If you’re after a brutal arcade arena slasher title, and one which can punish your slip-ups in the blink of an eye, Akane, a new Switch eShop release from QubicGames, might be what you’re looking for.
What this game offers has been seen in other forms before on the Switch eShop – Crimsonland and #KILLALLZOMBIES also delivered the same experience of hordes of enemies all swarming onto the battlefield and honing in on you and you alone as a target for their ill-will. But the difference Akane offers is that, while you do have a gun at your disposal (which you can only use when stood still), the emphasis is instead placed on the up close and personal swordplay with your katana.
So yes, this is an arcade-style slashathon. Running around the battlefield, a simple tap of A will swipe your sword and eliminate an enemy within very close proximity. But swing two many times in quick succession and you’ll soon wear down your energy bar, with this a highly unforgiving game for those who no longer have the stamina to wield their sword. That makes for the game’s tactical element – you need to manoeuvre your way around the arena to allow your health to suitably recharge so you won’t be found wanting. But by racking up quick kills you can rack up combos, so there’s always a battle going on between attack and defence forcing you to bring together a strong balance.
That balance is particularly important. While the combo number can go up indefinitely, and counts towards optional objectives set at the start of a game (rack up a combo of 50 before taking on a boss, for example), what’s more useful is the unleash-hell perks which come through filling up the bar at the bottom of the screen. Working like a gym battle in Pokemon Go, you must fill the meter to a certain point in order to use a special move and take out every enemy within a straight line, or fill the meter the whole way to deliver a quick-time avalanche of destruction on everyone on the screen.
That’s the game’s coolest moment for sure. But, on the flip side, the margin for error is just a little bit too unforgiving. Making it deep into a run and then watching Akane swing her katana through thin air is an absolutely infuriating sensation, and in fact goes as far as to turn failure into a boring experience, as you’re forced to start from scratch with your enemy kill count at zero. Yes, this is all about one-hit kills, but sometimes the action moves too fast for you to react if the enemy comes out with an unexpected attack when you’re going in for the kill. It’s the bad kind of challenge – the game taking the opportunity to dish out a cheap game over and start your playthrough from scratch.
It’s not even is if the main chunk of Akane is difficult – racking up the numbers all the way to 100 shouldn’t be too difficult, given the simplicity of the controls, but it’s these near misses which irk too much when it comes to repeated playthrough attempts. Akane is for sure repetitive – it’s the same experience over and over every time, only the boss battle, unlocked for 100 kills, becomes slightly harder each time you beat it.
Akane is an alright experience – it handles well, and nailing a good run is always satisfying. But it is very repetitive. The lure of an increased strength boss probably isn’t enough to hold the attention for much longer.