Category: Turn-based RPG Seller:Konami Digital Entertainment Requirements: iOS 3.1.3 or later Compatibility: Universal app for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad File Size: 187MB Version Reviewed: 1.0.3 Price: $4.99 (Silver Edition available for $2.99) Age Rating: 9+ (infrequent/mild cartoon fantasy violence, infrequent/mild profanity or crude humor)
SRRN Games‘ Ash took quite a few iOS gamers by surprise. What seemed a clone of NES era Legend of Zelda and turn-based fantasy combat games quickly developed its own identity and garnered much love from JRPG fans. The sequel is now upon us, only this time its got the publishing might of Konami behind it. Whether that’s good or bad depends upon what you like or didn’t like about the original.
The first item we should discuss are the two purchasing options. Ash II: Shadows (Silver Edition) will run you $2.99, but doesn’t get you the whole game. Rather, you get the first two episodes, then 50% off the remaining four ($5.94 total). The Gold edition gets you everything for $4.99. I like when games give you the try-before-you-buy option, but $3.00 is a bit steep if you don’t eventually take advantage of the discounts. The Silver Edition should be only $0.99 or free, then without discounts on future chapters. As it stands, The Gold Edition makes more sense.
No matter what edition you choose, chapter one will get things rolling with Damien and his friends Yuka and Marcus. The three of them set off on a minor adventure throughout Arghaus, which of course unveils a bigger plot into which they get tangled. That’s how you want things to work in a JRPG, right? And what of Nicholas, Damien’s mentor from Ash? He was corrupted by the evil that’s infected Aghaus, so here we go.
Although the basic story doesn’t offer any significant swerves or surprises, like its predecessor, it’s exceptionally well told. The writing is lively and focused, and you’ll quickly grow to like these characters (unlike most JRPGs which seem to want you to hate the lead character initially).
Exploration takes place in towns/dungeons and on a world map as you travel between locations. The main story will unveil new locations you progress, although side quests will also keep you shuffling about.
You’ll be attacked along the way, of course, but unlike in Ash, encounters aren’t random in Shadows. You can see the enemies now, and it’s up to you whether you want to avoid them or get the experience by fighting. This has some fans upset, but I prefer it this way. When you’re not entirely sure where you need to be and have been scouting for a while, repeated random encounters grow exceptionally frustrating. They’re a JRPG staple we need to dump entirely in order to drive the genre forward.
When you are attacked, battles are turn-based. A ribbon across the top of the screen indicates the order in which the characters will move, and it’s up to you to determine the best use of the characters in your party. You can attack, use magic, heal and/or defend. When it’s one of your character’s turn, tap what you want to do and tap on whom you want to do it to. Simple.
Inventory management is equally streamlined, making it easy to see how item upgrades will affect your characters’ abilities. Tapping and swiping will get you what you need, so the UI never gets in the way of the fun.
The combat in Shadows is exceptionally forgiving at first, providing very easy battles to win before you master the combat system. It may even be too easy. When the first difficult challenges presented themselves, I was quite unprepared. Perhaps that’s why Konami offers in-app purchases to help you on your way. Don’t buy them, though; with the proper weapons and skills, there’s nothing in the first chapter you shouldn’t be able to handle on your own. Beyond that, we’ll see how it goes.
And that’s something to consider when noting my rating; I’ve completed only one of six episodes. Looking ahead, though, I can’t imagine the writing will suddenly go wrong, and that’s what brings a tremendous amount of charm to Ash II: Shadows. The writers clearly know where they’re going with this, and it’ll be fun to get there with them. Likewise, the retro graphics and gameplay will remain, as will the fantastic music. All of the elements are in place to build a satisfying experience, and I have no reason believe that won’t happen.
When all is said and done, I’ll revisit this review to verify. If you have less faith than I do, though, you can always go with the Silver Edition for $2.99. You’ll get the first two episodes for free, and should know by then if you’ll want to continue.