Film licenses always raise a fair amount of cynicism - there have been so many disappointments in the past that it's hardly surprising. However, when news of this latest release reached the office our hopes were raised - this one at least sounded as if it would be something different. Those in the know will have realised from the title that this is based on the Japanese cult animation, Akira. It is a futuristic story set in Neo-Tokyo after World War 3.
But is it going to be a new kind of film license or follow in the footsteps of its unfortunate predecessors?
To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. Because of the reputation of the film for its top quality animation. I was expecting something quite special. This falls far short of even half way decent.
The game starts with a very impressive (if rather short) animation which works well, and then we're into the game. You immediately realise there is something very wrong because the main sprite is tiny and really could be absolutely anyone - even though you can play Kenada and Tetsuo, two central characters from the film.
Some of the nightmare scenes with the toys and rabbit creatures have been included, but the original horror has gone completely and it now seems quite laughable. The graphics have lost their distinctive Akira style and look very basic and dated. Some of the backdrops would look at home in any typical cliche platformer and the atmosphere from the film is lost.
To its credit though, before each section there is an excellent animation taken from the actual film. These build up the storyline as you go along and are a nice touch. It's just such a shame the in-game graphics don't match this as there was great potential in the license.
The intro is a rather dramatic tune and sets up the game well. Yet again, however, it's into the game and you really start to feel something is amiss. It's not that the music is bad but it really doesn't fit in with the gameplay - it's far too relaxing and does nothing to raise adrenaline.
You can play with either sound effects or music though, which I have to say is a blessing. The sound effects are quite acceptable though. The motorbike on the first level is reasonable and there are some good collision sounds. The rest of the effects are quite impressive with a variety of explosions, gun blasts and the like.
The game has had quite a big build up and because it bore the name Akira, I really was expecting a good title. All hopes were well and truly dashed I'm afraid. The graphics are poor and the gameplay doesn't work as well as it should.
Different aspects of the film have been incorporated to provide a varied playing style: The motorbikes give an obstacle course objective, the sewers test your piloting skills as you fly around shooting the enemies and avoiding the traps, and other parts were used for more of the usual platformer levels. This was a great concept but it just didn't come across
The levels are designed to provide maximum frustration rather than just longevity, and it wasn't long before I was tearing my hair out. To those who persevere I'm sure some enjoyment could eventually be gleaned, but quite frankly I wasn't that way inclined The in-game music made me feel drowsy, the poor graphics became tedious and I felt rather cheated by it all.
I wanted to like the game. It sounded new and original but unfortunately it wasn't. If you're a true Akira fan you'll enjoy the clips of film animation and the way the game incorporates the plot and the characters - but even then, you're still left with some very dated gameplay. This could have been a great license which should have been exploited to the full. A shame.
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