A solid 16-bit JRPG that could have easily been a game you played on your SNES.
While there was no shortage of pure JRPGs on the Super Nintendo, there are certainly more now, but many are of questionable quality. It is rare to see the highs of Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy VI, and Super Mario RPG, and although Shadows of Adam doesn’t get too close to these standouts, it manages to find its footing and provide a decent and faithful turn-based fantasy experience.
The story centers on the town of Adam and two residents in particular: Kellan and Asrael, the son and adopted daughter, respectively, of hero Orazio. Asrael has the ability to use magic, which situates her as an outsider to the rest of Adam’s citizens. After encountering the darkness of an overgrown forest and the twisted enemies within, you meet a powerful monk named Curtis who joins your team, and the three adventurers set off to find Orazio and uncover the cause behind the growing evil threatening the world. The story is enough to compel you forward, but it isn’t really anything you haven’t seen before; you’ll be collecting three shards instead of four crystals/orbs, so you’ll know what to expect pretty early on.
There is an overworld that is reminiscent of Chrono Trigger, with forests, caves, and towns to visit. Towns are filled with your usual weapon and armor shops and inns, but you also encounter a guild that allows you to craft powerful accessories. The guild actually becomes something of a home base, as you can teleport to it from any inn and from special save points in dungeons. The guild also features a library that provides hints for sidequests that you can complete before the final dungeon. One thing that stands out here and at other points in the game is that the dialogue between characters is well-written and filled with jokes. It’s worth talking to every NPC you meet since many of them have something funny or clever to say.
Progression is also pretty standard RPG fare. You gain experience and gold from fighting turn-based battles, and the experience allows you to level up and increase your stats. You can also equip new weapons, armor, and accessories to power up your characters. Every few levels, each character learns a new skill, with skills requiring AP, basically magic or mana points, to use them. Another interesting element of Shadows of Adam comes into play here: AP partially recharges every turn and when you defeat enemies, but it can cost a lot of AP to use certain abilities, the last ones you learn in particular. For example, Curtis has a skill that does more damage based on how much AP he has, but it uses up his entire meter. Each of your four characters also has an ability that requires no AP but gives you back more AP at the end of the round. Overall, I found the combat satisfying and full of strategy, and it was enjoyable to acquire and figure out how best to use new abilities.
Just before the end of the game, you gain access to an airship and can fly to new places that you’ve never been to or return to old ones. The new areas contain sidequests that can give you incredibly strong equipment and accessories, and they often require that you overcome some interesting bosses. Unfortunately, the experience is largely linear before this point, and the fact that the game only opens up at the 11th hour (almost literally) means you are likely to want to just finish off the main story. Details about the sidequests are a little hidden as well in that you need to read through books in the guild to know about them or how to complete them, but this does reward players for being more thorough, and the sidequests themselves are worthwhile for those who want more to pad out the experience.
The battle animations and dungeons are essentially the same as those found in Final Fantasy Mystic Quest. There are no random encounters in the game as all of the enemies can be seen on screen and engaged with by walking into them. Combat animations taken by your party members or your opponents aren’t particularly special or memorable with two exceptions. On the plus side, Curtis has a suplex move that sees him channel his inner Sabin and lift any enemy, even bosses, into the air. On the negative side, some attacks generate a bright flash on the screen that can be quite distracting and annoying, but fortunately it isn’t too common. As a final note, the handful of dungeons in the game feature a few different puzzles, but you will frequently see a variation of the block-pushing type, and I think it gets a little stale by the end. It would have been nice to see more creativity or mystery in the puzzles.
In terms of presentation, the visuals and art style are absolutely nostalgia-inducing. A wide variety of colors, backgrounds, and enemies keep the gameplay from becoming stale. The menus are fairly easy to use and you can also save anywhere in the game. The music is fine, but there are times when you enter combat and continue to hear the dungeon theme rather than the specific battle theme. Considering the game borrows so heavily from the style of Mystic Quest, I had hoped the music would be more comparable. Ultimately, the look of the game is more of a draw than the sound.
Shadows of Adam is an enjoyable but familiar JRPG. It doesn’t do anything overly surprising, but its fun combat mechanics and humorous writing largely overshadow a by-the-numbers story. It isn’t overly challenging, but sometimes it’s nice to step away from the grind and the random battles and take on something more leisurely. Those who long for the plethora of similar titles from the SNES days will find a better than average adventure here that outclasses many of the budget releases currently on the eShop.