Sword of Asumi Review

Screenshot from Sword of Asumi
Why are 90% of manga/anime/visual novels always set at schools?

  • Reviewed by: Mark Goninon
  • Developer: Straywire
  • Publisher: Dharker Studio
  • Release Date: 9 Jan 2015
  • Time played: 1.5 hours

What is it

There isn't actually much history about the developer known as "Straywire" (as the developer is known on the Steam Store Page) although there's a bit more information about AJTilley.com which is what this developer also goes by.

According to MobyGames, Face2Palm and AJTilley.com were non-incorporated entities used by visual novel creator A.J. Tilley to crowdfund, develop and publish video games, "mostly erotic visual novels". Face2Palm was started in 2012 and shut down in August 2013 (although the associated Face2Palm Kickstarter account was used until 2015). AJTilley.com was started in December 2013. In February 2016, AJTilley.com closed down and Dharker Studios was incorporated in October 2016.

Anyway, despite all the confusion, AJ Tilley has developed several visual novels since 2015 until now. As MobyGames suggests, most of these aren't the sort of games you'd probably want your mother/sister/wife/girlfriend to know about with names like Beach Bounce, Negligee and Alexa's Wild Night. Sword of Asumi actually had Swords of Edo as a working title and multiple funding campaigns on Kickstarter were launched to fund its development between 2013 to 2014. The game was released in 2015 and has you playing the role of a girl called Asumi living in an alternate history version of Japan where samurai were never outlawed and where the country is ruled by the Council of Nobles and their leader, the Lord Regent. A special elite unit that reports to the Council called the Justicars (which sound a lot like the Spectres from Mass Effect) is looking for new recruits and Asumi (who also happens to be a trained assassin) is tasked to go undercover at an academy in order to root out a rebel and save the nation.

Sword of Asumi doesn't have a Metascore but it does have a Metacritic User Score of 6.4 as well as a "Mostly Positive" rating on Steam based off 141 user reviews.

How I got it

I received the game in 2016 and since I didn't purchase the game I'm guessing I received it from the always generous Mix-Master (thanks again mate)!

As I'm really struggling to get enough reviews done nowadays (games take so long to complete and I have so little time) I again checked HowLongToBeat.com to find games that only take an hour or two to complete: Sword of Asumi was apparently one of them which is one of the reasons I played it recently.

Another reason I wanted to try this game is that I've always wanted to create one of my own visual novels one day and Sword of Asumi is developed using the Ren'Py engine, one of the most popular engines when it comes to this sort of genre.

Screenshot from Sword of Asumi.
The game gives you many choices such as who survives and who doesn't. Each decision has an impact on the overall story.

What I like:

Lots of choices

Finally, a game that ties Steam Achievements to the multiple endings and paths you can take in the narrative! Unlike kinetic novels (a very linear type of visual novel where it's more like reading a book), Sword of Asumi gives you many choices which changes the narrative and even the game's ending. As an extra incentive, exploring all the different ways you can finish the game will reward you with different Steam Achievements. It's good to finally come across a game that has implemented what I reckon should be in every visual novel/adventure/RPG game on Steam by default.

Actually pays to read the lore in the Codex

Unlike many games out there (regardless of genre) you very rarely get tested on your knowledge of in-game lore; this isn't the case with Sword of Asumi as you'll actually get tested on the history and politics of Edo. Of course, it's quite easy to do so as all the information you need is in the "Codex" and the Codex is available from the main menu (which you can access at any time). However, it's good to know they're trying to reward those that are paying attention.

Decent character art and backgrounds

The character art and background art of a high quality which means the "visual" part of visual novel is definitely accounted for.

Decent music

Music for the game was composed by a group called Blue Wolfie Music who were also responsible for composing music for the 2016 visual novel Lucid9: Inciting Incident. Background music suits the game well and they went all out with the title song with a J-Pop number titled "Dreamers" featuring professional vocalist Mika Kobayashi.

Steam Achievements and Trading Cards

The game has 22 Steam Achievements you can work towards and 5 Steam Trading Cards to collect.

Screenshot from Sword of Asumi
Many scenes in the game will have you checking yourself out in a mirror

What I dislike:


All of the girls in the game are based on sexist stereotypes, even the main character, despite them all attending what is effectively a military academy for elite samurai. Apparently learning how to impress boys by spending hours trying out different outfits is more important (and there are many scenes where you get to see Asumi trying on different outfits).

Look, I know that a lot of visual novels are targeted for a particular market and purpose, and thankfully Sword of Asumi isn't at the level where you question whether you're watching a porno or not, but even after parking your judgement about this genre in general, the problem I have with all of this is that it breaks the immersion: why would someone like Asumi, a no-nonsense, lethal assassin be concerned or even care about wearing sexy outfits for the boys? Why are many scenes in the game just devoted to this (unless of course they learn about the art of sexual manipulation from a young age, although man, they must live in a depressing, cynical world if that's part of every girl's regular education)?


It takes just under two hours to complete one playthrough for the game, so it's definitely not the longest of games out there, even by visual novel standards. The game could've definitely benefited from exploring more of the back stories of each character as well as the world they live in, but to be fair, there are multiple paths to take in this game so it does encourage replays.

Score – 7/10 (Good)

A short, Japanese-style visual novel with the typical, casual sexism that often exists in these sorts of games. Sword of Asumi does have an interesting alternate historical version of Japan to play in though along with multiple classmates to befriend and endings to explore.

Is the game worth $14.50 AUD?: Yes. Despite being quite short, this visual novel offers multiple endings and is generally superior to many amateur visual novel offerings out there.

If you like this game, you might like…

[ LINK: Sword of Asumi Page on Dharker Studio ]