Shadows of Adam Switch Review by SwitchWatch
Developer: Something Classic Games
Publisher: CIRCLE Ent
Release Date: 03/05/2019
Price as of Article: $14.99, £13.49
In Shadows of Adam you play as Kellen, a young swordsman, who was born and raised in the town of Adam with his adopted sister Asrael. In a land long since purged of magic after the great Wraith War, Asrael is a rare breed, as she is one of the few magicians still remaining.
One day the town gets threatened by a gigantic weed problem, and being special the townsfolk are quick to put the blame on her. Kellen supports his sister and they set out to fix the problem.
Along the way, they discover a mysterious book that puts them on the trail of Kellen’s missing father, long thought by everyone to be dead.
The war is long over but shadows yet again loom over the land. Kellen and Asrael set out on a quest to find their old man, get some answers, stop an evil corrupt prince, and hopefully save the world in the process.
As you traverse the land and talk to various NPCs you discover that since the fabled war, magic has become a topic of resentment. Most people have come to believe that magic is a thing of evil, and this hits Asrael hard at times as she uses her magic for good. This makes you eager to learn, what exactly transpired all that time ago to make people fear and hate the art so much?
A story is, of course, nothing without good writing, and though I prefer my stories to take themselves mostly seriously and not crack too many jokes. Shadows of Adam for the most part delivers, having the characters be snarky and sarcastic, but also having their deep and emotional moments, which I appreciate.
Shadows of Adam is your typical J-RPG, but with a few modern quality of life improvements. For starters, you can save anywhere except in battle; in a town, in a forest, out on the world map, no problem buddy! Secondly, everyone in your party has an AP bar for executing special moves and casting magic which refills a bit every turn and upon defeating an enemy. You can of course also use an ether to speed up the process. This was a deliberate choice from the developer to make the combat more fast-paced and fluid. Thirdly, all status ailments are removed automatically after a battle.
Battles are turn-based meaning you can take all the time the world to think your strategies through and the enemies won’t touch you.
Every turn you get to decide all of your party members’ moves before any of them are executed, meaning you have to be strategic and think ahead as if one of your allies gets hurt it will be a whole turn before you can do something about it. On the other hand, this system also makes it easier to coordinate your characters’ moves in correspondence to each other and the current situation, like having one character health the entire party, have one do a floor-sweeping energy attack, having the third charge their magic for the next round, and having the last cast evasiveness on your healer for good measure.
In battle, your characters are represented with their overworld sprites, whilst enemies, be it a regular mook or a mighty boss, rock big, detailed and intimidating sprites. As compensation, the developers have done a really good job with detail in your characters’ attack animations, but as I will get to later ”detail” is a key factor throughout the game and not just in battle.
You start off with only two characters, the warrior Kellen and his adopted sister Asrael, but are already in the first dungeon accompanied by the monk Curtis, and a bit later Kellen’s old friend Talon. Kellen is your typical sword-wielding warrior class, while Asrael is your red mage though she doesn’t shy away from dealing physical blows if necessary. Curtis specializes in spiritual attacks and brute strength, and finally, we have Talon who is your trickster. They all complement each other really well, each bringing something to the table and being an essential asset to the party.
I was a bit bummed to learn that you would only ever recruit 4 party members total to your team though, as other J-RPGs have spoiled me with more, plus having party members to look forward to throughout the story is part of the excitement. Like unlocking new characters in Super Smash Bros. it gives me something to look forward to.
Random encounters are a thing of the past, instead, enemy encounters are triggered by running into them on the overworld. Some games do this well by having the enemies roam freely about and then having it be up to the player to either avoid or engage, but Shadows of Adam handles things a bit differently, and I am honestly not very enamoured with how. Enemies are placed as blockades in small corridors where you have no choice but to run into them, making them kind of like a checkpoint saying ”if you can beat this pack of enemies then you are strong enough to proceed”.
Upon battling your characters naturally become stronger, and will gradually learn new moves to even the odds, sadly though, this game ain’t Chrono Trigger where characters could learn to combine their powers, but oh well, this just means that Shadows of Adam adheres more to the standard form of the genres, which is absolutely fine. Sometimes going basic is more refreshing.
Of all the things gamers remember fondly with the J-RPGs of their youth, random encounters are never one of them, but I honestly feel that forced encounters like these are just as bad. Not only that, but say you are inside a dungeon and have conquered and beaten all there is, then if you want to stay a bit longer and grind to get just a couple levels stronger for good measure, you can’t really comfortably do that without much of a backtracking hassle because there are no random encounters, and with all the set enemies having been slain, it means you have to leave the dungeon altogether and come back.
Random encounters may be a revered thing of old, but they had a reason for being there. And if not random, then at least have them respawn whenever you move a certain distance away from where you initially fought them. Monsters do come back when you exit and re-enter an area as I said, but that means in order to be better equipped for a boss you need to leave the dungeon and come back, which breaks the pace.
As mentioned before, the regenerating AP meter was introduced to make battles more fast-paced, and if that is the case – if battles are designed to be over and done quickly anyway – then I don’t see why random encounters couldn’t have been kept.
Aside from battle, however, the game functions like any other J-RPG. You fight your way through forests, swamps, and dungeons while exploring for loot, going off the beaten path often rewarding you with stronger weapons, and visit the occasional town where you talk to every single NPC, not only to see if they have something helpful to say but also for world building.
In every town, and select other places where you can find a merchant, you can stock up for the journey ahead buying potions, revives, and stronger gear for your party, but as the stingy bucker I am in videogames I rarely bother with these, as exploration, as mentioned before, often rewards you handsomely, and things like potions and revives have a chance of being dropped randomly by fallen enemies. I don’t fancy buying what I can get for free, haha.
True to J-RPG tradition you of course also later get an airship to make traversing and backtracking easier and less tedious.
The music is absolutely ear melting. From the dangers of the vine infested first dungeon to the serene peace of your hometown, the epicness of the overworld map, and even the stillness of an off-road beach.
Every single track in Shadows of Adam has been lovingly composed, and I would dare say rivals even the predecessors that inspired it.
One of the most important tunes in a J-RPG however, where 80% of your time is going to be spent battling, is, of course, the battle music. It needs to be catchy and awesome so that you won’t get tired of hearing it over and over again, and I can happilly say that Shadows of Adam more than delivers here, both with its regular battle music, and its boss battle music.
Both are equally epic, but the victory theme should perhaps have held off a bit on the modern rock. It is an upbeat tune but it feels very out of place in a fantastical setting like this.
The sound effects are great as well, with Kellen’s sword slashes packing a satisfying **cing** when coming into contact with an enemy, Asrael’s thunderstrikes booming down on the undead, and Curtis’ suplex landing a nice big thud, adding to the feel of its heavy impact.
Fun fact, I played the game in the middle of the night at one point as I went through the misty swamp area, when suddenly a thunderstorm started outside, occassionally lighting up my window. Some of the thunder booms were really loud scaring the daylights out of me, but it was also coincidentally really fitting for the spooky gameplay.
*Disclaimer: This game doesn’t feature realistic thunder sound effects… or summon thunderstorms… that I know of…
Visuals & Performance
I mentioned previously in the gameplay segment that the details in battle were not secluded to these, and I meant it. With gorgeous spritework being a badge of honour for Shadows of Adam, environmental details are one of its absolute strong suits.
This game is amazing to look at and great care has been taken to make the world surrounding you feel alive. When walking through a forest, a fish will jump out of the water in the river, butterflies will be roaming freely about and birds resting on the ground will scatter as your approach. It all makes the world feel alive, and I always appreciate the effort that goes into these little details.
As small as the character models are, again adhering to J-RPGs of the olden days, the game also manages to still make them as expresive as the enforced limitations allow, you never doubt what a character is feeling in correspondance to a situation. And that is something I can always admire, how much you can accomplish with very little.
In general, Shadows of Adam graphically is a sight to behold, easily one of the prettiest retro J-RPGs out there.
I did experience a few typos here and there, but nothing so frequent that it broke the immersion. At one point in a library I also swear that I read an invisible book.
Also, at one point in a pirate cave, after submitting to defeat, the game failed to load the Game Over screen, meaning I had to reset as the battle just continued with my wiped out party. This was a one time thing though and never happened again.
Clocking in at $14.99, Shadows of Adam, despite its shortcomings like the forced encounters, is very much a product of great quality and a work of art both graphically and musically, with a standard but an enthralling story to accompany it with likeable characters and witty dialogue. You can wait for a sale to get it if you are not completely sure, but when it gets one I wholeheartedly recommend that you do. At its normal asking price though I still confidently recommend it.
The Nintendo Switch has recently been graced by J-RPG legends such as Final Fantasy VII, IX, X, and XII, all entries in the generation-spanning series from after it abandoned its founding 2D days to pursue the 3rd dimension, and thus the Switch has been lacking proper quality 2D J-RPGs, aside from some of the games released by Kemco, a void I truly feel that Shadows of Adam has come to fill and then some. I do not count blockbuster hits like Octopath Traveler, as it also features 3D elements, I only count games that graphically stays true to the 16-bit era.
The people over at Something Classic indeed live up to their name, as they have managed to strike a chord with something I am sure many an old RPG fan has been missing, and it can in my opinion safely take its place among some of the best of the genre on the handheld hybrid. I backed this game on Kickstarter back in the day, though I got a code for it for this review, and while I am quick to throw money around, I also pride myself with being able to spot promising projects. Shadows of Adam lives very much up to this, and I am proud to be able to say that I helped bring it to life.
Beautiful sprite graphics
Attention to detail
Solid battle system
Only four playable characters
A few grammatical errors