Akane the Kunoichi

The Super Nintendo was the first game system I played with as a child, so I have a particular fondness for it’s brand of samey action-platforming.  Stuff like Earthworm Jim, Joe & Mac, or Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure.  Utterly generic titles that were so interchangeable that they might as well have been shipped without labels.  Would have saved a couple cents.  Anyway, I loved them.

Akane the Kunoichi serves as both a loving tribute to that era and a reminder of why it’s a good thing it came to an end.  You play as Akane (Japanese for “redhead”), a Kunoichi (female ninja) who has to rescue her boyfriend from some evil ninjas.  The gameplay is straight up 2-D platforming mixed with projectile shooting and couldn’t be more generic if it was sold at WalMart under the Great Value brand.  There’s fifteen levels, five of which are boss stages.  Every stage has a theme and the usual suspects of fire, water, and castle show up.

It plays like Contra with a little Ninja Gaiden thrown inYou jump from platform to platform shooting bad guys with your unlimited supply of throwing knives, collect power-ups that cause your attack to spread out, and climbing on walls.  The graphics are typical SNES stuff and look very colorful, but the backgrounds recycle and the music is about as inspiring as water-flavored ice cream.  In other words, it does fairly well drawing from it’s source material.

Staying true to generic 16-bit roots is ultimately Akane’s downfall.  The game is just plain boring.  You can count on one hand the number of bad guys you encounter (excluding bosses) and once you’ve seen them and have their patterns down there’s no surprises left.  There are encounters with giant bosses, but they’re of the cookie-cutter variety and leave a lot to be desired.  They also have enormous life bars and thus fighting them feels more like busy work then anything epic.  The second boss especially, because you can only get one or two shots in while his weak point is exposed.  Then, once he closes in on you then it’s time to wall jump to a platform over his head, run down it, and repeat.  I found it saved time just to take the damage and run through him.  This is the sign of a poorly made game.

The biggest flaw is the wall jump.  At first, it seemed to work, but after a while it became the only reason why I died.  You’ll jump to avoid a projectile, end up stuck to a wall, can’t get off the wall, and pffph, dead.  And then there’s the really annoying instances where I ended up hanging on a wall that wasn’t even fucking there.  I would try to climb down off a wall without jumping off, only for Akane to keep climbing, right in the middle of the screen and completely exposed to enemy fire while holding on to nothing.

At this point I’m sure people who think indie games are above criticism will point out that Akane the Kunoichi is charming, retro, and only 80 Microsoft Points, so why be such a killjoy?  It’s true that it’s priced to afford and mostly functional.  I’m sure people who start every game centered conversation with the words “back in my day…” will either enjoy Akane or at least convince themselves they’re having a good time even when they’re not.

Anyone else looking for a good nostalgic romp would be better suited going with something better produced like LaserCat or TIC.  You can even forgo the Xbox 360 altogether and dig your SNES out of the closet.  Go ahead and fire up your favorite generic, bland, “throw any licensed character into the same environment and you wouldn’t even notice the difference” 16-bit side-scroller.  Anyone up for a round of Donkey Kong Country?

Akane the Kunoichi was developed by Haruneko

80 Microsoft Points learned the 18 prinicples of the Ninjutsu in the making of this review.

About Indie Gamer Chick
Indie game reviews and editorials.

3 Responses to Akane the Kunoichi

  1. Pingback: Oozi: Earth Adventure Ep. 1 « Indie Gamer Chick

  2. I’ve been up some DKC for like EVER. Got to get my SNES out of storage. Good review.

    • A guy called Northernlion recently did nicely nostalgic Let’s Play of DKC on YouTube. I’m not on his payroll, just noting the coincidence.

      Anyway, if anything this review has actually tempted me to try Akane. Previously I’d avoided it because of its tacky cover image, but I liked Oozi so maybe I’d like this too.

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