Akane the Kunoichi and why cover art is important

During a recent binge on the XBox Live Indie section, I downloaded a long list of games that looked interesting. XBox is not exactly a treasure trove of independent developers and many games look like they were ripped straight from Newground.com circa 1999. One of these games, surprised me, Akane the Kunoichi. I say surprised because I had seen this game many times before and skipped over it. But I’ll get back to that…

Akane the Kunoichi by Haruneko games is a side-scrolling platformer where you play Akane, a badass ninja who flings knives through the air at her opponents. The intro has no words but manages to express the premise of game in simple emoticons; bridging the language barrier with ease.

Evil dudes took my love interest. Kill they ass.


I was surprised at how excited I was to be the girl fighting to save my boyfriend. I was positively giddy at the prospect. And I soon found the game mechanics to be well designed, fluid, and enjoyable. Akane has several special attacks that shoot area of effect knives at enemies, she can also cling to walls and wall jump.  The difficulty ramps up quickly in the second zone, but not to a degree where I feel I’m being cheated. Whenever I die, it’s clearly my fault.

Akana the Kunoichi is a solid platformer reminiscent of older games we loved as kids.  So why did I avoid it for so long?01

The cover art. 

The old saying, “You can’t judge a book by it’s cover” is true enough, however when it comes to marketing it doesn’t hold up.  It’s not a rule I live by, but I do tend to avoid games that use the “huge-tits-girl-in-sexy-pose” (HT/SP) in their cover art. It sends the signal (although sometimes not intentionally) that this game is for a different audience. Namely, horny teenage boys. Nothing wrong with horny teenage boys, but I’m not one.

It also sends out the message that this game is going to be heavy on sexually objectifying the character in question. Costume changes, panty shots, risque posing constantly etc. That’s something I’m not really interested it and it’s also why the cover art for Akane is so misleading. Akane is a straight up hero. When she dies, she doesn’t fall to the ground- twisting herself into the sexiest pose possible before collapsing. She falls straight on her face with a “OOF!” just like a normal person. It’s kind of sad that something so simple is so gratifying, but there you have it. Akane is rad.

This is why cover art is so important in getting your message across. Sexy women ingaming are ubiquitous, especially manga-styled games and I realize it’s so normal the problem probably never crossed their minds. But as a girl gamer, her complete lack of armor around all vital organs is pretty dumb. Get this woman a sports bra, seriously.

Despite this, my first impressions of the game were 100% wrong and Akane the Kunoichi is a very fun game. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves platformers, especially girls who want to save the dude for once.

Conclusion: 4 out of 5 sports bras.

                             lg_boxart lg_boxart (1) lg_boxart (2) xboxboxart21


5 thoughts on “Akane the Kunoichi and why cover art is important

  1. Looks like some fun ninja platforming. I’m adding this to my list of platformers to play. I would recommend some more…but I’m completely blanking on 2D platformers (indie or commercial) with a positive female protagonist.

    If you have Xbox Live you should definitely get Saints Row: The Third (a ridiculous third person shooter) while it’s still free. Not only can you play as a badass female protagonist with Laura Bailey’s voice, you can play as any size, shape, color person or alien you want. I once created something that resembled a Dragonball character more than a human.

  2. Hi, I’m Giovanni Simotti – the one-man-band behind Haruneko 🙂
    Thank you very much for the article – your point of view about the game is very interesting, and I especially enjoyed when you talked about Akane as if she was a “live” person, even if there are no dialogues inside the game: her “behaviour” is something I put a lot of care on, and knowing that it “hit the mark” is really an achievement for me.
    About the look of Akane on the cover: her non-so-practical look is a small tribute to two of the most famous kunoichi from the history of the videogames – a mix of Mai Shiranui (Fatal Fury / King of Fighters), with a bit of Ibuki (Street Fighter 3/4).
    Really there was no attempt to suggest the game would feature sexual or suggestive content inside. Screenshots are pretty clear about it.

    However, you’re not the only one who objected about her look on the cover (someone even got offended somehow), so it’s something I’m definetely addressing with my upcoming platform game, Amazing Princess Sarah: I’ve thrown out of the window the cover I made (a few days of work “lost”), contacted a (much better than me) external artist, and let him draw a new cover, “safer” than Akane’s one (and a lot safer than Sarah’s older one, – which can still be seen on my website).


    PS: Sarah too will be a strong woman hero – same “blood” as Akane’s, hope you’ll enjoy her!

    • That’s wonderful!
      Yes, I think when you’re able to connect to a character it’s easier to fill in the gaps with whatever personality you’re projecting. Her story, and actions within it, project a strong character. They very fact that I got to be my own gender while saving a guy made me go,

      “Wait… they took my dude? Oh HELL no. I’ma get my dude back! OUTTA MY WAY!”

      If someone was offended by this, I would say they probably didn’t play the game, just saw the cover… and probably should avoid XBox Live in general. But again, that’s a another reason cover art is so important. Everyone has a right to their feelings, and if someone was offended- okay. But really one must look at how much intention there was to offend in the first place. This is a very great game, with a cool gender flip that just happened to use some questionable cover art. And in the veritable ocean of sexually objectifying games, this isn’t really the game to call out as “sexist”.

      I’m so happy you’re continuing in the same vein and that you’re taking criticism very well. That’s a great sign for future releases! And hey, if you’re looking for fan art for future games I would be happy to contribute. -M

  3. I guess Haruneko just didn’t live up to his promise and make the Sarah cover even more horrible. I will NOT be buying these games as I will not reward this blatant misogyny just to grab a buck. If your game doesn’t feature this stuff, you shouldn’t put it on the cover as you are stating that women are just props, just tools used to sell a game. I won’t be rewarding terrible misogynart.

    • I think the term misogyny gets thrown around a bit too much on the internet. Misogyny involves a deep hatred of women, whether conscious or unconscious. It looks more like this developer had good intentions, but messed up because of how normal sexual objectification is in gaming and really everywhere. He probably didn’t even consider it when making the cover art. Being a generally good person that’s been raised in a sexist culture is much different than being a misogynist.

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