Saturday, February 27, 2016

Sadame (3DS)

If I were to summarize Rising Star Japan's "Sadame" by using other JRPGs in the genre as comparisons I'd say that it is a mixture of "Samurai Warriors", 'The Legend of Zelda", "Muramasa: The Demon Blade", and "Diablo 3". There are certain elements from each of these gaming experiences that seem to have inspired this action RPG. When it comes to the 'Samurai Warriors' comparison you'll find that the game plays heavily on actual Asian history, but does so in a fictional sort of way. It takes one of four character classes (Samurai, Ninja, Monk & Maiden), turns them into the protagonist, and pits them up against the lords of various dynasties who have been physically corrupted by karma. This act by act battle takes place much like 'Samurai Warriors' would, and has players guiding their character of choice to wave after wave of enemies in order to clear them out, and make it to the end boss for the same purpose.

The 'Legend of Zelda' comparison, on the other hand refers to the fact that the action in 'Sadame' is much like what you'd see in one of the older Nintendo DS games of that said series. You'll be traveling through various Japanese locales set in a feudal Japan in an almost top down fashion, and will be fighting both lesser enemies, and greater bosses as you loot the places for better items. As far as the "Muramasa" part of the game goes I say it's like that because the monsters, and demons within are very reminiscent of such a mythological representation. The creature design is similar to that of "Muramasa: The Demon Blade" in a lot of ways. Lastly, the 'Diablo 3' comparison comes into play simply because the game harbors a character customization setup that slightly mirrors what 'Diablo 3' has going on. The rarity of items is definitely there as is the gem placement, and spell usage. It's a set of features that not only compliments other parts of the game, but also gives it replay value. While those comparisons may sum up 'Sadame' at base level, let me go a little deeper into detail with what this 3DS game offers it's potential buyers ...

At Sadame's startup you'll be prompted to choose one of four character classes, and will be able to name said character whatever you wish (within reason). Your options include a Samurai, a Ninja, a Monk, and a Maiden. Each of these character types, or classes have their own unique weapons, and fighting styles with which to dispatch the karma consumed demons of Kyoto, and it's surrounding areas. The Samurai, which is the first class you'll see is a dual wielding class in which two swords are used in a combo oriented fashion to deal with the denizens of the damned. The Samurai is slow, but can hold his own when surrounded by the waves of lesser enemies. The Ninja class, is as it sounds as well in that it is swift in movement, and can handle enemies in numbers. The Ninja's signature weapon is a chained sickle, and a throwing star, or shuriken. The sickle is good for clearing out surrounding enemies, and the throwing star for distanced attacks. Also at the Ninja's disposal is traps that can be used against the enemies. These traps are Ninja exclusive, and limited.

When it comes to the Monk's offerings this character class also wields a cliche assortment of weapons that tie-in with the spiritual side of the character archetype. You'll be using a spirited staff to fire spirit energy, and prayer beads for melee attacks. The Monk is about as slow as the Samurai, and is better at ranged attacks than he is when attacking while he's up close, and surrounded. Lastly, the Maiden is a character that harnesses a Naginata (bladed pole) style weapon, and an archer's bow. The Maiden is good at both close, and long ranged attacks making her the more formidable of the four character classes. Along with these character types, and their base equipment comes the usage of Karma, Spells, and combos. Tools which are necessary in combating the growing evils of Sadame.

The Karma, and Spells in Sadame are weapon, and equipment specific meter based features that can be assigned to the "X, Y, B, A" buttons respectively. They require a certain button activation, and use up meter after being activated. For Karma boosts you'll have to apply a pressing of the 'Left Shoulder' button along with the respective face buttons (X, Y, B, A). The opposite goes for the Spells which will require an added pressing of the 'Right Shoulder' button along with the previously mentioned face buttons. Both Karma, and Spells use up their own meters, and will have to be assigned to your equipment before going into an act. When it comes to Karma's uses some Karma will boost effects while others will do things like heal the character. The Spells, on the other hand are more offensive, and will use various elemental attacks (Wind, Fire, Earth, Water, Metal, Wood) to wear down the harder to kill enemies. As far as the combo attacks go these are also tied to the equipment you have equipped, particularly the weapons. By pressing "A & B" in a certain sequential order you can dish out a world of hurt on the enemies before you, and around you.

When it comes to goals in a playthrough you'll find that Sadame is broken up into Acts that have up to four sub-stages, and a set amount of enemies within each. Each Act, and the stages therein require that you kill off all of the enemies, and the final boss at the end. Along the way you'll be able to loot chests, crates, barrels, and fallen enemies to better improve upon your characters' equipment options. Loot, as I briefly mentioned earlier comes in different rarities. By this I mean weapons, and armor can be found in the 'Common', 'Rare', 'Epic', or 'Legend' variety. Each of which is color coded, and equipped with it's own Diablo-like perks. Some equipment can even be bought from merchants that are freed during a playthrough. Merchants are usually hidden in enemies, or in crates, and will be seen running away once freed. The only thing standing between you, and your loot is the completion of the level. Supposing you die along the way though you'll forfeit some of your items, and have to start over. Of course all previous findings are kept intact as is your character's level progress. The good thing about dying in Sadame is that you will eventually level up in rank despite dying, and will be able to apply points to your "Gy-ogo' skill tree, making your character strong enough to advance.

The skill tree in this game helps your character to become stronger in certain areas. You can improve upon health, damage output, defense, and even various types of elemental defenses/offenses which are further broken down in their own skill tree sets. Ranking up a level will grant you one point to spend in the "Gy-Ogo" skill tree menu, so the more you play the better off your character will be in the harder difficulty settings. One thing I forgot to mention is that your playthrough difficulties can also be changed, and that they come in a time of day sort of title arrangement. This begins with "Dawn", and goes further into the night while ramping up the challenging aspect of each successive playthrough.

Other menus in Sadame will allow you to socket gems (which also come in rarities) into weapons, and armor pieces as well as check on your abilities, or stats. When a merchant is freed during your playthroughs you can also access their sold item inventory, and services which range from crafting, to modifying. There's definitely enough to keep you busy in Sadame, and with the availability of multiple path options in the given Acts, and rare loot to obtain you can play for quite a while before it grows old. Just know that the story is the same for each character class.

Now For the Verdict ...

Judging this game is hard for me to do. It's both Awesome in presentation, and flawed in functionality. By that I mean the base game, and it's provided features work well together. It's unique in what it tries to do, and looks visually stunning on the new 3DS. At the same time, on the opposite side of the same coin the battles that are a core element of gameplay are unfair at times, and often times unbalanced though. In my Samurai playthrough I ran into situations in which I was trapped by surrounding lesser enemies, and unable to move, because of their spammed attacks. These situations were more difficult to deal with than the bosses of the first three acts. In fact some of the bosses were so easy to defeat that it was almost laughable. If it weren't for the enemy balance issues I'd recommend this game at retail price in a heartbeat. In it's current condition though I'd say wait for a discount before buying into it. Maybe they'll patch it along the way.

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