On something of an editorial note here, I have to say that RPGs do not belong in arcades. They are too time consuming, too complicated, and too thought oriented to appeal to anyone who has a few quarters to blow and a few minutes to do it in. Throw in a complete and utter lack of a saving option and you've got a product that's sure to lose. To further prove my point, I would like to point out that there has been only one attempt to actually make such a game, and the end result was a freakish mixture of RPG and mindless button throttling. Eventually, it found it's way onto the Genesis. Its name was… Cadash. Here's my review.
The kingdom of Dirzar was a land of peace and prosperity. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and the beautiful princess Salassa brought joy to the lives of the countless peasants. All was well. But then, on one cold, bloodstained day, the evil Balrog, prince of the demons, flew into town and scorched the earth with his evil fire, and then kidnapped the princess for his own twisted reasons. The land seemed defeated, but then again, night is always darkest before the dawn. A warrior came that day to appear before the king. Without hesitation, he volunteered to risk life and limb on what seemed to be a suicide mission. The forces against him were mighty and his search for the Balrog's castle would cross the entire world, but he still journeyed on. His quest had begun.
Cadash is a hack-and-slash sidescroller with a few RPG concepts included. After choosing whether you will be a fighter or a mage and naming him, you begin your quest to find the princess. The first thing to do to accomplish this task is to walk. Then, when you find an enemy, you hit it with your weapon. After it's dead, you keep walking. And if another enemy appears (Which seems to happen very often for some reason), you hit him too! Now here is where the instructions get tricky. If you see a hole, you can push another button to make yourself jump over it. Eventually, you just might die. Don't worry though, because in this strange land of magical forces, you can press the start button to make your hero miraculously come back from the dead at the spot where you died! It's a miracle!
Sadly, I am being only partially sarcastic. The entire game is sickeningly linear and mind-numbingly repetitive. You just keep walking on and on, and the enemies just pour out from the sides of the screen forever and… AAAARRGGH! It gets real old, real fast. Even the boss fights are terrible. Sometimes you will reach them with only a scrap of your HP left, but find that they can only do one point of damage to you per hit and soon go down in a blaze of sour grapes, while other bosses will tear you apart unless you know exactly how to battle them.
Now, I did mention that a few RPG elements were involved in this violent romp through the five countries of the world, and since I don't have anything better to do, here they are. As you repeatedly hack away at the terrifying monstrosities that charge at you endlessly and without mercy, you collect experience and gold. Once you accumulate enough experience, you gain an experience level and your offense, defense, and jumping height increase (not too radical of an idea), and with the gold you collect from certain enemies, you can strut on into town and buy yourself a newer, deadlier sword or an extra life so you won't have to fear the reaper. There are very few shops and very little to buy there, so don't get too excited.
Also, if for some reason you decide to play as the mage, you can learn spells by gaining levels. To use them, you hold down the attack button and let it go when you see the appropriate spell image appear in the bubble of the mage's head. This, of course, consumes your MP, but staying at a hotel can restore that. Finally, you can talk to the fine citizens you meet along the way for nominally useful advice and extremely obvious hints. Now if that doesn't spell out RPG, I don't know what does.
Of course, as wonderful as all this gaming excitement sounds, there is one major area that I think was a paradox for the game's makers. The game was originally made for the arcades, which means that it was meant to be beatable in the time that it took your older sibling to find what he/she/it wanted at the mall and then pick you up. To make such a game with a save option would be a waste. However, this forces you to train and retrain your characters every time you play, and even though you gain levels fairly quickly, a chore is still a chore. I myself had few problems with this because as soon as I beat it with both characters I decided to put it away forever. It was probably the best decision I'd ever made.
As a final note on the gameplay, I'd like to mention that it is not quite the arcade game it once was. Those who played it in the arcades will be glad to know that the timer that taunted them once has been removed, allowing you all the time in the world to train and wander and dawdle about. For those of you who hadn't played it there, you should know that when the timer ran out, a mean old skull of death would attack you mercilessly until you found the next level or some other time restoring source, but that doesn't matter.
Sadly, the priestess and ninja characters were also left out, severely limiting the entertainment value of the game and removing most of the purpose of having the two-player option. Those were my two favorites! Someday I'll get back at those corporate goons… oh, and Gameplay gets a 67%.
The game was quite impressive visually considering its startling age. All the characters and enemies are large, detailed 2D sprites that march along on the 2D background. There is a good variety of enemy types to combat, and although creativity was at an all time low when they made this, there are a few interesting beasts to see.
Level design is mixed. While there are a few downright weird places to visit (Take level three for example), the other, less appealing areas are actually repeated for your viewing displeasure. If you've seen one cave, you've seen 'em all. There is some palette swapping involved, but at least the colors used fit the area well. Despite its flaws, this game was drop-dead gorgeous at the time. Graphics get an 86%.
For some reason, I liked the game's music. I will be the first to point out that it's nothing more than poor-quality, medieval game garbage, but something about it just made me feel nostalgic. I don't know what it was, but I couldn't help but think of the old 8-bit systems when I played this. It isn't remarkable by any means, and none of the songs on the undersized soundtrack would take more than twenty minutes to compose, but it helped set the mood a bit and overshadowed the crummy little sound effects.
The sounds were just terrible in this. They were all extremely quiet so you wouldn't notice it, but I felt obligated to turn the volume up to full blast in spite of my grandma's cries for me to shut up. After doing so, I discovered that jumping made a little swish noise, magic made a little mystical noise, and hitting enemies made a strange noise that cannot truly be defined. Whatever it was intended to be, you probably shouldn't worry about it unless you keep the volume really high.
There are a few other sundry sounds to be heard throughout the game, but they are disappointing for the most part. There is obviously no voice acting included, but I suppose there's a chance that they said it so softly that I missed it. In any case, Sound/Music gets a 73%.
The plot was about as old as it gets. A giant monster attacks the castle and kidnaps the princess. By some strange miracle, a brave warrior with no past appears and decides to save the day. On the way, villagers ask him to assist them with their many problems, and by some ingenious twist of fortune, all of these tasks just happen to unlock the next area for you to explore. The only good points of the storyline would be that there is a small plot twist near the ending and a last boss that is almost from J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" series. Not only were his books interesting and somewhat ground breaking, but his name has four parts to it and he only lets you know what one of them is! If you want a story, read his works. If you want to mindlessly waste a few hours, play Cadash. Storyline gets a 62%.
Finally, we reach the controls. Depending on which character you use, you will be faced with differing amounts of problems. Should you play as the Fighter, the only thing that might bug you is the jumping setup. There is no way to specify to the game whether you will use a high jump or a low jump. When you hit the jump button, you always jump with the same force. Also, you have to hold down the movement button before you hit jump to make yourself go in any specific direction. I have often suffered needless damage because my character jumped straight up instead of out of harm's way.
If you play as the mage, all of these problems are magnified. His jumping skill is worse, his attack range is pathetic, and even the usage of spells can get on your nerves. If you wait half a second too long while selecting a spell, you may wind up firing a puny fireball instead of a monstrous explosion of pain (By the way, no matter how cool that sounds, all of the spell effects are very cheesy). Control gets a 70%.
As I said in the beginning, arcades don't need RPGs, and those who buy and play those games when they come to cartridge form are usually disappointed. Unless you are talking about something made by Square perhaps, I doubt that a game of this type will ever exist that can excel in even one area.
Rather than continue complaining about this failed creation, I would rather plug in one more advertisement for J.R.R. Tolkien. If you haven't even read "The Hobbit", try it. It's very well written and is one of the few fantasy books to ever achieve truly phenomenal fame. As for Cadash, it was a pretty face on an average game when it was first made, but now it isn't even that. Overall, Cadash gets a 71%.
Gameplay - Just not my cup of tea. 67%
Graphics - I'm not sure why, but even the skeletons bleed. 86%
Sound/Music - Just because I liked it doesn't mean it was good. 73%
Storyline - ::shudders:: 62%
Controls - Can't they get anything right? 70%
Overall - Not terrible, but close. 71%