Red Ronin is a tactical turn-based dash ‘n slash game where you play as Red, a samurai turned ronin after her former team leaves her for dead during a botched mission. Red Ronin is set in a dystopian cyberpunk future, a setting which is becoming more and more commonplace in the current gaming climate. This leads to the game having very colorful graphics that, while nothing mind blowing, do look good. Personally, I’m a big fan of samurais in dystopian cyberpunk settings; no matter how impractical it is for someone to use a katana as a weapon of choice when guns exist. But I digress.
Upon starting up Red Ronin, I was immediately reminded of Katana ZERO, with its similar settings and story format. However, that feeling quickly passed as I started playing the earlier levels.
Movement is restricted to dashes in a straight line across the screen. You don’t actively attack your enemies, but anyone who is in your path is immediately struck down upon dashing through them. However, you are just as susceptible to attacks from enemies and if you land next to, or one space away from, an enemy, then you are cut down too. Upon dying, the level is reset and you get to try again.
Each level has a path you are meant to take, in order to complete it as quickly and efficiently as possible, typically with power-ups, such as a time stop ability that freezes enemies for one turn, or a ground pad arrow that will cause Red to move again if she crosses over it. These abilities open up the possibilities for multiple solutions in many of the levels. And oftentimes you don’t even need to use them all to clear the level.
As an added bonus, if you manage to clear a level with leftover power-ups, they carry on to the next one. I really like this mechanic because it encourages creativity in the solutions. For instance, if I managed to complete a level in a unique way, then I’d have extra power-ups to use the next time I got stuck. This adds an air of freedom to the game that you don’t often get with these kinds of puzzle games.
The levels are built around Red Ronin’s story. You learn as you play that during a previous mission, Red was captured after a mission went wrong. She was stuck in prison until she eventually escaped and then, with her robot companion ISAAC, and now works to get revenge on her former teammates.
I wanted to be more invested in Red Ronin’s story, but it follows a lot of familiar tropes and it suffers from a less than stellar English translation. As a result, much of the dialogue comes across as awkward and clunky. It sometimes even caused me to laugh during what should’ve been a serious moment.
This is easier to ignore in the earlier parts of the game, when the gameplay more than makes up for it. However, the second half of Red Ronin, as new mechanics get introduced, all becomes a bit more tedious than anything.
Up until the midway point of Red Ronin, everything is turn-based per the game description. But real-time mechanics get introduced that turn the game from a fast-paced dash n’ slash, to a slow and tedious trudge. Some of the worst offenders of this are the sniper levels that you find in a later chapter of the game. In these levels, a red line moves across the screen and will insta-kill you if it touches you when you aren’t behind the proper cover. For these levels, you spend much of the time waiting for the line to complete its pan across the screen so you can make your move.
There are other levels that have a hidden timer, where after a set amount of time a laser makes its way across the screen. Unlike the sniper line, this laser can’t be blocked by anything and it will insta-kill you if you haven’t made it to the end of the level. These levels are simpler as a result, which makes them easier but also less satisfying to beat.
Boss fights take a similar path, where they start off engaging but become more of a trudge. The second and third bosses are the best juxtaposition for this. The second boss fight has rockets that launch in real time. The squares throughout the level get covered in Xs that you must avoid while trying to defeat the enemy. These aren’t hard to avoid and it forces you to keep moving. As long as you do, you shouldn’t have too much trouble.
The third boss on the other hand will track you with a sniper constantly, leaving you to dodge until he runs out of ammo. At the same time, enemies will spawn and you have to defeat them while avoiding the sniper, which sometimes hits you even in mid dodge.
I’m also not a fan of the final boss, but that is more to do with their inconsistent behaviour when put in line with the in-game explanation of how they are supposed to act. In all fairness I probably struggled a bit more than I should’ve. When the credits rolled though, my initial playthrough clocked in just shy of four hours and if I had to guess, I’d say it’s a safe bet that you can expect to put 3-5 hours into the game.
Overall, I leave Red Ronin with mixed feelings. For a good chunk of the time, Red Ronin is a fun game that provides a good challenge. I just wish that the mechanics introduced in the second half of the game could’ve either been implemented better, or left out altogether. The plot is also highly interwoven with the gameplay and it’s not helped that the English translation could have been handled better.
Red Ronin is available for download from the Xbox Store
- Good puzzles
- Multiple solutions to most levels
- Cool setting and colorful pixel graphics
- Bad English translation
- Poorly implemented mechanics in the second half
- Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - QUByte Interactive
- Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One
- Version reviewed - Xbox One on Xbox Series X
- Release date - 14 Oct 2021
- Launch price from - £6.69