Disclaimer: A code was provided by the publisher, but it, in no way, affects my review which reflects only my own thoughts.
Ashina: The Red Witch is a pixelated adventure game with a heavy focus on solving puzzles and storytelling, with a hint of mystery attached. The game was released on 4th June 2022 for steam with the developer being Stranga Games and published by GrabTheGames.
Ashina is a story about Ash and her unexpected journey through the mysterious world of spirits, where she befriends new spirits, learns more about her mother and fights off an evil yokai. This all sounds very grand, but the game starts off a bit modestly with Ash and her sister Tena arriving at Ash’s home, where the game gives off hints about the dynamic between the two sisters as they interact. Later, when Ash has gone off to sleep, she hears some noises in her home and discovers someone cooking food using her supplies. This person, named Tanto, tries to downplay it and eventually, as Ash gets angry, takes off with Ash’s pendant that was given to her by her mom. Ash, worrying about her pendant, takes off after Tanto in pursuit and this kicks off her journey into the mystifying world of the Yokai aka spirits.
The game places emphasis on world interaction as a method of progression, like you’ll be tasked to fetch some items to fix a device, these items will be scattered throughout the map and cannot be acquired without fully exploring the world or doing side quests. So, help others in the world and they might give you the item you need or they will hint at its location. This way the game makes you go around, interacting with people, buildings and objects which serves to familiarize you with the characters and your surroundings. You have to be inquisitive and listen to conversations carefully as the game isn’t very obvious about what your next step should be.
The story of Ash which starts out rather simply becomes a bit too complex at the end, which was a bit hard to understand and digest, I would even call it unfair to an extent. The build up was so good, but it kind of fizzled out in a way, which didn’t sit well with me, personally, although I should have expected the turn of events, later on, in the story as the developer is known for portraying sorrowful events in their games.
One of the best parts about the game is the interaction that you have with the quirky characters of the spirit world, the banter between Tanto and Ash, due to Tanto’s easy going nature (despite his tragic past), Gus and his walking home, the Hokis etc made my journey through this game so much better. The characters don’t feel like mind-less drones, the dialogue is sometimes funny, sometimes melancholy and makes the whole thing feel more immersive.
Ashina’s world is vibrant, full of colour and activity. You will encounter spirits working, eating at a ramen restaurant, fishing etc. and there are proper houses as well as shops in the spirit world, plus you travel to different towns which makes for a nice scenic change. There is a cozy vibe to the whole game, with a cute art-style which is in contrast to how the game’s story shapes up and I think you can’t help but derive some solace from the visuals. Coming to the music, Ashina was a treat made more enjoyable due to how lovely the music was and how well it synced with the events happening in your game, becoming sorrowful during a sad moment and changing to upbeat during happy moments.
- Colourful and lovely cast of characters
- Cute visuals
- Mellifluous music
- Some parts of the story don’t add up, and feel forced
Ashina The Red Witch is an enjoyable voyage through the mystifying world of spirits, supported by a vivid cast of characters, lovely scenery and harmonious music. There are some some questionable developments in the story at the end which diminishes the experience a little bit, but the whole build is enjoyable and something to look forward to.