Sneak past or kill everyone in your path as you take on the role of Kuro on his quest to reunite the 3 pieces of the ancient medallion in Shadow Blade: Reload. Brought to the Nintendo Switch by Dead Mage. Shadow Blade (SB) was initially released in 2015 on PC, is an action platformer with definitive arcade roots. Spread across 7 chapters, covering over 40 levels, SB has 3 difficulty levels and also includes a 15 level challenge mode.
Visually SB bright and crisp. The art style could be compared to Guacamelee in terms of its artistic flair. The enemies are not overly varied as you will be fighting the same handful throughout the game with the addition of one new type for each chapter. The level design is very straightforward at first but later levels open up with branching paths forcing you to decide between the fastest route or most complete route as there are hidden Kanji and orbs to be collected. Those coupled together with time make SB a prime candidate for speedrunners.
Unfortunately, there are no leaderboards for the competitive types which is a letdown given the structure the game has in place. There are graphical glitches every now again where the enemy or Kuro will shift to another position during kill animation, but nothing that affects the gameplay or overall experience.
Mechanically the game controls well. After an initial load screen giving you the button layout, Kuro is set loose on his quest. Platforming feels nice but can be a touch on the finicky side on some of the later stages as well as challenge stages. Combat is simplistic but very satisfying. The main attack is mapped to ‘Y’ with the shuriken for distance attacks to ‘X’. These simple commands along with a dash mapped to ‘R’ can create a ballet of carnage as Kuro leaps from enemy to enemy to and wall to wall without ever touching the ground in some stretches. Little things like his sword glinting as he approaches an enemy to indicate you are in range for an attack really add to the charm.
The audio delivered here is a mixed bag. The soundtrack is very fitting with its far east themes but does get repetitive. On the flip side, the sounds of enemies being slashed were very satisfying. Simple sounds, like the gurgling of blood, really add to the visceral feel of SB.
There is no voice acting in the game, but that did not detract from the experience at all. Instead, the story is delivered in a pseudo motion comic style. What story is here, is not unique but is compelling nonetheless. The delivery of the story brought back memories of seeing the cut scenes from the NES Ninja Gaiden for the first time.
Gaming fads come and go, but Ninjas are forever. Shadow Blade: Reload is a great reminder of what action arcade platformers once were and can be again. Quick, responsive and with enough polish to rise above the crowd. SB is certainly a must-have for fans of games like the original Ninja Gaiden series or even the recently released The Messenger.
Review code provided
Platform: PC, Nintendo, PlayStation, Xbox, Mobile
Release Date: 30/03/2019
No. of Players: 1
Category: Action, Platformer
Publisher: Dead Mage
Download link: eShop