When it comes to the structure of storytelling, we are traditionally conditioned to root for the forces of light over darkness. In this case, the tale of Aragami: Shadow Edition instead flips the coin with the tip of a blade, making the only light found to be pure being the very entity that summons our undead protagonist. Yamiko, the light that awakens the darkness for aid, is the astral projection of a young woman kidnapped by an Empire of light known as the Kaiho. As for Aragami, he is the darkness summoned from his slumber with very little understanding of his purpose other than to bloody his blade under her desperate plea for help.
Aragami: Shadow Edition is a stealth game through and through. The overall premise is to simply sneak and slice your way from A to B as cleanly as possible with the exception of the crimson and carcasses you’ll leave behind. If you become sloppy in your mission, the enemies will warn others to which one single shot of a fluorescent razor’s edge will evidently tear apart the matter that binds your animated form. However, Aragami isn’t without his own supernatural strengths. He possesses the ability to shift from shadow to shadow like Batman making a deal with the Devil. Yet while he may dominate the power of the shadows themselves, any light that beams down upon him will weaken his attributes, forcing the Ninja to regenerate in the nearest, darkest corner.
As for the enemy, their clumsy animation and dead eyes will certainly fool the player into thinking that they can get away with murder. The AI is far from organic, but that doesn’t mean to say that the tasks that lie in each wide open arena will be a walk in the park. Animations of kills on the player’s part are lengthy in action, meaning that if other foes do witness your deed your slow recovery will inevitably lead to your demise. It may at first seem as though you’re standing as the Queen on a Chess board against Rooks, but your ultimate lack in agility presses you to approach with caution.
There are moments where you can gamble on haphazard exposure to get the job done quicker thanks to an enemy’s own stoned reaction. This can be useful considering the checkpoints can be quite the journey apart in failure. You’re unlikely going to be able to get away with chasing and chopping too much though, as the enemy does begin to slightly sharpen up the further into the story you get. Thankfully, you are able to enhance your skills by finding scrolls littered around the place to be used as a form of currency. These perks aren’t a necessity to get the job done, but employing them can help freshen up your approach somewhat.
Which goes to say, Aragami: Shadow Edition uses a simple formula that does work well, but stubbornly sticks with it. Besides the change in environments and objectives, you will be pretty much repeating similar actions and patterns until the very end. There were moments where I felt completely invested in the task at hand, especially during the first half of the story. Unfortunately, it starts to feel all too familiar as the repetition sinks in – even more so when trekking all the way back from distant checkpoints.
The campaign does have an online co-op element to it as does the Nightfall downloadable content expansion that accompanies this ‘Shadow Edition.’ So, if you do have a discreet buddy to go on an online hunt with, then Aragami: Shadow Edition has you covered. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for local multiplayer. While the graphics far from push any limitations that the Nintendo Switch has, it seems developer Lince Works has decided not to include such a feature. It is a shame really as the multiplayer component as a whole is known to be a strength of the experience in its original release back in 2016. Considering this should be seen as a complete edition compared to its predecessor, slapping on a bit of couch co-op would have been a welcome touch.
Speaking of performance, Aragami: Shadow Edition does a fairly decent job at masking the basic polygon shapes that the game is made up with. While the cell-shading won’t pull the wool over your eyes for too long, the bright reds and vivid blues do give the game a visual personality. There is quite a lot of frame stutter throughout the gameplay, which I believe is also present in the more powerful console versions of the game. I didn’t find it to affect the experience too much, but I can expect that some players with a pet peeve for such a slight visual chug to find it quite annoying. The music is good, however, fitting nicely with the feudal era of Japan where the story is set. The sound effects and voice banks, on the other hand, can come across a little wooden in enemy response and a bit noisy for a shinobi of the shadows.
Taken as a whole, Aragami: Shadow Edition does the sneak ‘n’ stab genre well enough to tickle the taste buds of its fans. Others not quite as invested will probably only get a moderate amount of enjoyment with little satisfaction in gameplay outside of some nice ideas and the relief of accomplishment. The price point, even with the 10 percent discount offered for early adopters, isn’t as attractive as it could be. This is, after all, evidently a low budget project and a three-year-old game at that. That’s not to say that it isn’t worth its value on paper as there are a fair few hours of gameplay to be had – especially with the downloadable content that has been thrown in. Just be aware that the Nintendo Switch version is comparatively the more expensive port on the market if you’re deciding whether to take a tactical plunge.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Merge Games