Last Updated on August 28, 2023
Ashina: The Red Witch tells an enchanting tale about a girl named Ashina who wanders into the Spirit World to retrieve her mother’s Pendant. It’s a simple story made much more complicated when she finds her sister, Tena, there as well. Going by the screenshots, I expected Ashina: The Red Witch to play like Core Keeper or have an emphasis on combat. What I didn’t expect was a delightfully well-written linear experience with superb world-building that had me hungry for more.
In Ashina: the Red Witch, you play as Ashina, a young lady with nothing but an empty inventory to her name. There’s no combat or health bar to worry about, and gameplay is heavily dialog-driven.
The story is told in chapters, each with a unique setting and mysteries to unravel. The 2D art style is used to great effect. From creepy abandoned mansions to twilight cityscapes, this is a gorgeous game and has a superb soundtrack to boot.
We do things differently in the Spirit World
Going into this title blind, I expected a few puzzles and was a little disappointed to find there weren’t many. Most scenarios play out like elaborate fetch quests. This structure works well, as exploration is rewarded, but I rarely got that buzz of figuring something out.
One of my first tasks in the game was to find a bottle of wine. I looked everywhere you’d expect to find alcohol; kitchens, cellars, shops. Eventually, I discovered the drink in a random bathroom cabinet. Perhaps I was foolish to think real-world rules would apply, but I was stuck here for quite a while.
After this, I adopted a much more formulaic approach to each chapter as once I’d found that crucial ‘key item,’ the rest usually fell into place. If I had one gripe with the game, it was this. It felt like most objectives could be completed with brute force.
The gameplay is a vessel for the story to be told and sometimes feels like it takes a backseat. As negative as this may sound, I thoroughly enjoyed watching the story unfold during my playthrough. There are a ton of varied, creative environments to explore, and in most places, the 2D pixel art is absolutely stunning. Visuals aside, there are a ton of memorable characters, and although I’m normally guilty of skipping through text boxes, I happily read everything Ashina: The Red Witch threw at me.
One thing I never expected was how authentically emotions like jealousy were portrayed. I’ll admit the odd conversation hit me right in the ‘feels,’ and these completely took me off guard. Ashina: The Red Witch isn’t afraid to throw serious topics at the player. At the same time, there’s plenty of light-hearted humor, so there’s a good balance.
A short but sweet adventure
I took my time with Ashina: The Red Witch and saw the story to its conclusion in roughly 4 hours. There’s also a great incentive to play through the game multiple times, as there are several endings to uncover.
As performance can be dodgy on Nintendo Switch ports, I’m pleased to report my experience was solid. I ran into a few poorly placed invisible walls and one instance where the sound was crackly out of nowhere. Besides these minor issues, I had nothing to complain about.
Ashina: The Red Witch is a stunning game with a surprisinly captivating story. I was surprised by how respectfully personal issues like anxiety and jealousy were handled, and the characters are written remarkably well. That said, the gameplay is rather basic, so this game certainly won’t appeal to everyone. Still, if you go in expecting a story-driven experience with minimal challenge, there’s a lot to love in Ashina: The Red Witch.
Ashina: The Red Witch was released on August 25, 2023 for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, and Nintendo Switch.
Anthony is a freelance writer and has worked in the industry for three years. He’s furiously competitive and is always looking for the next big multiplayer hit. Anthony is a passionate PS1 collector and firmly believes in playing games in his collection rather than letting them collect dust on a shelf. He is also passionate about speedrunning and always looks forward to the next GDQ and ESA events.