Review – Aragami: Shadow Edition
Having played Aragami when it first launched in 2016, I found it to be a top-tier stealth game with great level design and core gameplay, but it wasn’t perfect by any means. I was excited to see it being ported to Switch as an excuse to play the game again and try out content I had never played before, but the execution left little to be desired.
Aragami tells a simple, but rather effective story. You play as an undead soldier brought back to life by a princess called Yamiko. You find out you are called an “Aragami” and must venture on a quest of revenge to kill those who have wronged you and uncover your past. Whilst the story isn’t anything spectacular, it is more than servicable with some great twists and an ending that ties everything together nicely.
The base game on PC wasn’t exactly a technical showcase and the port over to Nintendo Switch hasn’t gone as smoothly as hoped for. Loading times are longer than they should be and for a minute or so after loading, the framerate is all over the place. There’s a few moments throughout the game where the framerate just drops even though there’s not a lot going on, with the snow levels being particularly guilty of this. Visually, the game follows the same graphical art style that the original had which is a good thing, but the Unity visuals don’t do it justice. Whilst the main character looks great and the good use of lighting helps make the environments look much nicer, the texture work isn’t very attractive. It is often lacking detail, being replicated constantly throughout, and lacking anti-aliasing so there’s plenty of jagged edges, although this is less noticeable in handheld mode.
Then we’ve got the things that actually have an impact on gameplay. Namely, the extreme amounts of pop-ins even at closer ranges. Shadows will render mere feet in-front of you making it harder to plan your next move and enemies will just completely disappear at a distance. It’s nothing game breaking, but it does have a significant impact on the gameplay experience. This is something that you need to know before buying the game. The Switch version is by far the worst version available. Thankfully, the rest of Aragami remains intact.
Gameplay-wise, Aragami is one of the best and most pure stealth games out there today. It strips away the combat and focuses entirely on you becoming an unseen ninja. It brings the classic pacing of the genre back into focus whilst bringing ideas from the Dishonored franchise. You can teleport across short distances as long as there is a shadow to jump to; this can be used to reach high ledges pass through gates or get behind patrols. It’s a great twist on the Blink ability that makes sense in the context of the story. On-top of this, you can also create your own shadow spots to teleport to at the cost of more energy drain.
Combat is pretty much non-existent here and as a huge fan of the stealth genre, this a good thing. Getting caught has consequences as you die in one hit from the enemies which puts you back at the start of the area with no quicksaving. You can’t just swing your sword around and instead have to get behind them to perform a take down. It’s not the most eloquent of mechanics, but it works just fine. Enough to make getting caught a problem. You do have a small arsenal of offensive abilities you can use, but the limited amount of uses means you can’t rely on them to get out of tough situations too often. Using your powers is more of a game of resource management. Use your powers too often and you will drain your bar (which is cleverly shown on your cape), which could put you in a dangerous situation.
Level design for the most part is solid, giving the player plenty of options to tackle the scenario. It has plenty of shadows and bushes to hide in, as well as many ways to get around the enemies. Disappointingly, Aragami falls on the easier side too often with easily abusable AI. However, there are a number of challenging scenarios that really bring out of the stealth gameplay. Sneaking through a large zone without killing an enemy or being seen is incredibly satisfying.
Bundled in with Shadow Edition is the Nightfall DLC. This is something I didn’t have the chance to try out when it originally launched, so I was excited to jump in. Set before the events of the main game, you play as shadow assassins Hyo and Shinobou. It’s a short serviceable addition that doesn’t innovate, but provides some good gameplay challenges with a small handful of new abilities. Its one new addition is some co-operative focused abilities that allow you to teleport directly to your partner; in single player this is changed with the ability to summon the other character to take down a single target.
Sound design is interesting to say the least. The soundtrack does a decent enough job of setting the tone and giving you something to listen to. There’s no real dialogue per se, all the cut-scenes are presented in a fictional gibberish language. Aragami is a budget game and this might have been preferable than hiring for fully voice acted roles. It gets the job done, but it does undercut some good story beats.
With everything together, Aragami holds roughly over ten hours of content with some decent replay value. Each level has an independent scoring system and there’s also a number of alternative costumes that you can unlock. Add to this full co-operative play and there’s even more replay potential.
Aragami is a brilliant stealth game that any fans of the genre should be checking out. Whilst the Switch port isn’t perfect, it’s still a decent enough way to check out the game if it’s the only option available to you.
The transition to Switch isn’t great, though the art style still holds up.
Engaging stealth gameplay that is a throwback to the glory days of the genre.
The music does well with setting the tone, but there was a missed opportunity with having no real voice acting.
Fun Factor: 7.0
Technical issues bring down an otherwise excellent game.
Final Verdict: 7.0
Aragami: Shadow Edition is available now on PC, Playstation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.