Of all the faux-retro offerings to appear this year, Shadows of Adam has long looked like the most promising. An RPG being developed with obvious care and a love of the genre scheduled for release through Steam. Now that it’s out, MBU takes a look at Something Classic’s first release.
After successfully funding $22,913 over their $20,000 goal on Kickstarter, pleasing 768 backers, Shadows of Adam reached only the first of its initial stretch-goals, promising a Wii-U release in addition to its Steam premiere, falling just short of a PlayStation Network edition for Vita or PS4. If the game will actually see release on now antiquated hardware will of course have to wait to be seen.
Whilst MBU has always had a soft-spot for well-made sprite art, it’s no understatement to say that Shadow of Adam looks fantastic. Regardless of whether you’re a fan of the SNES era RPG, the 2D design work on display in this title is bound to impress. Everything, from character design, fluidity of animation and background tiles is of this highest quality. It’s a high benchmark that other games are going to have to rise to in future if they intend to keep up. Text boxes are clear and fonts easy to read, with menu design traditional but highly functional. Occasionally on some screen setting the game does shift from blurred to crystal clear edging on spritework, but this appears to be easily remedied by altering your screen settings.
Musically, the title takes a similarly retro approach and uses synth to produce a midi-style series of tracks that are extremely well composed but perhaps too short at times. It can be a little jarring when location themes loop unexpectedly, and without seamlessly working back into themselves, leaving the player jarred from what is otherwise an amazing location and one that does encourage them to explore and take in the little details, extending the length of time that the music would need to run. This is a shame because the compositions themselves are very strong. Sound Effects are solid, providing that SNES era feel and giving good feedback, though the game lacks a confirmation tone when dialogue appears.
The narrative follows two young adventurers who at the games outset are attempting to remove a strange thorned growth that has appeared in the vicinity of their small lumberjack orientated village. Growing in size, it appears unnatural and is plagued with monsters, a fact blamed on Asrael, who has magical powers of her own. Her partner and long term friend serves as the muscle to her spellcasting, and is the son of the town hero, who disappeared without explaining himself when they were both children. Upon reaching the centre of this initial stage the pair are joined by a mystery martial artist and discover both that the thorns are alive, and that it their heart a book resides that channels a ghost-like message from his father begging Asrael for help. Story elements are richly told and the game takes the time to flashback at regular points to fill in details both essential (the night of his leaving) and those purely designed to build character. Dialogue is well written, at times deliberately sarcastic, and easy to read. It is a little bit of a shame that dialogue isn’t accompanied by portraits to better differentiate who is speaking at a glance however, as scenes of more than three people begin to merge a little. Obviously the game ramps up the stakes from this start-point, but the opening is especially strong whilst showing a clear flair for original design in event planning.
Gameplay is fairly traditional and whilst the keys can be easily remapped to your tastes on the keyboard (through a generous menu of options that includes an auto-run), there are times that the game feels like it is meant to be played with a controller, a feat that is fully supported. Input is limited to confirm, cancel and menu buttons in addition to the four direction keys and should suit most controllers easily whilst feeling extremely competent with a Sega Mega Drive style wireless. Exploration is top-down in perspective and conforms largely to the JRPG standards, though items aren’t hidden outside of chests (meaning you won’t be searching every book shelf and tree stump) and the game places a higher priority on good puzzle design from the get-go rather than leaving it for the latter half of the games dungeons. Saving can be done anywhere, and configuration is easy to do on the fly whilst playing. Battles are turn based, with characters having the usual proficiencies in physical attacks as their classes would indicate, and a selection of special attacks powered by regenerating AP pools for each character that encourages a large use of magic and skills in combat. Enemies come in a good amount of varieties and some have multiple graphical states to show their overall state, whilst status inflicting monsters are particularly dangerous. Groups of enemies with the ability to stun an opponent can both stop a party from acting and decrease their defence, making for a wipe-out if not prepared for. This isn’t the kind of mindless combat you can just attack physically through and expect to win every time, or use an auto-battle option to grind while you do other tasks. It’s a largely standard package as JRPGs go, but everything is achieved to a high standard that is reminiscent of Squaresoft at its peak and for a first-time indie studio it’s a crowning achievement.
Overall, Shadows of Adam is a must-buy for any retro-loving fan of the JRPG genre, and whilst it may not be the cure-all to pull in a WRPG fan, it’s a fantastic modern choice for introducing new players to the JRPG. Currently available on Steam for Mac, Linux and Windows computers, we strongly recommend you buy this game.