Japan has been cursed and a demonic army has run amok. Rivers are flowing with poison and it’s up to you to put a stop to the madness. In this action/RPG you’ll hack and you’ll slash your way through countless enemies, spilling so much blood along the way that the ground will become covered in it. Prospective buyers of Sadame will no doubt be wowed in by its impressive visuals – hand drawn backgrounds, wonderfully intricate set pieces, and highly detailed 16-bit sprites. It has a visual flair not found in many 3DS eShop games. Unfortunately its game mechanics fall well short of what could have been a standout hit.
If you’ve experienced games like Diablo or Gauntlet, you’ll have a general idea of what Sadame plays like. You’ll choose your warrior type at the beginning of the game: Samurai, Rogue, Ninja, or Monk. Each will have different attributes and stats as well as weapon types, skills, and magic. There are four different save slots so you could easily start the game with each character and see which one you prefer. Beginners will probably be most at home with the Samurai class as he wields two blades at the same time and automatically blocks many incoming attacks, making for an easier go of it. If you want to keep some distance between you and the enemies, any of the other three classes will fit the bill. The Ninja uses a sickle & chain as well as shurikens and can set traps for unsuspecting foes. The Monk can hit enemies from a long range with his staff and get up close and personal with relics. Auras will allow him to utilize elemental attacks for some extra punch. The Rogue class is perfect for those who want to keep enemies at bay with a bow & arrow along with a pole arm as main weapons and plenty of spells to aid in the quest.
No matter who you choose to play as, the game feels practically the same. I didn’t notice a big difference with any character, and unfortunately the entire game felt a bit stilted. I think this was due to its odd choice of having only four directional fighting, making it more difficult to appropriately aim attacks. Many times the animation sequence of the attack would move me into a group of enemies and I’d simply have to mash buttons as quickly as possible to slice my way out of the dangerous situation. Creating fun gameplay mechanics is essential for a game to be entertaining, but I just wasn’t feeling it here. The game failed to really connect me with the character I was controlling, and half the time I felt like I was just pressing the same buttons over and over until the enemies finally disappeared. There seems to be very little in the way of tactical level design, reminding me of the glory days of the arcade brawlers where hordes of enemies pop up out of nowhere, you kill them and move to the next screen, and then rinse and repeat. It gets old very quickly and with no multiplayer to prop it up (like Double Dragon, Golden Axe, Diablo, Gauntlet, or even Smash TV), Sadame just didn’t hold my attention.
You can tell the developers tried to create a deep experience by having enemies constantly drop loot, which you can then equip in between stages. This allows for customization of your character with new armor and weapons and even new spells and attributes. However, this seems tacked on and isn’t as intuitive as you’d expect it to be. It never reached the levels of excitement of something like Destiny, Borderlands, or Diablo as the instant gratification of “Wow! Look what I just found!” is taken away by holding the rewards until the end of the stage. Plus, the stuff I found was all very generic and did little to make my character look any different.
As I mentioned earlier, the graphics are probably the highlight of the entire experience. It has some really fantastic artwork, although the entire game is a bit on the dark and dreary side. The animations are a bit stiff and fall short of what is achieved with the background art. The game lacks stereoscopic 3D, which I think is an odd decision, as a game like this (overhead view looking down at the action) would have benefited greatly from the depth of field effect. The music is actually pretty good, but nothing too memorable. I can’t be 100% sure, but it seemed like most of it was mono, which is disappointing coming off of a game like Fire Emblem Fates where the audio production is so top-notch.
Sadame isn’t a bad game. It’s just not a great one either. I can see some gamers having an enjoyable time with it, especially if they like the Japanese setting and characters that go along for the ride. It just lacks the addictive quality of a game like Diablo and I can’t help but feel that the experience could have been made better by adding a co-op mode. Only seekers of mindless action games need apply.