Porting mobile games to console is an increasing occurrence we’ve seen in the recent years. In the case of Shadow Blade: Reload, I couldn’t have been happier to greet it with the warmest of welcomes. It expertly infuses the nostalgic, campy feel of an NES action-platformer with modern visuals and surgical tight controls. Developer Dead Mage has formulated a well-balanced and impressive side-scrolling experience perfect for the pickup and play gamer. It may not boast a bounty of features or content, but the heart of the gameplay is strong enough to meet you at the credits.
Shadow Blade: Reload follows the story of a young ninja named Kuro, who’s clan gets infiltrated by rival clans seeking out a medallion that will grant them unlimited power. When the evil clan takes Kuro’s master, he must now fight his way to free him, and stop the relenting forces trying to bring chaos to the world. One thing I loved about Shadow Blade: Reload is how the story is told. It’s presented in a comic book style storyboard, classic cheesy text bubbles and all. It was fun and added to the 80’s campy vibe. From the outside looking in you wouldn’t quite expect Shadow Blade: Reload to deliver as well as it does. Let me reassure you, this is not the typical mobile to console shovel-ware. This has substance.
The game is broken into 7 main areas with 5-7 levels within each, and a challenge mode for anyone looking for some extra punishment. All of the areas contribute their own individuality to the gameplay and keep things lively. Kuro comes equipped with only a few skills and abilities, but they serve the gameplay perfect. One of the most utilized is his fast paced, wall climbing abilities. Bouncing back and forth between walls and gaps will feel like second nature in no time. He can also stick to walls as well, which really comes in handy while avoiding the countless environmental hazards that get thrown your way. Lastly there is a dash feature, this can get you out of a lot of tight spots if executed flawlessly. There’s nothing more exhilarating than double jumping into an air dash over a series of metal blades and lasers. Super ninja style. After awhile the surprises and strategies become a bit rinse and repeat, but still continue to be a satisfying challenge.
Kuro like any good ninja, has some pretty cool combat techniques. By hitting triangle he launches the infamous ninja shuriken, which serves as his effective and bloody ranged attack. Tapping square allows Kuro to swing his katana, which I surprisingly found I didn’t use as much as his other moves. Then finally, jumping up and tapping R1 with the desired direction unleashes a deadly aerial attack. One thing that certainly kept things interesting were the various types of baddies Shadow Blade: Reload has. Each requiring their own technique to defeat, the singular button-mashing nuisance feeling is never there. Although I did witness a couple of glitches during combat later on in the game, chopping off heads and launching my shuriken was smooth, and made me feel like a super ninja.
What I still find to be a great feat is Dead Mage’s ability to transfer controls from a mobile device to console so fluidly. When you think about a layout that was made for a touchscreen and swipe controls, a pat on the back is deserved for how tight they configured it to a controller. The jumping and wall planting mechanics never miss a beat. Despite how fast and frantic the action can get on-screen, you still feel locked in and in complete control. It would have been cool to see some additional features elaborated on with Kuro, just to prevent some late-game dry feelings. Overall, this is still an example of how action platformers should feel.
What stands strong in my mind is how much I loved the look of Shadow Blade: Reload. The glowing neon lights and urban landscapes, to the soft white snow and blizzards blues of the mountain region. The visual aesthetic is nailed here, and only brings home the ambiance Dead Mage has contrived. It was really cool to see how they designed each area, and found myself enjoying each one of them. Presentation-wise I would have preferred a closer up view of the characters portrayed on-screen. Sometimes it’s hard to make out the animations because the characters are so tiny and distant looking on-screen. The only benefiting factor of this is a grander view of the players distinctive surroundings.
Shadow Blade: Reload is an example of how the leap from mobile to console can deliver a great experience for the unsuspecting gamer. Loaded with great action platforming, buttery smooth controls, and an awesome presentation, this is perfect for anyone not looking for a time-consuming venture. The difficulty is well-balanced and even has some great replay value if the challenge mode is up your alley. It may not be robust with content for its price tag, but Dead Mage has brought us a title worthy of the PS4 port.
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