Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Release Date: 12/31/1998
Available Exclusively On
The Good: Fantastic visuals, levels all look different, controls are decent, mostly solid gameplay
The Bad: If there are checkpoints why use lives? Combat difficulty is all over the place, runs on too long, having to collect ancestors to move on is annoying, some FPS dips, forgettable and lazy story
Crystal Dynamics was a juggernaut on the PS1. After Tomb Raider was released they firmly placed their name in every gamer’s household. Akuji was released closer to the end of the system’s life cycle, and while critically acclaimed, it didn’t sell well. It was a bizarre game about voodoo and was hard to market at the time.
You play as Akuji who needs to get his wife’s soul back and must travel through the different levels of hell to reclaim his ancestors’ souls and appease the keeper of the vestibules which act as hubs. In each hub, there are doors you can go through that lead to each level. If you don’t collect these floating heads you won’t be able to advance in the game and I absolutely hate this system. Even with all your skills, you used to beat bosses and enemies you need to collect things. I feel this is demeaning and frustrating. For the story, it’s forgettable and nothing special.
The game plays quite well with Akuji jumping around, slashing, and blasting spells. You will use your spells more than you think in this game and there is a variety of them and each is used for different situations. Outside of combat, there is some minor puzzle solving and switch throwing. Platforming in the game is mostly fine, but the camera is sluggish to move around with the shoulder buttons so Akuji will jump off an edge or fall to his death. Another irritating thing is the use of lives, I mean why? You can hit checkpoints, which are poorly spaced, so why not just restart there? Why punish the player even more as if surviving and checkpoints aren’t enough?
I felt this game dragged on a bit too long. There are over 15 levels and, while they all look different and look great, they’re unoriginal. They are mostly short, and each level plays out the same. Grab this doohickey, put it here, flip this switch, kill this enemy to lower this wall, etc.
While this was the norm back in the day, it just doesn’t hold up well. Maybe if some things changed a bit like the use of lives maybe it would be a more fun experience. Mixing a collectathon with a progressive platformer just doesn’t work well here.
The game looks fantastic as Crystal pushed the PS1 to its limits, probably too hard. When effects like water splashes or magic effects flash around the game slows down to a crawl which can get quite annoying, but it’s still playable.
Overall, Akuji is a great PS1 title that has solid controls and great gameplay, it just has so many frustrating factors around it that make it less enjoyable as you play. If you really need a PS1 platformer that’s different then go for it as this is a hidden gem.