Where to begin with Akane? It’s a cyberpunk slasher that is so simple, yet so incredibly hard. Set in 2121 Mega-Tokyo, you play the Akane of the title – a girl sporting a katana and eager to carve out her name in the yakuza underworld. By carving, I mean into the yakuza underworld’s body parts with her sword.
Super violent and fast-paced, Akane can kill her prey with one hit. This is before you unlock all the upgraded weapons or equipment. You could argue that she is overpowered and being able to one-hit an enemy is boring. Of course it is. That is unless she can also be one-hit.
I wouldn’t consider myself a masochist, but I kept replaying Akane over and over again. Like Dark Souls Remastered, Dead Cells or any other rogue type game that is ever so common, Akane dies a lot. She dies, then you restart the level and all your combos, badassery and kills reset.
One slash, one life. Wait…
This is the bit where you say “Really? Isn’t this genre overpopulated? I’m sick of dying!”. Yeah, me too. I do grow tired of dying over and over in games. Whether it’s a design mechanic such as Bloodborne or whether it’s an old school NES Online title that’s ludicrously difficult, dying isn’t always fun. Not that dying in Akane is a game-changer and fun, but it also doesn’t entirely put you off.
From the first level, I died immediately. Press – to restart. I did this and died again. Where’s my health bar? Oh, there isn’t one. Ok, maybe the difficulty is just a little too much. Is there a pussy mode? Nope. Ok, I’m going to have to get good. Try again. Ah – they can one hit me. No worries, let’s keep moving and hit them first. That seemed to work and then I was shot by a gunman. No rage quitting though.
Between dying, you have the restart screen that says which button to press to jump back in. It also states what challenges you need to complete. The Switch is devoid of trophies or achievements as we all know, but seeing a challenge set out in front of you that is crystal clear, makes me think I can do it. Kill 30 consecutive enemies with the katana with 100% accuracy. Surely that’s simple enough. Damn, they blocked it. I’m hit by a random yakuza when my kill tally is 28 and at 100%. Maybe I should try the next one – kill three tanks in one game. Easy.
Kitting oneself out with a new katana
That’s the thing though: none of the challenges in Akane are easy, but they are clearly defined and that makes it workable. There are often times where you don’t know what you’re supposed to do to unlock a challenge or perhaps it’s a bit too vague. In Akane, the task is clear; the doing it is the hard bit. With that in mind, the harder things are, the better the rewards. Apart from the mild euphoria of beating a challenge, unlocking new gear is motivating.
My first bit of kit was, surprisingly, after the accuracy challenge I stated above. I unlocked some gloves that not only improved my street cred and Instagram likes but also my ability when taking on the crime world. They are only subtle upgrades, but worth it nonetheless.
Apart from her handy katana, Akane also has a gun which later upgrades to a shotgun, if needed. It’s a nice touch as you can take out the hordes from a distance. Not that you get many opportunities to do so. Enemies frequently appear and swarm you that it’s advisable to keep moving. Bear in mind that gun ammo replenishes over time but also speeds up with each kill, so you can recharge while dashing and slashing.
Finding a beat
The boss isn’t particularly difficult. He does grow stronger with each play, but as long as you get your timing right, it’s doable. Well, after 100 enemies in a row, you start making silly mistakes and it was quite common for me to get to the boss then die in the most stupidly irritating ways only a spoon could pull off.
Visually, Akane isn’t the best, but simplicity is suited for the game. It’s all about timing and tempo. Speaking of tempo, the soundtrack is fantastic. I’m not a big cyberpunk or synth fan, despite loving the ’80’s, but I could happily listen to this soundtrack as a standalone. You can check out the Soundcloud link to the soundtrack by Cybass in the link below. Between deaths (it happened a lot) I would find myself turning the volume up to thundering bass hooks and future beats. I’m not trying to be clever.
You can argue until we reach the year 2121 on how long it takes to complete Akane. It’s a short game, fundamentally, but to unlock everything and to be good takes as much time as it takes to get a black belt in Iaido. There is a tutorial that speeds along the process and how to kill multiple enemies via the dragon slash and the more powerful dragon slayer. On paper, these are invaluable. If you can find a safe spot and time it right, these moves will wipe out a lot of the enemies. I just kept getting killed, so seldom used it, unless very safe.
Akane, she’s got some moves…
If you want to use these moves, you need to build up the stamina bar. Fill all three bars and you unleash the dragon slayer. It is very cool, but as I said, tricky to pull off effectively. There’s just so much at risk to do anything recklessly as you just have to start again. But, I guess that’s the fun in it. I still haven’t got overly frustrated with it. There’s a YouTube video with a pretty amazing combo, albeit on the PC to prove it can be done. The first combo challenge only needs a 50 hit combo prior to meeting the boss, and I couldn’t do that!
Would I recommend Akane? Definitely. It’s very stripped down so pay what you feel comfortable paying. It’s not going to keep you going like a triple-A title like Super Mario Maker 2 offers, but for an indie, it’s fantastic. Just don’t come back complaining to me when you die 30 plus times in the first 30 minutes. I’m off to listen to some more tunes, then perhaps watch Akira.