Traditional JRPGs are getting harder to find in the mainstream as the likes of Final Fantasy and Xenoblade broaden their horizons. Sure, we have Octopath Traveler and the upcoming Shin Megami Tensei V, but they’re not as common as they were in, for instance, the PlayStation 2 era. That makes Shadows of Adam a breath of fresh air. Developed by Something Classic Games and published by CIRCLE Ent., it’s a bite-sized JRPG directly and joyously inspired by SNES RPGs, especially Final Fantasy Mystic Quest. The developers claim that they cut out all the fat from that era to create a refined modern experience, and while that ends up being a bit of exaggerated PR, it’s still a game enthusiasts of the genre should check out.
Missing: famous hero
Shadows of Adam has a great premise that it never quite goes for the jugular with. Kellan and his adopted sister Asrael are the children of a renowned hero named Orazio who disappeared a decade ago. When an infestation of monstrous vines threatens their home of Adam, Kellan and Asrael fight to remove the source of the threat. In the process, they encounter Orazio’s spirit, which sets off a mystery that sends the pair (plus two more allies) on a journey across the world.
The writing in the game is a happy medium between serious and slapstick, the kind of tone that was common in the days of Mystic Quest and Lufia II. The banter between the heroes isn’t groundbreaking, but it’s entertaining. The villains, however, are mostly just annoying, with the most prominent antagonist basically be a “Kefka Lite.”
With the game’s (comparatively) short runtime, there aren’t many events to strengthen the connections between the characters, but the narrative does make smart use of flashbacks to feed the player plot in calculated doses. In fact, by the time it’s over, it still feels like there are questions yet to be answered or even explored, which is both good and bad. I think the developer could have “gone bigger” with the story in many ways, but what’s here is still serviceable and enjoyable.
Found: satisfying combat
The combat system really stands out in Shadows of Adam. In lieu of traditional limited MP, you have AP that recharges slightly at the end of every round, encouraging you to go all-out in every battle. Each character has distinct abilities, and because enemies are strong against or weak to so many different types of attacks, it ensures all characters will have a time to shine. I found myself changing strategy slightly on a regular basis, which is actually pretty awesome. Really the only constant was a reliance on an ability called “Blur,” which raises evasion enormously and borrows heavily from the old Final Fantasy IV spell “Blink.”
Granted, I was never actually close to dying in the game (though I didn’t complete all the optional endgame content). And like in most RPGs, I finished the game with a bazillion unused healing items in my inventory. But the game has an optional arena that poses unique challenges, and there is New Game+ with harder enemies.
Dungeon to dungeon
The first few hours of Shadows of Adam are nicely paced as you become accustomed to the world and its characters. Likewise, the endgame where you get to re-explore the world at your leisure for sidequests is a lot of fun. In-between, however, the game mostly consists of just dungeon after dungeon. Only short breathers occur between them, and it gets a little exhausting. Similarly, dungeons rely on the same few types of puzzles throughout, and they often feel tedious rather than challenging. The final dungeon is the worst offender, dragging on far too long.
On the bright side, you can save anywhere, and there are no random battles. Enemies are static and usually visible on the dungeon map, strategically placed in your way like in Mystic Quest. Plus, the whole game just has really attractive pixel art. Everything is a treat to see. Although, airship travel can cause slowdown sometimes, and in docked mode, I would notice strange lines flash on the screen for no reason sometimes.
Lastly, the soundtrack is a mixed bag. Some tracks are quite nice, some are just okay, and a couple are distracting because they’re so derivative of tracks from the famous SNES RPGs. Overall, it’s serviceable.
JRPG entertainment that won’t take your whole life to finish
Shadows of Adam is a solid JRPG that doesn’t just cash in on SNES nostalgia. Its excellent battle system and attractive pixel art make it worth the cost of entry if you don’t mind some pacing issues. I play JRPGs very slowly and finished the game in 16 hours, which means you can likely squeeze a good 12 hours out of it. So basically, if you’d love to play an RPG but can’t dedicate hours a day to it, Shadows of Adam could be a great solution on Switch.
A review code was provided by the publisher.
Proofs Editor for Enthusiast Gaming. I’m a writer who loves Super Nintendo and Japanese role-playing games to an impractical degree. I have recently returned from living in South Korea.