Mini Akaneiro Preview and Interview with American McGee

I love games. All kinds of games. It used to be that I could pick up any game at all and find something new and exciting, but over the years many of them seem to blend into each other. So it’s a real treat when I stumble across something that stands out. Akaneiro: Demon Hunters, Spicy Horse’s upcoming Asian fairy tale ARPG, stands out so brightly it might as well be spotlighted.  With a crisp, hand drawn art style that is reminiscent of Okami, and an audio track that really brings out its Asian theme, it’s a beautifully crafted game that delights not only in its gameplay but in its presentation as well.

I was lucky enough to have a chance to corner American McGee, CEO of Spicy Horse Games, for more information about the game and a few questions about this lovely gem. Click the button below for the interview and a glimpse of the art that is delighting me so much.

I first discovered Akaneiro: Demon Hunters accidentally last week, and I’ll admit I spent the entire day and most of the next playing it nonstop. ARPG lovers will find the controls intuitive and easy to pick up; you load your powers, then run around and attack using a combination of mouseclick and hotkeys. It begins pretty easy, getting you used to your abilities and the enemy AI, but  it did become challenging enough to hold my attention and avoid becoming a mindless drone of click click click.

Enemies are a combination of Red Hiding Hood’s big bad wolves and Asian demons and generally come in seemingly endless hordes that are fun to wade right into and smash to bits. I’ve come to hate the little imps that stand outside of the combat and lob blue energy balls at me, but I’ll happily kill the demon wolves for hours.

Items come in all flavors of random. You can dress in various samurai armor, ninja gear, monk’s robes and others, and wield clubs, cutlasses, axes or swords, or go for the Asian theme with ninjatos, naginatas, nodachis or katanas. I particularly like the use of color – standard items appear white on your character, but the more rare versions are colored and some even glow. There’s very little as cool as charging into battle wielding two flaming katanas! Gear drops randomly from enemies, but for the unlucky, local vendors have a selection to sell as well.


One last note before I cut to the interview – this game’s community is great. The devs and mods pop into the chat regularly, and they do converse. I happened to be playing when someone put in a $10,000 pledge on the Akaneiro Kickstarter, and the excitement was shared with everyone present. Community is an important aspect of a game so far as I’m concerned, and although actual multi-player support depends on the kickstarter’s success, the community is vibrant and fully present.

But let’s get to the interview!

LH: First I’d like to thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions! Let’s start with you- who are you and what do you do?

AM: My name is American McGee and I’m CEO and one of the founders at Spicy Horse Games in Shanghai. My job is whatever needs doing, sorta like a super-jack-of-all-trades, but mainly focused on things like managing the studio, ensuring our people are happy and providing high level guidance on the various developments we have ongoing.

LH: Tell us about Akaneiro. It’s described as a merge of Red Riding Hood and eastern folklore; what does that mean? What’s the inspiration behind it?

AM: The original idea for Akaneiro came from my reading of a book called “The Lost Wolves of Japan,” which details the destruction of wolves in Northern Japan around 100 years ago. This extermination came at the hands of Western cattlemen who had introduced beef consumption and cattle farming to a people who were vegetarian – and who lived in relative balance with nature. This history seemed to invite further exploration and expansion – with my idea being to illuminate the man vs. nature aspects present in the reality and fairy tales we create.

My initial work on the concept was later expanded upon by the project’s Creative Director, Ben Kerslake and his design partner, Matt Razzano. They’ve also received writing support from my long-time creative partner R.J. Berg, who has been involved with both of the “Alice” projects (and is a co-founder of Spicy Horse). Our developments are always highly collaborative like this.

LH: What elements of the game are you the most excited about?

AM: I’m in love with the way in which art and music come together with game play to create a really unique sense of immersion. Being a fan of a wide range of early PC RPG’s, it’s exciting to me when a new world filled with mystery and danger is opened for my click and slash pleasure. The game combines best-of-class design elements with a unique style and setting to produce something really satisfying.

LH: There are character levels, but it looks like a skill-based system. How does the class system in Akaneiro work?

AM: Classes are really just starting points. We’ve designed the class system so that you’re free to start where you like and explore as you like – moving freely between skill trees, items and weapons to create a character who reflects your own personal play style and visual preference. In that sense, it’s not a “true” class system.

LH: Could a character purchase all the skills in the game, or is there a skill cap?

AM: While there’s nothing to directly prohibit this sort of thing, it would be cost a lot in terms of time and effort. If someone wants to go this route, they can, but we imagine most players will work on a particular branch of skills which are tuned towards their personal play style.

LH: “Endgame” is a looming specter for any game. What happens when a character is reaching the end of its progression path?

AM: We’ve kept things open so that players have plenty of range in which to explore. There are so many possible combinations available, we’re hoping players won’t find the options exhausted too quickly. And we’ve planned an ongoing series of content updates, which will add new classes, skills, weapons and items to the experience. One of the advantages we’ve established with our development techniques is the ability to quickly release content updates and continually expand on the story, setting and play options.

LH:  It’s going to be free to play, which means a cash shop. What kinds of items will be offered in the store?

AM: We don’t have a traditional Cash Shop as you might know it from other free-to-play games. There’s no need to leave the game to buy items; everything you ever need is provided by the loot system. But you can buy from vendors if you choose to using our  in-game currency known as “Karma.” Karma is unique as it links to basically everything – healing, reviving, buying items in shops, unlocking maps – it’s the only currency. You can purchase it or grind for it, meaning everything in-game is accessible to both paying and non-paying players. The in-game vendors contain everything from clothing and weapons to Spirit Pet Helpers and AI-controlled Allies who fight by your side.

LH: I usually turn off the sound when I play games, but Akaneiro’s music is absolutely stunning. Will the soundtrack be available?

AM: The soundtrack is available right now via iTunes and Amazon (among other digital outlets). You can check it out on Amazon, via this link:

LH: Is there anything you’d like to make sure people know about Akaneiro?

AM: A lot of people feel immediate resistance when they read a game is free-to-play, and we totally understand why. There are many terrible versions of the model out there, which exploit players and give the whole concept a bad name. We just want to be clear that our goal is to present a very transparent and fair system. In fact, you can read an overview, written by one of our players, which outlines very clearly how the system works. I think if you take a look at that, you’ll understand our intent:

Want to check out more of this game? It’s in open beta, simply visit the website and sign up! If you like it, show some support on the kickstarter (one of the addons is an absolutely  beautiful poster that is worth the purchase price in and of itself). If you love the game’s sound as much as I do – it’s done by Kian How, some of which can be heard here, or purchased via the links American McGee provided.


About Pherephassa 213 Articles
Pherephassa has been creeping around the etherspace long enough to have remorted so often that not even she can recall her original form. She loves sandboxes, challenges, chain mail bikinis and dungeons so large they take weeks, months or even years to fully explore. Currently seeking an MMO home, she can often be found on the side of the road, begging game designers for death penalties and slow leveling curves.