as much charging but needs to be manually aimed, which leaves you exposed to attacks while you’re making a path to cut through. The Dragon Slayer, when used right, kills every enemy in your immediate area. I always saved my meter for this move, to help clear out the area when the crowd is a bit much.
All of Akane takes part in the one arena (outside of a training area) and given how the game plays out it’s all you really need. The main focus is improving your combos and how many Yakuza you can take down before your inevitable death, and unlocking gear to improve your runs as you go.
To keep pushing you through this never ending fight, Akane has objectives to meet with gear and upgrades tied to accomplishing them. It would be really handy to have the option to see the progress you’re making on unlocking something so you’re not left guessing if you’re even close to meeting the goal. The other issue I came across with the objectives/goals was that it quickly locks off gear and weapons behind goals that require you to survive sometime into the game. If you miss a certain window to fulfil the goal, you’re unlikely to get another chance until you start again. It wouldn’t be so bad if some gear was more obtainable at a more decent rate so you can build up to the bigger asks from the game. As a game best suited for short bursts, initially I found I wanted to keep replaying to finally get one of the damn upgrades. The longer it took to get new gear, the less fun it was to jump back in. It was fun to try out the different Katanas as they carry different abilities/moves to bring some variety but they never changed how you play the game that much. Ultimately you’re trying to beat your best score, it doesn’t appear to have any online leaderboards so it’s just you against yourself and the endless group of Yakuza.
One of the standouts to Akane is. the pixel art visuals that play on the cyberpunk aesthetic, and music that accompanies throughout the many many battles. Even though the gameplay and environment is very limited, they manage to capture the gritty yet neon-soaked worlds of Blade Runner, Shadowrun and I could go on. Even with small pixel cybernetically enhanced Yakuza chasing after you, slicing them up is surprisingly violent as they’re cut in two.
The game generally ran well for me. Akane moves as fast as I needed, but the further into a run you get more and more enemies are thrown your way. The more crowded it gets, the more the game can struggle or at least the frame rate does. Of course, the time the frames dropped is when you’re struggling to get out of a big group, but the game held up outside of that.
Akane isn’t a game that’s looking to take you on an epic story of revenge. It’s one very specific thing and that’s a single arena score attack game within a futuristic cyberpunk future. It’s fun enough while it lasts and some will enjoy it way longer than others, depending on how much you enjoy the gameplay loop. It might not be a long game overflowing with content but it is a fun arcade style game that comes are a suitable price. There’s no shortage of bad games out cheap on the eShop, but Akane isn’t one of them.
- Fun, fluid, fast-paced combat
- Sights and sounds set the mood
- Appropriate bite-sized price for a bite-sized game
- Goals make upgrade progress slow
- Frame rate drops in busy fights
- Not much motivation to keep playing