I am an old-school JRPG nut. By old school, I mean of the 16-bit variety. I still love the genre, but my joy is a bit tempered because I lack the kind of time to invest in them that I had in high school and college, when the likes of Final Fantasy III (nee VI) and Chrono Trigger were all I could think about. Not only that, but the spiky, zipper-clad students that are now part and parcel with these types of game don’t do it for me in the same way those super-deformed, big-eyed sprites did back in the day.
At first blush, Shadows of Adam sparks those fires within, what with it having a village on the brink of destruction that only a local hero can save, airships and sweet, sweet turn-based battles. And by the end… well, it’s still pretty much those things, but that’s not bad by any means.
The story follows the adventures of four brave warriors out to save the town of Adam from being enveloped by darkness, and all that. I’ve come to realize that the parts I enjoy from these games are anything but the story. The plot is trope-heavy and the writing a bit underwhelming, but there was just enough charm in the characters and sufficient thinly-veiled mystery around what was happening to keep me pushing on through the slow sections of exposition.
What I do really like about Shadows of Adam are the world and the combat.
I do love to walk around in tiny forests, path-blocking mountains and wave-lapping seas. I’m more than a little bit smitten by cartography, so whenever I see maps, especially those designed in the vein of 16-bit JRPGs, I can’t help but smile. Likewise, the areas you journey to are twisty and filled with secrets, satisfying in the way they convey progress. I’m also a big fan of JRPG villages, these weird little landscapes littered with hint-giving denizens and awkwardly furnished homes. It properly conveys a nostalgia the game doesn’t actually have, which is high praise in my book.
The battle system is also gratifying; a simple turn-based affair with a little bit of flair in its magic/ability system. You and your foes take turns trading blows, with all the prerequisite attacks and spells at your command. The big innovation here is that you can gain back your ability points through regular combat, which changes the flow immensely. Whereas in other games I’d be very cautious with my approach, here, the fact that I could win back AP without having to use items meant I found myself using special skills more often. It made regular battles more breezy, which is a sentiment that permeates the whole game.
Shadows of Adam does what I think it sets out to do – remind you of “the good old days”, entertain you all the while, then get out. It doesn’t blow you away with hidden depths; it gives you those good feelings over ten-ish hours, then lets you move on with your life. It straddles the line between being a gentle reminder of the things we love while still feeling like a fresh, new experience. It doesn’t push the envelope by any means, but it doesn’t have to, and, quite frankly, I don’t think the developers intended it to. It’s straight up comfort food, JRPG style.
Shadows of Adam was developed by Something Classic Games and is available on PC, Mac, Linux and Switch. We reviewed the Switch version.
Disclosure statement: Review code for Shadows of Adam was provided by CIRCLE/Flyhigh Works. A Most Agreeable Pastime operates as an independent site, and all opinions expressed are those of the author.
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