Sadame stylises itself as an action-rpg, originally released in Japan as Ishi-Sengoku-Den Sadame by Intergrow Games back in 2014. The genre action-rpg tends to be very open-ended, a lot of titles stumble awkwardly trying to find their feet while others dress up lazy turn based combat with a new twist and pray no one notices.
How does Sadame hold itself up? That’s what I am here to find out.
When the karma infused demons and monsters rage against the country of Japan during one of its most bloodiest historical periods, the Warring States, four heroes are called up to defend the people. The darkness grows under the control and influence of Nobunaga and it is up to you to bring him and his forces down. With four unique classes to choose from, you can take on the samurai, ninja, monk or rogue each with their open style, weapons and spells.
The samurai dual wields bladed weapons, the monk has an arsenal of spells and elemental attacks, the ninja keeps his distance with shuriken and chain-sickle and the rogue utilises the naginata and a bow as well as magic.
For my first attempt, I took on the rogue, unfamiliar with the system and game mechanics, she’s the perfect middle ground. As the game rolls out across four acts, it’s apparent that each character has his or her own story. However it never really becomes clear and you’ll find yourself mashing the A button just to get through the dialogue. A technique you’ll make use of in other aspects of the game.
I found the fact that Sadame lacks any real sort of introduction to the game or its mechanics very bothersome.
The story I can forgive and forget to some extent but when you fail to provide adequate information on just how to level or develop your character in the many overly embellished systems then that’s something that can’t be let go. As you progress through the game you’ll earn experience points and level up (there’s that RPG element), boosting stats and unlocking ability points. These points can be spent in one of the most convoluted character systems I’ve ever put my hands on. After you spend five points, you can unlock a mastery and specialise in an element, which unlocks more character traits spend five more points in that mastery and you’ll open another.
Throw all of that in with the fact that your usable spells are dependent on the gear you’re wearing and it doesn’t get clunky, it gets frustrating. There is a guide in the game menu but it’s not nearly enough and barely scratches the surface, had there been a brief tutorial outlining core mechanics, it may have proven a lot easier to navigate. Unfortunately that’s only a dream and when you dive into the character progression side of Sadame, you’re left scratching your head and wondering would a book on theoretical physics written in Japanese be easier to decipher.
You’re probably asking yourself though how all of this impacts gameplay! Short answer, it doesn’t! I genuinely couldn’t get my head around the character progression, spending ability points stacking physical damage output. Why? Well by bashing the X button you can wipe out wave after badly lined up wave! Yeah it’s one of those games!
Combat is made up of two factors: physical and magical. Your spells, which unless you cast when the field is scattered with the bodies of your dead enemies, or you’re quick enough to cast between waves, you’ll rarely use! Physical attacks are made up of your main weapon and sub weapon, which tends to be a ranged weapon. You can unlock combos as you progress, bashing B and A in sequences while enemies fall around you. Your other option is to repeatedly mash X and just power through the whole thing until it’s over! Most enemies go down after one, even boss fights can go pretty quickly!
So it’s all bashing and no brain! No in this instance, it’s all bashing and too much brain! Sadame takes itself and the action-rpg title all too seriously and the fun gets bashed out of it somewhere after the first act. Overly repetitive combat, frustratingly deep character systems and an uninvolved plot all take away from what it does do well, it’s art and style. Visually Sadame is something to behold and it looks and even felt somewhat like an old school beat-em up platformer or even scrolling shooter like the Pocky and Rocky series. However its artistic merits are drowned out when you can’t tune into the game long enough to fully experience it.
There was a lot of potential for Sadame but like many other games before it, it lost itself trying to find its footing in the action-rpg genre. At no point does the game find a balance, while it offers replayability I find myself struggling to even finish the final boss battle and wanting to apologise to the X button on my 3DS.
Editor-in-Chief, part-time super villain and hoarder of cats. If you can’t find me writing, I’m probably in the kitchen!