The year is 2121; neon signs illuminate the streets of Mega-Tokyo as you, Akane, are surrounded by members of the Yakuza. You draw your katana as you prepare to take down as many members as you can before they inevitably kill you (and trust me, they will). In QubicGames’ cyberpunk slasher battle royal, the rules are easy: One-Hit – One-Kill. How long will you survive?
The first time that I played Akane, I jumped in without even booting up the tutorial (to be honest I still haven’t looked at it). I wanted to dive right in to see what this game was all about. It took a few rounds to learn what buttons did what, and usually I died fairly quickly, but the controls were simple and well laid out so it didn’t take me long to pick them up. You have two weapons at your disposal: a katana and a gun, as well as two defensive tactics: block and dash. With your attacks you have to manage your resources otherwise they will deplete and you will be left temporarily vulnerable.
As I grew more familiar with the mechanics, I was able to make it deeper into the game and finally finished off 100 yakuza members, which brought out the boss. He killed me before I could figure out how to beat him and it sent me back to the very beginning. I fought against more waves of enemies and eventually got back to the boss. This cycle continued a few more times before I finally beat him and was greeted by another wave of yakuza members. During that time, I saw an organic growth in my feel for the game and things began to flow more naturally as I took down hordes of men.
Switching between my katana and gun started to become second nature so that I could balance my resources of stamina and ammo without them depleting too far down. This helped to keep my combo levels high, which in turn allowed me to fill my adrenaline (special) meter that has three levels and enables you to quickly get out of a jam. The first two clear out any enemy within a straight line, but the third level is what is worth saving up for. It is a baddy crushing, screen wiping special that kills everyone in the area. This special drives you to want to keep your combo meter up high so that you can have the reward of clearing the screen.
Graphically the game isn’t anything you haven’t seen before from indie studios. You’ll find traditional pixelated graphics that likely won’t leave you in awe at first glance. With that said, I think that the simple graphics wind up being a strength for this game. As you progress further into later waves of enemies, they begin to come at you faster and in larger numbers. No matter how many characters are on screen (and there can be a lot) I never saw any framerate issues and the game ran smoothly. The UI also pairs nicely with the pixel graphics as it contrasts them with a sharp modern look without ever being obtrusive. The UI boarders the screen as a frame while Akane is always at the center. This helps to never lose Akane’s position and everything you need to know is a quick glance away.
The music in Akane definitely fits the cyberpunk feel of the game with a stylistic synthwave soundtrack. A few songs from the track list can be a little slower or softer in their feel, but this doesn’t detract from the bombastic nature of the game. Typically, these moments serve as a good reminder that you are in this on your own with nothing to save you but your own skill. These slower moments are often followed up by a driving bass line and upbeat percussion that throw you right back into the fast-paced action.
Another thing that the game does well from a sound design aspect is keep you informed of the various situations at all times. For example, Akane will begin to breathe heavily when you are low or out of stamina. Likewise, when you are out of ammo you will hear the gun click. These audio cues tell you what’s wrong without even glancing at the UI. Similarly, when your katana meets another blade and you have failed to bring down your target, you hear the clash of the blades. These are all effective reminders for you to either switch up your tactics or to run and sacrifice your combo meter in order to live to fight later.
It was at the point of a few hours of gameplay that Akane began to grow a little stale on me. While the gameplay is one hit, one kill, the game is also one level, one boss and continues to loop itself endlessly. When the difficulty of the waves and the level of the boss increases, you lose most of it upon your death just to start back at the beginning. You never get to see a new level or fight against any new enemies at a certain point. Sure, there is absolutely no need for a storyline in a game like this, but at the same time it also doesn’t have one to drive any conflict forward.
While the lack of variety and depth can stagnate the game, the challenges help to give it a breath of fresh air as you unlock new gear. These impact how you approach attacking enemies. In some cases you might want to rely on gunplay, and other times your approach will hone your katana accuracy to reach your combo-based goals. These milestones helped maintain my interest in the game and kept me playing longer than I anticipated.
Overall, Akane is a solid game that will have you enjoying it at its core while challenging you to play and change your style. The graphics are standard for pixel graphics, fit the cyberpunk theme well, and have a great UI overlaying it. The music builds on the cyberpunk theme with its synthwave sound and the audio feedback throughout the game helps you to react on the fly. The biggest knock on Akane is the lack of variety and depth but at $4.99, and with the addition of gear and challenges, it shouldn’t be enough of a setback to drive you away from an otherwise enjoyable game.
- Graphics - 7/107/10
- Sound - 9/109/10
- Gameplay - 9/109/10
- Lasting Appeal - 6/106/10
Final Thoughts: GREAT
QubicGames’ Akane is a game that truly emboldens the phrase, “Simple, but well executed.” While it can be lacking in depth and variety, it nails it in the categories that truly matter: gameplay, value, and most importantly… fun! For $4.99, Akane is a great addition to your Switch collection.