More like Salame
One of my favorite things about this current era of gaming is how many artists and designers there are out there who prey on my sense of nostalgia. I loved gaming in the ’90s, so I’m always on the lookout for new titles that can strike a chord with my inner child and take me back to simpler times that my rose-tinted brain tries to convince me were so much better than today.
Unfortunately, Sadame is not one of those games.
Sadame (Nintendo 3DS)
Publisher: Rising Star Games
Release Date: February 25, 2016
Sadame, or Ishi-Sengoku-Den Sadame, takes place in the “Warring Period” of Japanese history. Perennial Japanese bad guy Oda Nobunaga is at it again, this time using the power of karma to make monsters and take over Japan. You play as one of four characters with the ability to absorb karma, making you the country’s only hope.
The character classes are fairly standard for an action RPG with this setting, including a warrior, ninja, monk, and rogue. All of them play differently enough that you’ll need to rethink your strategy depending on which one you select. I went with the ninja on my first play through on a whim and was glad I did because her mix of flying knives and chain weapons got me out of many jams throughout the campaign.
Sadame is heavy on the loot. Weapons, gems, and armor are just three of the ways you can customize your character. On top of that, there are a surprisingly robust number of options for where to spend the Discipline Points you earn from leveling up. Not only can you use them to upgrade your defense, offense, health, and more, but you can modify those attributes with different elements, like fire and water.
Spending your points on elements will also allow you to extend your combo to a total of eight attacks. On the other hand, if you never spend Discipline Points on elements, you’ll be stuck with the same three-button combo for the entire game. The spells are basically useless, so you’ll spend most of you playtime repeating the same button combo ad nauseam. If that sounds monotonous, don’t worry because it fits in with the rest of the experience.
Sadame is as repetitive as song about thongs sung by man named Sisqo. The vast majority of encounters in the game follow the same pattern: enter an area, watch enemies appear, defeat enemies, watch more enemies appear, defeat more enemies, go to next area. That’s it. That’s the whole game. So long as you keep moving, you shouldn’t have any trouble with these enemy encounters. If you do get hit, the stun time from an attack is great enough that if you’re surrounded by enemies, you’re dead. And when you die, you have to go all the way back to the start of the level and sit through any unskippable cutscenes because nobody thought it would be a good idea to put checkpoints in this game.
The bosses you’ll face, while featuring some amazing artwork, are some of the worst I’ve encountered in any action RPG. The fights range in difficulty from ones where you need only stand in front of the boss and just attack to ones where you’re dead before you can even see what you’re fighting. It probably wouldn’t be so frustrating if the most difficult boss battle took place at the end of the campaign, but the difficulty actually peaks in the middle, while the final boss battle is stupidly easy to take down with a ranged character. Killing bosses unlocks new karma skills, which, unlike spells, are actually useful. Daze, a karma that causes enemies to attack one another, was the only way I managed to make it through the final stage.
The campaign is short, taking me around five hours to complete. After the first play through, it encourages you to go back with one of the other character classes. All of the loot you pick up the first time carries over, allowing you to give new characters some pretty powerful weapons early on. And if you want to keep going with the same character to unlock any karma that you missed, there’s a new difficultly setting to take on with two more that can be unlocked after that.
Subsequent runs with the other classes were a snap with the assist feature. Unlocked after the first stage, this allows you to bring one of your other characters to support you in your journey. Assist characters keep the level and gear equipped from the last time you played as them; so if you beat the game as I did with one character, the two of you become nigh impossible to defeat. In fact, I just let the assist character do all the work and still leveled up. You can also bring in support characters that you pick up on StreetPass, though I imagine I could count how many people in the US will use that feature with this game on one hand and still have enough fingers left over to keep playing.
In trailers and screenshots, Sadame certainly looks the part of a long-lost SNES classic. It’s not. The yearning desire of my inner child to relive those glorious golden years of gaming is in no way satiated by this repetitive adventure. Instead, the radiance of that era is dimmed just a touch as it reminds of the humdrum games from my youth that are usually invisible in the rose-tinted rearview mirror of the mind. And just as I came to forget about those games, so too shall I soon forget about Sadame.