Aragami: Shadow Edition Reviews

  • Slam Shot SamSlam Shot Sam912,925
    04 Jun 2018
    12 4 0
    Arigami: Shadow Edition | Xbox One | Review

    Bundling the base Aragami experience alongside its new Nightfall expansion, Aragami: Shadow Edition brings the eponymous shadow assassin and his stealth exploits to Xbox One for the first time.

    After being conjured by the imprisoned Yamiko and tasked with her rescue, vengeful spirit Aragami quickly sets about the task, threatened with evaporation come sunrise. You’ll journey across 13 open levels, approaching them as you see fit, along the way collecting six talismans needed to break the seal holding Yamiko in place. When Aragami begins experiencing memories that seemingly couldn’t belong to him, the quest becomes twofold in also uncovering his true origin and motivation.

    While the narrative can be melodramatic and predictable, for the most part, it’s vaguely interesting and fittingly understated, preventing the compulsory Japanese voice over from beginning to grate. Developer Lince Works are similarly committed to an oriental presentation across the board, with lovely cel-shaded visuals and an evolving feudal soundtrack serving to finish the ensemble.

    It’s all very Okami, which is just one of many classic inspirations that Aragami proudly wears on its sleeve. Perhaps the most obvious borrow is the titular ninja’s Shadow Leap ability, which is almost a direct implementation of Dishonored’s iconic Blink manoeuvre, though here the short-range teleport limits you to hopping between areas bathed in shadow.

    Shadow Leap and other special abilities have their usage limited by Shadow Essence - a mana equivalent resource elegantly displayed on your cape - which drains when stood near a strong light source and is replenished by skulking in the dark. While all stealth games rely on an interplay between light and dark to some extent, this makes their juxtaposition absolutely integral to gameplay - mirroring the story and bringing things full circle.

    It’s visually very Okami, which is just one of many classic inspirations that Aragami proudly wears on its sleeve.
    Taking a risk and stepping out into the light - or, better yet, painting temporary shadows into the environment for concealment beforehand - will often reward you with a collectable scroll used to purchase from a range of upgrades. Included amongst these are powerful new techniques, which draw from a limited pool of charges, as opposed to your Shadow Essence, allowing you to turn invisible, mark enemies, perform ranged kills and much more.

    More opportunities open up as your arsenal grows, making what was already quite an easy outing a veritable cakewalk. While being clocked by a foe will generally result in your death, avoiding that fate isn’t much of a challenge, due to easily manipulable AI and the general advantages you’re afforded on top of your supernatural powers. Being spotted isn’t immediate cause for concern, and neither is lingering in the enemy gaze long enough for them to make you, as you’re afforded a slow motion reaction window by default (though it can be disabled).

    Cutting straight through early levels is a hot knife through butter, but as the opposing Army of Light grow in size and diversity - integrating ranged bowmen and soldiers with portable light sources - you’ll be forced into an ever-so-slightly more considered approach towards the tail end of the game. As such, stealth aficionados will want to jump straight in at the highest difficulty setting to sharpen enemy wits and bolster their numbers.

    Though we did crave more of a challenge - which a scoring system looks to provide, but there’s little motivation to get involved in the absence of leaderboards - there’s definitely satisfaction to be gleaned from playing the ultimate assassin, requiring only a small time investment to plot and execute a swift and deadly strike, erase the evidence and disappear without a trace.

    Though we did crave more of a challenge, there’s definitely satisfaction to be gleaned from playing the ultimate assassin.
    While improving your letter grade likely won’t draw you back for a second playthrough, achievements and skins awarded for completing polarising lethal and pacifist runs might just do the job, across both the main game and its Nightfall expansion.

    A prequel story featuring two new playable characters, each equipped with a condensed set of fresh abilities, Nightfall spans four of the strongest chapters found in the Shadow Edition. Whether you choose to play as Shinobu or her sensei, Hyo, you’ll traverse complex new environments littered with debuting enemies and obstacles that, combined with the more limited array of shadow powers on offer, inject an engaging level of challenge that the main game mostly lacks.

    It’s very apparent that Lince Works put a lot of time and effort into Nightfall, making it a rare example of an expansion that surpasses the game it’s attached to. Concise diary entries flesh out the narrative and offer a subtle guiding hand, while the buddy dynamic between its leading duo contextualises the game’s cross-platform online co-op, rather than just cloning the protagonist without explanation.

    Clearly then the development team have learnt a great deal in the nearly two years since the original launch of Aragami, which has us eager to see what they might come up with next. When it comes to their current product, while a mixed bag, many will rightly be tempted by the prospect of playing as one of the industry’s best-realised ninjas in terms of pure, death-dealing gameplay. It’s just a shame that this power trip can come at the cost of your overall engagement, letting you breeze through the beautiful environments with a nonchalant approach to stealth and story alike.

    Pros

    + Powerful abilities make you feel like a legendary assassin
    + Nightfall expansion is a great addition
    + Striking commitment to an oriental presentation
    + Marries narrative & gameplay through its light vs. dark theme
    + Open levels with multiple avenues of approach...

    Cons

    - … Many of which you’ll never use, as carving a direct path is easy
    - Hard to get invested in a protagonist that only exists for one night
    - Feels like an amalgamation of classics you’ve likely already played
    - No leaderboards to make pursuing highscores worthwhile

    7/10

    Achievements

    Aragami has a simple list that can be completed in a couple of playthroughs. I'd advise going pacifist and gathering the collectibles (which can be highlighted in-game with the use of an upgraded ability) on your first playthrough, then utilising the ability to scan for enemies and your upgraded suite of skills to handily dispatch everyone on a second trip through. After doing that for both the main game and its expansion, it'll be a simple case of mopping any of the miscellaneous tasks you may, but probably won't, have missed.

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    Originally written for Pass the Controller, a digital copy of the game was provided for the purpose of this review.

    Feel free to check out my other Xbox One (X) reviews, as well as my PlayStation 4 (Pro) and PlayStation VR reviews on TrueTrophies, and PC reviews on TrueSteamAchievements.

    Thanks for reading!
    3.5