Akaneiro: Demon Hunters is American McGee's twist on the legend of Red Riding Hood, and it is twisted indeed. This version of the old tale is set in a fictionalized feudal Japan, and our heroine, far from being a helpless waif in the woods, is a member of the Order of the Akane, an ancient and elite sect of demon hunters. The game begins in a land overrun by Yokai - monsters of Japanese folklore - whose malevolent influence has corrupted creatures including the once-peaceful wolves and turned them against the people.
You can play as either a male or female demon hunter - female is the default, naturally- and specialize in either Prowess, Fortitude or Cunning, which loosely correspond to a focus on offensive, defensive and ranged combat. Each class begins with unique bonuses but can access all the equipment and skills the game has to offer, and although the skill tree is relatively tiny, that openness and simplicity allows for a considerable degree of flexibility without forcing players to sweat too much over the minutiae of character builds.
Gameplay is very typical Action-RPG. A small village occupied by the usual sorts of vendors serves as your base of operations and when you're ready to hunt, the Deckard Cain-like Bounty Master will set you on your way to one of eight unique locales, each divided into three areas of variable "threat levels" that change depending on whether, or when, you last cleared them out. It's a system that makes the inevitable grind of farming a little more palatable, because you're not stuck at a particular difficulty level; you can earn substantial rewards by muscling through early levels at maximum difficulty while continuing to advance through new levels at a much lower challenge.
Combat is the usual business of "click to clobber," but unlike most Action-RPGs there are no potions to quaff when things get ugly, so repeatedly restoring your health as you stand your ground against an enemy onslaught isn't an option. Instead, health restoration comes from "karma shards" collected from containers and fallen enemies, as well as through certain skills and specialties. It can be frustrating at first, especially for the lightweight Cunning class, but things smooth out considerably after you've got a few levels under your belt. Enemies tend not to be particularly bright and although that's nothing new for the genre, they can be spectacularly clueless in Akaneiro; you'll sometimes find yourself pounding on a bad guy while his pal is just a couple steps away, apparently oblivious to your violent intrusion.
Akaneiro's setting and art style are inspired by feudal Japan, offering a muted rendering of Japanese mythology described accurately by one player as a "playable painting." It's stylized, bold and very pretty, and while it's hardly cutting-edge, the detail and effects are nonetheless impressive and a nice change from the conventional fantasy realms so often seen in role-playing games. Sound effects are a bit on the sparse side, but the soundtrack of traditional Japanese music complements the visuals very nicely.