Shadow Gangs Review
Developer: JKM Corp.
Publisher: JKM Corp.
Genre: Fighting, Action, Platformer, Arcade
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Age Rating: PEGI 12
Release Date: 07/01/2021
A code was provided for review purposes.
Shadow Gangs, a side-scrolling action platformer, pays homage to Shinobi and other retro games in the game style. It revitalizes the formula, maintaining similar gameplay while updating the mechanics. You play as Dan the Crimson Ninja. Throughout the fifteen levels, Dan traverses a variety of enemies, boss fights and gauntlets of platforming.
Family is Forever
The story in Shadow Gangs is not substantial, and it does not need to be. The game is focused on its gameplay. Dan must rescue his family from the Shadow Force. While there is dialogue shown between Dan and some of the boss characters, it is overshadowed by the gameplay. While I was not impressed with the story, the game does not need a strong story because it is mainly focused on the gameplay and platforming.
Kicking up a Storm
The gameplay in Shadow Gangs is the forefront of the game. Without any power-ups, he defeats enemies by shooting a shuriken or with his punches and kicks. Dan can encounter various power-ups around the map, and they add variety to his capabilities. He can pick up capsules that allow him to drop mines, expel fireballs, and most importantly, transform into a ninja. When Dan is in his ninja outfit, his punches and kicks are replaced with slashes from his katana, and his ranged weapon becomes a submachine gun. This not only makes him look more powerful but doubles the damage he deals to enemies. The introduction of power-ups helped add strategy to the game and made for a more fully fleshed out experience.
In addition to the diverse toolkit that Dan has, the enemies are also innovative and learning how to combat each enemy is extremely rewarding. There are new enemies implemented in every mission, and they keep the gameplay engaging and fresh. While the enemies are unique and well designed, at times it seems the number of enemies is overwhelming and facing multiple enemies at the same time can make the player feel helpless and as if they are doomed to fail. Moreover, due to the knockback system implemented in Shadow Gangs, it is very easy to take multiple hits without being able to evade. This can make deaths feel cheap and entices the player to play more passively.
The game also has bonus levels that switch up the action-oriented gameplay. There are minigames that have you killing ninjas without platforming as well as a first-person shooter section. Completing these during a playthrough of the game grants powerups, and an enjoyable escape from the gameplay. The inclusion of bonus levels pays homage to arcade games as well as adding some diversity to the gameplay. They are challenging, therefore mastering them is exciting and engaging.
Shadow Gangs also has a scoring system and multiple difficulty settings, allowing players to replay stages multiple times and still feel rewarded. These features help incentivize playing the game multiple times. Due to tight combat and challenging enemies, mastering each level is imperative, and it makes breezing through easier levels enjoyable. There are many reasons to continue playing this game, even after beating it on normal difficulty.
So, No Cheat Codes?
This game is not beginner-friendly at all. There is no tutorial, and learning the game comes either from reading the help page or spending significant time experimenting. The lack of a tutorial can leave players confused and it would have benefitted the game to design one. I understand why the developers decided to omit the tutorial, as their target audience is veteran players who are familiar with games like Shadow Gangs. However, having specific rules such as only having a double jump in the ninja form are never mentioned to the player, and having a tutorial would help alleviate confusion.
This game is punishing. Levels are long, and the checkpoints are infrequent. The player has three lives and depending on the difficulty, the player can have up to two continues. While the use of lives forces the player to master the game, the lack of accessibility options makes me hesitant to recommend this to anyone who does not have significant experience in gaming. Options such as turning off limited lives or providing the player unlimited continues would have made the game more accessible and would have made the unforgiving enemy design more understandable.
Despite my personal desire for the game to integrate options for less skilled players, I do not feel justified deducting points due to this, as the game was targeted towards those who were fans of the arcade-style games. Regardless, giving the players options is generally a good thing, and players who are not willing to devote substantial time to the game may want to avoid this title.
The sound design in this game is excellent. The tracks are strikingly retro but do not solely rely on that to succeed. The sound design mirrors the gameplay and helps immerse the players into the world. The sound effects are also lovely, offering indications when enemies die and having callbacks to retro arcade systems with an announcer at the beginning of each level.
The visual design in Shadow Gangs is also delightful, having vibrant colours, clean enemy design, and stunning backgrounds. Each level is completely unique, and the variety is extremely enjoyable. Moreover, each enemy looks completely different than all the others, meaning the player will be able to understand how to counteract each enemy effectively.
Shadow Gangs offers an engaging retro-inspired experience, but it misses a few things that I feel would benefit the game. One thing that frustrated me was that the button for the ranged attack was the same as the melee attack. It made inputting melee and ranged attacks more variable and led to unexpected deaths. Additionally, there is no restart button. To restart, the player is forced to quit to the main menu and manually start again. While this is not a large burden, implementing a quick restart would save the time of the players, and it would improve the game.
I was disappointed by how the game handled the text. The game has an option in settings to skip all text throughout the game. If this setting were turned on, the text would not be visible. If you wanted the text on, it would play as expected. One small gripe I had was that a player may want to read the text once but not every time they die. Normally, the game would implement a feature such as pressing (+) to skip the dialogue. Shadow Gangs did not implement this feature. While they have a feature to prevent the reading of text, I think they should continue to add options to cater to all audiences. Additionally, there was no music playing when there was text to be read. This made reading the text uncomfortable, and as if it did not take place in the game world.
On the flip side, one thing I really enjoyed was that the controls were completely customizable, making for easy adjustments if the controls were not what the player was familiar with. From my experience with it, this customization worked perfectly.
For avid arcade fans and dedicated players, Shadow Gangs is an excellent experience, having excellent sound design, visuals, and gameplay. It is crucial to understand that the game is challenging, and I would not recommend this game to naïve players or those who rarely play games. The game achieves exactly what it intended to do, paying homage to retro-styled games while revitalizing them. I really enjoyed my experience with Shadow Gangs.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can purchase Shadow Gangs from the Nintendo eShop by following the link below: eShop
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