GG – Akaneiro: Demon Hunters

Introducing the challenge.

Akaneiro: Demon Hunters
Publisher/Creator: Spicy Horse
Format: Action RPG
Released: 2013
Available on: Not really available any more, in the sense that it no longer seems to work due to the old servers going down.

Platform Played: PC (via Steam)

What is it?

An action RPG based on Little Red Riding Hood, set in a fantastical version of feudal Japan. And, of course, Red Riding Hood gets to kick a lot of ass. Unfortunately, and perhaps unsurprisingly given Spicy Horse’s unstable history as a developer, the company’s closure has left fans stranded with an unplayable game. While this might not be a great loss as a free game, it was both a Kickstarter project and a free-to-play title with microtransactions, so those who have invested monetarily in the game may find that frustrating. A lone developer from the company has been attempting to provide support and workarounds via the Steam community page, but without official patches going out, and only some unreliable workrounds, I consider this title to be defunct. Good for that one developer, though – gotta admire their dedication.

akaneiro demon hunters

How much have I played so far?

I don’t know for sure how long I put into this years ago when I played it, but it was probably around 4 hours.

What did I think?

I have a weakness for ambitious but flawed games, especially ones with cool themes or design. Akaneiro: Demon Hunters was an interesting attempt to realise a very specific design brief: namely, Red Riding Hood, but as a Samurai, only it’s a fantastical version of Feudal Japan, and she’s fighting loads of wolf monsters. Oh, and you can play as Blue Riding Hood or Green Riding Hood instead.

I’m going to largely ignore the casual inclusion of East Asian culture as flavour for a fantasy world here, because honestly I don’t have the game itself to examine any more, and Spicy Horse was a Shanghai-based game company (I’m aware that this is specifically Japanese-themed rather than Chinese) even though it was started by American McGee sooo…yeah, that’s a big knot that I’m not going to try and untangle. While there is a comparable but quite different story to Red Riding Hood in East Asian folklore (‘The Tiger Grandmother’) it is a weird mishmash to see a white-haired Western-looking Red Riding Hood as a Samurai monster hunter.

That art, though. This is true of the tragically parallel Woolfe: The Red Hood Diaries, too. I have a real weakness for beautiful art of Red Riding Hood as a monster hunter, and Akaneiro had some wonderful stuff. The gorgeous watercolour look of the levels and the design of characters and visual feedback is wonderful – comparable with some sections of Alice: Madness Returns. The game itself was sadly a little less interesting: it had a modular quest structure with repeatable self-contained areas tethered to a central town, and you could raise your level and customise your gear to take on tougher challenges. That’s all fine: I’m entirely happy with a slightly pedestrian but pretty game where I can bash my way through some quests for an afternoon. However, the big issue I remember with it (which was also highlighted by reviewers and commentators) was the grind.

See, it was a free to play game, back when free-to-play was a model that was still finding its feet rather than the all-pervasive paradigm it is today. And that brought with it a lot of grind. I would much rather have paid a middling amount up front than have to either grind or do microtransactions to progress, and ultimately it put me off pretty badly. Reportedly, even if you did put money into the game, the grind still got in the way of the fun. I’ve since become more used to games like Warframe and The Secret World that do free-to-play well, but Akaneiro did not. It didn’t have the social element that makes a lot of MMORPGs and casual games worth doing as free-to-play, and fundamentally, the missions you could grind were not that fun – they were repetitive with a few stock enemies, certainly early on. There are some beautiful touches (the little floating companion friends are just so pretty), some amazing monster design, and a decent amount of customisation through gear and powers, but back when I played it, despite my enthusiasm, I got to see barely any of the more interesting content because I got bored long before I reached it. In a marketplace with games like The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing, it’s hard to justify the effort you had to put into Akaneiro to make it fun. Even with my love of janky, pretty games.

If Akaneiro: Demon Hunters is ever resurrected, I would be interested to give it another go. It had an enjoyable set up, but like Woolfe: The Red Hood Diaries (which was a different attempt to do for Red Riding Hood what American McGee’s Alice did for Alice in Wonderland), it sounds like there was a mismatch of expectation and delivery.

So it seems I will have to get my action Red Riding Hood gameplay somewhere else. Since I can’t play the game any more, I have had to give my retrospective based on what I can remember and YouTube Let’s Plays. Why bother, you might ask – well, I think it was an interesting idea and that it had some noteworthy merits and flaws. Given its demise, I would be sad to see it go unremarked. Plus it’s a badass Red Riding Hood – like I could resist.

Will I play more?
No, because I can’t. If it was still available, I almost certainly would, though I am equally sure that I would rapidly give up in frustration again.

Who would I recommend it to?

I cannot recommend this game due to it no longer being playable, but if you like action RPGs along the lines of The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing, it might be worth keeping an eye out for whether it becomes available again, or watching some footage to get an idea of what it was like.

Up next on GG: I hear Bright Falls is lovely this time of year…come and find out in Alan Wake. What could possibly go wrong?

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