LifeisXbox’s Ashina: The Red Witch review | I really enjoy explorations of different cultures’ mythos and supernatural figures. This is mainly because we have a rather weak glossary of Belgian figures. A well-known figure would be “Piet” who aids the patron saint of children Sinterklaas during his yearly visit. And after some research, we nearly share the “Nekker” with their depictions in the popular Witcher series. Although over here they’re water devils in the Limburg area. Another fun figure would be the “Lange Wapper”. This man would follow drunks on their way home, appearing normal at first, yet growing slowly but steadily until he towers out over the rooftops. He would then sometimes look in through the windows to check on whether the drunk made it home safely. But today we’re getting submerged into the Belgian supernatural. Instead, Stranga Games and GrabTheGames have a very personal and Ghibli-like story for us in with Ashina: The Red Witch.
ℹ️ Reviewed on PC | Review code provided by PR/publisher, this review is the personal opinion of the writer.
What we Liked!
- Gameplay | Ashina: The Red Witch is an exploration-based, story-driven adventure game you mainly play as Ash, sister to Tena, who after chasing an unlikely nightly visitor finds herself as a guest to the Spirit world. And when I say Spirit world, understand the afterlife. It’s a place for the dead and the supernatural, not a place for the living to hang out at all. But before she can remove herself from the land of the dead, she’ll go on an adventure she won’t soon forget. So how does that translate to gameplay you ask? In every chapter, you’ll find yourself in small or medium towns or other locations you can freely explore for objectives, items and characters to move the story forward. Checking out everything and anyone is both key and rewarded. The main story will send you past most locations, but going off the beaten path is always rewarded, as I’ve found well-written characters and interesting locations hidden away here and there when I went looking.
- Graphics | The team over at Stranga Games have chosen a simple pixel-art style. You’ll find that the characters are all very simplistic in their design yet aren’t hard to tell apart at all. The details aren’t used on them, however, ooze out into the Spirit world. Details and personal touches are visible everywhere and they make almost every space feel unique and (un)lived in. Get it? Because spirits are dead… Clever use of lighting both baked into sprites and applied on top of the overworld add an extra touch of ambience.
- Audio | I’m really happy to report that Ashina: The Red Witch has some catchy tunes to bring some “spirit” to the world Ash finds herself in. It does exactly what it has to and sets the mood perfectly. From the funky beats of the Chikara inner city to the more rustic tones of Kozan. There are also ample times when the music cuts out entirely when the focus is best laid on something else. Like the movements of a living house, or the boiling pot and chef going to town on a fish. Besides these kinds of elements, you’ve got a tried and true sound design. Simple footsteps and other boops which move the text along. Those do the trick, but we’re not looking to reinvent the wheel here.
- Writing and story | One of the things I feel Ashina: The Red Witch hit the nail on the head with was the writing and story. That’s obviously for the better, being a story-driven game, yet for its “weight-class” it does a phenomenal job of roping you in from the get-go. Starting off in the prologue Ash and her sister Tena have a good dynamic that gets thoroughly developed throughout the story. A story which makes you feel like you’re playing an altered version of Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away. Except here the protagonist is in her twenties and the darker side becomes apparent way more quickly. Furthermore, you also get to meet a variety of characters from Japanese folklore like yokai and kappa. One of my favourite moments involved surprisingly wholesome life advice from a demon while on a cigarette break. The dialogue is lively and that makes the characters really come to life. Even though most of them are dead.
- Clues | I want to make a quick note of this because it irked me a bit, but not enough by a long shot to see this as a fully negative element. There were a handful of instances where I had to procure a certain item, talk to someone or interact with something to progress the story that required some sketchy positioning or weird logic to naturally come by. While I won’t just give away the answers, if you’re under the age of 22, go ask your parents if they still have an AV cable for an old television. Talk to people in that order. Oh, and there’s something in the water you can grab in the first sewer room. That last one really had me running all over the place.
What we Disliked
There were no elements I strongly disliked with Ashina: The Red Witch.
How long to beat the story | 6 hours.
How long to unlock all achievements | 10 hours.
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Hey there. Thomas is the name, Sci-fi, action and (J)RPG’s are the game. I strongly prefer co-op over PVP games. Whenever possible, you may find me run wild at a convention in western Europe. Certified anime enjoyer.