The 16-bit era was the golden age of JRPGs. Sadame does its best to emulate what made this time exciting for the genre while offering many unique aspects to distinguish itself from its peers. Sharpen your katana because this is about to get bloody.
Sadame's story involves a demonic army who are threatening all of Japan so it's up to you to slay their leader Nobunaga and put an end to their plans once and for all. I'm sure you've played tons of games with the exact same premise. Anyway, the campaign begins by allowing you to choose your hero type from Samurai, Ninja, Monk, and Rogue. Each type plays very differently as some specialize in close encounters while others are best at long-range or have an aptitude for magic. You can select from a wide variety of colours and name them, too. After playing for a few stages, you could always restart the game if you want to see how the other characters handle. Whichever choice you make, the gameplay is generally the same as you run around, dash out of harm's way, and unleash a large assortment of attacks. These attacks include using the weapon that's held in either hand (or both simultaneously) and executing an equipped karma ability or magic spell. It's all handled rather intuitively which makes cutting through hordes of demons an easy to accomplish feat.
As you progress through the story, your character will grow into quite a formidable warrior. Doing so involves many factors that are very rewarding to configure. Equipping weapons and various pieces of armour and accessories can be a lengthy process considering each item has many attributes to keep in mind. You can also attach gems to equipment which has the potential to enhance your effectiveness on the battlefield substantially. Equipment may have spells attached that you can assign to different face buttons. Besides spells, you can assign earned karma abilities to face buttons as well. Just so you know, the spells and karma abilities are activated in-game by holding their respective shoulder buttons. As you level up, you earn points that you spend on the Go-gyo grid to increase your base statistics. On top of all this, activating StreetPass allows you to recruit players that assist you in battle although I haven't had the opportunity to try it out. While playing through stages, you'll rescue merchants who offer many different services between missions. Overall, this character growth system is one of the most robust and satisfying ones that I've ever experienced in an action RPG.
Sadame's world is presented in an impressively atmospheric way. Every screen gives off a darkly mysterious vibe which is perfect for dealing with demons. The 16-bit characters and environments also fit wonderfully into the equation. Although enemies appear distinct enough, the massive bosses are where the action's at. Taking down these enormous foes just feels awesome especially considering how difficult they get near the end of the adventure. When it comes to audio, the soundtrack is a fantastic blend of Japanese tunes that add much depth to the ambience. Finally, the spot-on sound effects make the action all the more gratifying.
Although Sadame does many things right, it also contains a few significant problems that may end up making you apathetic towards Nobunaga's evil deeds. The first of which is seen in your character's stiff movement. You can only move in eight directions and attack in four, so lining up attacks can be downright irritating at times. During many boss fights, I swear I was striking them yet no damage was dealt. Next, the first half of the game is a complete walk in the park yet it starts to get challenging at about the halfway point. This is acceptable but then it gets brutally difficult in the last few stages. Therefore, you'll go from boring easy battles to enjoyable fights to maddeningly impossible scenarios. You could always grind to the point where you'll succeed easier but that brings me to my next point. The gameplay itself is incredibly repetitive. All you do is hack and slash through a hundred or so enemies while moving between screens then face a boss. The only portion of the game that broke up the monotony was a boss that you fight while it's eating your ship and you have to use a harpoon gun to knock it back so it doesn't swallow the whole thing. Unfortunately, this was the only moment that stood out to me which is quite disappointing. Besides that, hacking and slashing mindlessly just isn't enough.
Although I enjoyed my time with Sadame, I frequently felt too restricted, frustrated, and bored to be able to widely recommend it. That being said, it's still a solid title that fans of the genre will surely appreciate.
- + Rewarding character growth system
- + Authentic retro visuals with dark atmosphere and awesome Japanese soundtrack
- + Giant bosses are enjoyable to conquer
- - Stiff movement feels too restrictive
- - Difficulty ramps up way too much throughout the second half of the journey
- - Repetitive gameplay gets stale fast