Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Game 25: Cadash (Genesis | TG-16 | Xbox) - Living on the Edge (Finished! + Final Rating)

Game 25

Released1989 (Arcade JP) - 1991 (TurboGrafx-16) - 1992 (Genesis)
PlatformGenesis | TG-16 | Xbox
PublisherTaito (Working Designs [TG-16])
Exploration - Side-scrolling (light platforming)
Combat - Real-time
Series - Standalone

As detailed in a previous cut turned accept post I decided to play Cadash, and blog about it. Well, I think my original decision to cut was the correct one after now playing it; however, I'll follow through and give it a full review. The turning point for inclusion was learning it's possible buy and sell equipment. Well it turns out there's only buying, and there aren't any item decisions (they're all used automatically as needed). The world on the other hand is a little more open than I thought, and it's possible to backtrack to revisit towns or grind out some levels.
Four characters available on TG-16 and Xbox (Genesis only has fighter and mage)
It's definitely an arcade style game where you're expected to feed quarters to win (with a high score). I played through the arcade version by way of Taito Legends 2 released for the Xbox. This version offered varying difficultly levels, including a custom mode to adjust enemy difficulty and play time. The game is timed in the arcade version. I played yesterday on easy, which adds 8 minutes at the start of every chapter. The console ports don't offer any difficulty setting, and time is removed from the equation.
The story goes that a princess was kidnapped, and our adventurers have come to answer the call. The party (or solo character) traverses a dungeon to find a black slime guarding a portal. Portals connect the game's seamless sprawling levels, of which there are five. On the TG-16, the levels are disconnected a bit as towns and dungeons are connected by a cave entrance, and on the Genesis some dungeons are broken down further and connected by doorways.
Grinding on early monsters in the first cave
The first cave on the Genesis
Comparable shot from the Xbox
As you can tell from the graphics (sorry for the blurry shots from the Xbox, they're taken from a console recording), the ports differ a bit. The Xbox version is as close to the original arcade as possible on console without playing in an arcade. This means they also left things in like credit feeding, of which I took advantage, but it was only about $3.00 to beat the game.
Part of the arcade's attract mode
Same screen on TG-16, there's no comparable screen on Genesis
Other changes include a revamp of the leveling system and values for each monster killed. Level layout was modified a bit to accommodate differences in screen transitions. Bosses and enemies remained mostly unchanged; however, the Genesis version cut out a giant plant boss that offered a mid-game elixir (full heal), and the TG-16 doesn't reveal the final boss as a dragon until the re-fight back at the castle.
Not available in the Genesis version
Oh, Working Designs and their translations... here we're back at the castle before the big reveal
I had fun with the game, but I don't think anyone should considered it an RPG, no matter how it scores below. It's a good action game, and more fun with a bunch of friends, but don't expect an epic adventure.

Xbox - Final Time: 1h15m
TG-16 - Final Time: 1h20m
Genesis - Final Time: 1h40m
Like saving you...
What about the important thing?
That's a very good reproduction of the original screen
Combat is well balanced, and there's little opportunity to get overpowered. Even at max level the final areas pose a threat to the unprepared. There's no chance to heal during the lead up to the final boss all the way to the end. The only character I didn't play was the fighter since he had the least options. The ninja at least had projectile attacks that could fire in any of eight directions, and the priestess' flail covers nearly half the screen. The mage, of course, has his spells.
The final boss' form has two heads, but not in the TG-16 version
There's a good range of enemies, and there's hardly any overlap between the five areas. The bosses provide a good challenge. It is possible to over grind (although you need to watch that clock in the arcade version) and trivialize most of the game, but it's still fun to see all the different enemies. Another notable difference in the Genesis version is the lack of flying insect enemies that cause poison. This leaves spiders as the only threat that requires an antidote as poison quickly depletes HP.
I'm not sure two heads would fit on the screen
Rewards for defeating monsters are worth the effort (limited to gold and exp), and new levels come at a good pace. Most bosses have an AI pattern that's easy to decipher, but getting into that groove is harder on the Genesis version. Projectiles, especially those from the slime bosses, are sped up to at least double their speed in other ports. Luckily that version comes with 2 continues, and more lives available to purchase; TG-16 has no concept of lives or continues beyond the elixir items.
This fight isn't as close as it seems... I had 4 lives and 2 elixirs left
I suppose one of the main reasons this game falls under the RPG umbrella are levels and stats. Sure these increase through experience gained from defeating monsters. Sure stats play a large role in dishing out more damage and absorbing it. I'll even grant it the fantasy motif complete with rural towns that sell items, weapons, and lodging. In all respects it does well with the dressings of an RPG.
It even offers a mocking villain
Yet, most of the points this game scores in are deep in a few select areas, and missed out on customization. It was a nice surprise to see weapons and armor represented on the characters. In the above picture my ninja has a black suit complete with a separate mask and upgraded his projectile to a fireball. Yet, there really aren't any options that I had to decide. If I could afford the newest equipment, it was always better.
My mage dressed in red... also, this area changed in the Genesis to one moving platform from three
Lastly, as expected for an action game, the controls are spot on in all versions. Responsive and smooth, the movement doesn't drag on. I do wish they changed the magic system in the Genesis version. To select a spell, hold the attack button for half a second, and a display of the last spell cast is shown. Continue to hold and it cycles through all known spells. In both arcade and TG-16, there's a small pause at each spell accompanied by a chime. On Genesis, that audio cue is missing, and the delay is reduced, so selecting the correct spell is troublesome. The Genesis has three buttons though, and that third button could have been used to ready and cycle through the spell list while the attack button could cast it as normal. That's my biggest complaint.
Thought I was exaggerating? That's about half the screen... the priest's shield spell is the best spell, although I never tried the time spell only available in the Xbox/arcade version
Yeah, no puzzles. This is really where the game starts to show off its unfinished side. The main quest to find the princess is sprinkled with short objectives like "go through that cave to the end." This mainly consists of going right, but there are a few times left is required.
There's a small maze at one point
No side quests, unless we're going to count the optional boss no one pointed us towards (and removed from the Genesis). Everything in the game is for the purpose of getting to the princess, and defeating the last boss. There aren't any mini-games to speak of, which isn't surprising, but I thought I'd point it out.
This doesn't quite do this part justice...
There's only one way to accomplish each goal, and they all have to be done in the correct order. At one point we backtrack to speak to an animal to find a hidden passage after getting a charm that allows the character to communicate. That passage only opens after we've spoken to that animal, it's not possible to skip it.
The Genesis' take on the same screen is more impressive, but the flame jet still doesn't curve as it moves
The names of people and places change, but the story remains the same. The princess of one kingdom is kidnapped by the big bad because he has plans to take over all kingdoms. He's either Baarogue or Balrog. In our adventures we save a young girl revealed to be a mermaid, become a gnome to enter tiny houses, and avenge a town hero killed by bandits. All throughout, NPCs offer a bit of back story to each continent, and at least a few identify where to go next.
Please don't say 'flesh'... please don't say 'flesh'
Missing is some general lore that gives a sense of immersion. Instead the focus is always on what the player needs to accomplish next. This doesn't feel like a thriving or dying world, but one in stasis. There aren't any decisions or consequences laid out for any of my actions either. Here we see the story really isn't the central point of the game.
This is all Working Designs, they were a cooky bunch that loved throwing in pop culture references
Just because I think it's interesting to point out the differences in names, here are a few more. The hero from the demolished town is always named Abel, but his faithful dog went from Ling Ling to Reen Tinn (Rin Tin Tin?) to Alex. The helpful gnome who suggested the alternate path to the herb which allowed the transformation to become a gnome was named Chovin for the arcade and TG-16, but changed to Jobim on the Genesis. In fact, the name of the herb is different as well: named Maiya originally, but called Lilliput (Gulliver's Travels?) on the Genesis. There are probably others, but I'll leave that to other articles and sites that point out all the differences between ports (if this isn't a thing, then it should be).
Rating: 2
Other versions didn't even consider the player going back to talk to other animals
For an arcade game I'm surprised that we're even talking about collecting items. Really equipment is the only thing tracked that isn't consumable, and there's no inventory screen to admire the items. It's unfortunate more wasn't done with this, but it doesn't surprise me it's so limited. There's no sense of collecting, and no difference between buying only the last set of equipment or iterating through them.
Most shops offer at least one item for each character... I think someone missed a 0, but this is also in the arcade version
Gold is always a valuable resource. It's used to buy equipment, herbs, antidotes, and other necessary items. I could spend it all on the 8 HP increment item if I didn't have to back track so far. Strangely, unlimited purchases were allowed for that item except in the Genesis version (you could only buy it four times). The arcade had an item to buy more time (something I took advantage of), the TG-16 had the HP sink, and the Genesis allowed me to buy extra lives (which I ended up never needing).
Strangely, the Genesis version's shop is limited to 4 items, and the final shop only has fighter equipment
There's nowhere to store items, and herbs and antidotes are limited to 8 or 4 depending on the version. There are treasure chests that offer up each, but if you're at max they won't do anything (not even heal). Hidden throughout the levels are invisible items you need to attack 4 or 5 times before they'll appear, and as far as I can tell, there's no way to know about these without randomly attacking all locations. Obviously the hoarder mentality hadn't quite hit the arcades at this point.
Rating: 2
The price of time increases with every purchase of it
I found the graphics and music offered their own unique charm to each port, and on the whole they were all enjoyable. The world layout would have been more impressive if they managed the seamless transitions of the original, but I understand there were hardware limitations. The atmosphere was well formed, and each continent had a unique feel. Each was connected via a portal, which felt like stepping into another world.
One of the more unique areas
There weren't any special points of interest though, and the dungeons themselves were all similar in how they twisted along a single linear path (some exceptions such as the shortcut in level 2). The Genesis offered the most compact environments, and required some caves to be carved up into much smaller passages connected by doors.
The fiery underground of the fourth dungeon
One design decision I appreciated, which may have been a disguised limitation, was after defeating the fire demon--in both TG-16 and arcade--the player was forced to backtrack after the boss and know to use the flute to cross a fiery moat; however, the Genesis offered a bridge revealed by the flute over the fire that encircled the small island where the battle took place. The door used to get to the boss fight strangely no longer functioned, but instead the player is forced to learn what the flute does. It also eliminated the backtracking from the boss as the door on the other side exited near the graveyard above.
The console version's environments are similar, but I wasn't able to capture screens as good as these
Final Rating20 [33%]

Overall, I'm glad I played it instead of discounting it entirely. I don't think it deserved a full post, but showing off the differences intrigued me enough to put in the effort. There is a speedrun on YouTube done with the ninja. It's split into three parts though due to the ancient limit of 10-minute videos. Going forward I'll try to include more details and actually play the games for a couple hours before I cut them. That means I'll postpone my cut of King's Bounty just in case, and get right into Rings of Power. I'm very excited about diving into that one as I just read through the 120 page manual (well, 80+ since the last 30 - 40 are actually a walkthrough).
Sweet! High score


  1. I wish this game had been at the arcades near me. Your blog post is the first I've ever heard of it.

    Cadash reminds me of Dungeons & Dragons Tower of Doom (and its sequel), which technically has hero levels, and also an unusual amount of inventory management for an arcade game.

    Cadash also reminds me a little bit of Magic Sword... but in that arcade game, the hirelings were far more interesting than the generic hero.

    1. Combat in Cadash has more in common with Magic Sword: less beat'em up with health bars and knockdowns, more action style attacking as fast as possible. Also, there's only a single plane of movement.

      The D&D beat'em up games were recently (within the last year) released in a compilation. I've been meaning to pick it. A friend imported them for the Saturn and they were a lot of fun.

  2. This game was in the arcades where I live, but not many people understood the "RPG-Style" of the game, aside from the hard difficulty, so this was one of those games which were normally "alone"

    1. I don't have much experience with arcade games. I remember going to arcades quite a bit, but the games themselves are bit of a blur beyond The Simpsons Game, TMNT, and various fighting games. Gauntlet Legends was probably one I sunk the most time and quarters into.