Sadame is an action RPG for the Nintendo 3DS where players hack and slash their way through an army of Yokai in order to save Japan.
The first thing you’ll probably notice about Sadame is how good the game looks. The artists have clearly taken their time in making Sadame feel authentic; this has been achieved by using hand-drawn backdrops in a classic 2D Japanese art style. The visuals not only make playing the game a delight but they also help immerse the player into the theme and time period within which the game is set.
The same can be said for the background music. Nothing too overpowering is used during the course of the game, but rather a nice, gentle and subtle soundtrack can be heard as you progress through each level. Again, like the art and backdrops, great care has been taken to ensure the player is drawn into the atmosphere of the game. I was initially reminded of the Tenchu series from the PlayStation One; which is unsurprising considering the games share a similar cultural background.
I felt personally though that the story fell a little flat. I found it hard to engage with and mostly found myself skimming the dialogue to get to the next section of the game. I wasn’t able to connect with the characters on an emotional level which I felt detached me from the gameplay; which is a shame as the developers have clearly gone to a lot of effort to make the player feel more involved through use of the artwork and audio.
There are four unique characters to choose from in Sadame, each with their own branching story-line and abilities. Samurai, Ninja, Monk or Rogue are your choices and each plays differently. As you progress through the game you’re able to level up your character and equip better gear. A total of eight spells can be set to your character which are somewhat divided into two categories: Karma (defensive/status boosts) and offensive spells. These can be set to the A, B, X and Y buttons and activated by holding L and R plus the corresponding face button.
One niggle I had with the gameplay is that there are no checkpoints during a level. If you make your way to the very end and find yourself defeated by the boss – back to the beginning with you. The upside is that the levels are not overly long, and any items and experience that we earned can be kept; I found this removed the sense of true loss and urged me to keep trying.
I found I had to approach it differently to many other hack and slash games. Getting in the thick of things and mashing the buttons just simply doesn’t work. Being overwhelmed by a group of Yokai will often mean certain death, and with no easy way to break free (that I have yet discovered) it can be a little frustrating. Instead I found it was easier to take out the stragglers first, the monster roaming the edges of the group were easy prey, followed by the main bunch; this seems to work well so that’s how I keep moving through each of the levels.
The end of each level has a boss battle. Despite some ghoulish looking monsters, nothing really changes here other than the boss throws out a few moves in pattern. Judging the timing is key as some moves can kill you outright, sending you all the way back to the beginning of the level. This being said, the boss battles do play differently to the hoards of minions so it does help break up a little of the monotony. Mostly I found a level consists of an area where you must defeat a group of Yokai, followed by another group and then move onto the next screen; repeat.
Between levels you’re able to alter your equipment that you’ve collected during the course of a level, upgrade your character and change which spells you take into battle. You can also save here if you feel like it. It’s from this screen you can also set a nice little feature; if you;ve played the game with another character you’re able to have him assist you during your quest. Alternatively, if you wish you can also send him to help others through the StreetPass function. I liked this little addition, I felt it rewarded players for taking the time to play through each characters campaign.
Overall I think Sadame is a worthwhile investment. The developers have taken great care in crafting a game that is true to it’s source material in respects to both the in-game visuals and audio. Even though I felt the story line was not quite up to par, the branching aspect of it works well and rewarding players for trying this out by allowing previous characters to join your current quest is a nice touch. Sure, the gameplay can be a bit repetitive but that’s the nature of the hack and slash.