Game designer American McGee and his Shanghai-based Spicy Horse are known for their vivid fantasies and brilliant art design. The studio's upcoming title Akaneiro: Demon Hunters looks to be no exception.
Spice Horse has already done its twisted take on Alice in Wonderland. With Akaneiro, the studio is putting its spin on Red Riding Hood—in Japan.
Akaneiro is an action role-playing game that takes players to a hand-painted world inspired by ancient demons and late Edo era Japan. Players join the The Order of Akane, an elite group of demon hunters, and attempt to rid a village of yokai. The blood of slaughtered yokai turned into crystalline shards called "Karma Shards", which are what the Order of Akane harvest. There is apparently a variety of weapons that can be upgraded as well.
In English, the akane plant is called "madder", which sounds like "mad". "Color" in Japanese is "iro". Thus, "Akaneiro" refers to "the color of akane"—or for the developers, "the color of anger".
The game is set in a fictional abandoned Ainu village in Hokkaido. The Ainu are Hokkaido's indigenous people, and it seemed to be an interesting choice for a game setting. The yokai tradition in Hokkaido is slightly different from that of Honshu (Japan's main island).
As Spicy Horse's Creative Director Ben Kerslake explained, the yokai are not of the Ainu tradition, but are of the Honshu tradition. One of the big themes is how the new supplants the old. For Kerslake, using non-Ainu yokai underscores that. The game, however, does use Ainu totemic symbolism and motifs.
Setting the game against the Commodore Perry's opening of Japan during the mid-19th century was another interesting choice. The big push to settle Hokkaido would follow the decades after Perry's arrival.
This is what Spicy Horse does. The studio takes fairy tales and reworks and remixes them. From what the studio has told Kotaku, Akaneiro sounds like this is a respectful take on Japanese history and culture—not to mention, a retelling of Red Riding Hood. One of the key inspirations, however, wasn't just that children's fairy tale.
The book The Lost Wolves of Japan was a big inspiration. It deals with the influx of foreign cattle and ranchers into Hokkaido and how that impacted the Ainu and the wolves. These are themes that the game explores.
As with other Spicy Horse titles, Akaneiro sounds like it is taking a well-known fairy tale, taking it apart, and then putting it back together to create something new and totally different.
Headed to PC, the web, and tablets, the game is free-to-play—but Spicy Horse promises it won't be "naggy" or "spammy". Beta kicks off later this year. Check out more in the link below.
Akaneiro [Official Site]