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Akane the Kunoichi (Xbox 360) artwork

Akane the Kunoichi (Xbox 360) review


"Akane is light, bite-sized and can be picked up and put down at will; this is appreciated. But that doesnít mean to say it wonít claw your face off and have you thank it for the maiming by the end."



If I were to list my values as a hip underground reviewer, weíd be here all day, but near the top (in the top one hundred, certainly) would be the fact that Iím a pretentiously militant retro gamer. As such, I can use my magnificent powers of complaining loquaciously to say horrid and nasty things. Things about games that claim to be throw-backs to that glorious 16-bit era we place far too much nostalgia in, but use this dodgy homage as a mask to smoke screen overly-simplistic and cheap game designs.

Because I was there. Iím not even close to being the oldest member of staff here on Honestgamers.com (Thanks, Rob, for being almost double my age!), but Iím old enough to remember the games that rightfully defined that age. And, more than most titles, I remember the Shinobi games. The bastard, bastard Shinobi games that often walked perfectly the thin line between being challenging and being cheap. Here, you will die. You will die a lot, swear and then pick the pad back from the corner of the room where youíve flung it and try again, because the death was your fault. It was perfectly avoidable; it wasnít bad controls or unbalanced odds that sent poor Joe Musashi to an early grave. It was you: you were a split second too late or you bit off more than you could chew, and now you need to try again.

Credentials boasted and ego appeased, now weíll talk about Akane The Kunoichi. Get ready for the surprising ending!



While Akane has obvious differences to Joe, including a much better set of breasts and a more cartoony art style, there are numerous similarities. That difficult-to-maintain line comes right back to bitch-slap you in the face because, like Joe, Akane will die a lot. And youíll have no one to blame but yourself.

Simplistic in its own right, Akane follows the tried and tested method of starting out light and fluffy before ending the game on plain sadistic. The first level is an obligatorily sunny green field with candyfloss clouds and bright blue skies. There are a few ninja scattered around, but none that should cause much problems and, just in case, there are healing hearts and power-ups aplenty to dig into. Then a huge Oni boss some twenty times your size drops from the skies, chases you into an inescapable chasm and forces you to plough kunai blades into his skull.

Akaneís mission, to rescue some bald guy, takes her through fifteen stages set across five different areas. Castle interiors have her navigating through hidden corridors and scrolling lifts while underground caves have her battling against waterfalls and ill-flowing streams that threaten to push her off sheer drops to instant death. Mountainside levels have her leap across crumbling platforms to try and cling to walls and work her way up a series of temporary safe havens with unwelcome plummets awaiting failure. By the time you reach the last level, filled with spike traps, lava pits and armies of ninja appearing on puffs of smoke exactly where you donít want them too, the kid gloves are off.

Akane the Kunoichi [XBLI] assetAkane the Kunoichi [XBLI] asset


There remain disappointments to be had; each stage ends in some memorable boss fight, but the one to cap the game is a major letdown that should be seen off effortlessly, but getting there is a satisfying slog through enough tricks and traps to keep even the grumpiest platfomer connoisseur with only a handful of rose-tinted grumbles. Complaints can be made about game length, but are circumvented by hidden kimonos you can go back and seek out (and will have to should you want to see the true ending) and a little bit of logic; the Shinobi games will feel like a longer slog, but thatís because Akane offers something games of old rarely did; rather than play the game as one long slog, each stage is stand-alone, meaning you can take on any slice of the unlocked game any time you like. No playing the same easy start levels over and over when you inevitably fall in the harder ones; no seeing one mistimed jump destroy an hour of progress. Going back to beaten levels is a choice, not an obligation, and itís one modern addition to a solid look back over gamingís shoulder that can really be appreciated.

The limitations, like how the game only has four basic enemy sets used throughout, are overwritten by a solid soundtrack, but even better level planning and a real sense that those crazy kids at Haruneko know what made well-remembered games worth remembering. Iím not used to these kind of conclusion where Iím not chewing someone out for trying to hide their inabilities behind the faÁade of an homage, but Iím happy not to have anything to bitch about for a change. Akane is light, bite-sized and can be picked up and put down at will; this is appreciated. But that doesnít mean to say it wonít claw your face off and have you thank it for the maiming by the end.

Rating: 8/10

EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (July 17, 2011)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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pickhut posted July 17, 2011:

I'm not gonna lie, the only reason I originally checked this game out when it first came out was because of the cover art (the one seen in the review box). I actually bought the game with the intent of completing it... but never got back to it. Good review, made me want to go back and give it another shot.
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Masters posted July 18, 2011:

Yeah, the cover art IS titillating.

Nice review, Gary. I've got a lot of fixes for you, but I don't have time to post them yet. To be continued.
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Masters posted July 18, 2011:

Again, nicely done. Welcome back.
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JoeTheDestroyer posted July 18, 2011:

Yeah, the cover art IS titillating.

That's the breast explanation I've heard for it.
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espiga posted July 18, 2011:

I'd use a pun too, but I don't want to end up looking like a huge boob.

Nice review.
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EmP posted July 20, 2011:

Thanks for the catches, Marc. And the awful puns everyone else.
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overdrive posted July 22, 2011:

(Thanks, Rob, for being almost double my age!)

YOU SON OF A...!!!!

Very good review. I went between this and Apple Jack for my 80p purchase and wound up with the other. Which means that, at least, both games will get coverage here! Although, you did a good enough job with this one that no matter how much I like Apple Jack, I'll still be wondering if I picked the wrong one.

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