Review: Akane the Kunoichi

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Imagine a game where you play as a ninja. What kinds of things do you do? Do you leap nimbly from rooftop to rooftop, strike silently from the shadows, and vanish in the blink of an eye? Or do you plod around slowly, bump into pacing bandits, and collect ugly kimonos? Because if the latter sounds good to you, boy do I have a game you’ll love.

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Akane the Kunoichi (kunoichi is female ninja, for the gaijin in the audience) is a busty, fiery redhead reduced to swooning over some dude who gets whisked away by a mean old witch. I assume your job is to platform through 15 levels to get him back, and impress him by finding three of the same ugly kimono in each level. That’s pretty much all the direction you’re going to get, and the kimono thing is optional. Along the way you’ll have to throw tons of knives (your only attack) at tons of bandits, monks, and dogs. You can find power-ups for your knives, health, and magic (lots more knives) by breaking lucky cats inexplicably scattered around like bricks in Super Mario Bros.

Some solid platforming and ninja antics could make this one float, but I wasn’t kidding about plodding around. Akane lacks any sort of dash, double-jump, or mobility power of any sort. She can’t even run, just shuffle at a brisk stride. This is extra funny in sequences that instruct you to RUN!!! but drains any sort of excitement out of traversing levels. You’ve got some ninja powers to use but again, they’re just greater profusions of knives and are only useful for getting troublesome enemies off of troublesome platforms. Your jump is lazy and floaty, and there’s even a bit of unwelcome inertia to your stride when you try to stop.

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Levels are bog-standard fields, forests, and castles, with one background and one floor texture apiece. On that point, Akane really looks like a game made using an open-source tileset with enemies tweaked to be more ninja-y and Akane to be more top-heavy. Every third stage has a boss that aspires to nothing more challenging than dropping things from the ceiling or charging at you. Everything in the game moves with the same sticky jumps and molasses slowness so there’s not even much challenge in countering them other than the threat of dozing off. I wish I could tell you how Akane’s tale ends but I could only take about thirty minutes of zero-effort level design and boilerplate platforming. Actually I lied, I don’t care how the story ends, either.

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