Akaneiro: Demon Hunters Kickstarter ending soon--here's what we think of it
“You were right,” I type into the in-game chat. “The nodachi does sound like a cricket bat.”
If you don't know what a nodachi is, it's a massive two-handed sword traditionally utilized by the samurai in feudal Japan, the kind that probably went "schwing" whenever it was in use. The nodachi in Spicy Horse's Akaneiro: Demon Hunters (Spicy Horse is the Shanghai-based studio founded by none other than American McGee himself, a name that is all but synonymous with twisted fairy tales) does not go schwing. They go thump. When you sweep the weapon through the air, there is no hiss of metal, no snarl as it cuts—just a slightly sullen, wooden-sounding thump. What makes this even more dissonant is the fact that nothing else sounds quite like that; almost all the skills you get come pre-packaged with appropriate sound effects. For some reason, it's just this one bloody weapon.
An isometric ARPG that is one part Little Red Riding Hood, one part Japanese mythos and five parts "under construction" tape, Akaneiro: Demon Hunters is rife with little problems like this, little annoyances like the inconsistent choice of fonts in the game, the clumsy user interface, the not-quite satisfactory feedback and the way capes inexplicable swaddle your skull regardless of whether you're wearing a giant straw hat or not. The fact that Akaneiro is currently in open beta is something impossible to ignore as that air of unfinished business permeates everything. Then again, Spicy Horse makes no secret of the fact that it's still a work-in-progress. Currently Greenlit on Steam and in its last hours on Kickstarter, Akaneiro has been in development since 2011 and while the core features appear to be present, there are still things like crafting and co-op multiplayer awaiting hopeful completion.
As a game, Akaneiro doesn't try terribly hard to deviate from the familiar recipe. In fact, it doesn't appear to be trying at all. To move, you hit the left-mouse button. To use your favorite skill, you click the right. In between these movements, you partake in the game's cornucopia of randomly-generated loot, investigate skill trees, sell pilfered goods, expend currency, obliterate enemies, call upon minions to assist your endeavors and level up. You'll work religiously on building a set of gear that is both functional and fashionable. If you've played any other title within the genre before this, you've played Akaneiro. It's a story as old as Diablo.
And that's not necessarily a bad thing. ARPGs are like your favorite comfort food. The texture and taste are both elements that have been ingrained into your memory. Akaneiro is kind of like that: a familiar flavor that sits easily with the psyche even if it doesn't evoke the desire to coo excessively over it to your friends. Adequate. That's probably the best adjective for Akaneiro currently. If Spicy Horse slathers on a few more coats of polish—and works on the writing a little more—Akaneiro might well be elevated to the realms of awesome. For now, it remains a gawky experience where, if denizens of the open beta can be trusted, kiting monsters in circles for twenty four minutes is an entirely viable strategy for success.
With a hours to spare before its funding campaign ends and thousands of dollars to go, does Akaneiro: Demon Hunters deserve your hard-earned cash? Maybe. Spicy Horse has come up with a surprisingly unobnoxious free-to-play model for the game and seems intent on delivering the title on every platform known to man. If the idea of having an Eastern-themed, reasonable competent ARPG available anywhere, anytime is an appealing one, go ahead and put a few dollars into the Red Girl's trust fund.