Ash II: Shadows Chapter 1 Review

Ash II: Shadows Chapter 1 (Available only for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad)
Rating: 9+
Players: 1
Genre: RPG
Publisher: Konami
Developer: SRRN Games
Release Date: January 19, 2012

Parent Talk: The ESRB doesn’t rate iOS games, but Apple and iOS developers do. They rated the game 9+ for crude humor and fantasy violence.  If you’ve played SNES RPGs like Super Mario RPG, Chrono Trigger or any of the early Final Fantasy games, you know what to expect.

Plays Like: Any 16-bit Japanese RPG.

Review Basis: Finished the quest, awaiting the release of chapter two.  I played through the game using the original iPad.

Pricing: The game’s Gold Edition runs $4.99 on the App Store, which includes the first chapter and perk of downloading the remaining five free of charge once they’re available. The Silver Edition can be bought for $2.99, bringing the first chapter, the ability to download the second free of charge, and a 50% discount for the remaining chapters. There are also in-app-purchases for those that want status-boosting items, Facebook gamers, there you go.

Ash II: Shadows follows the hit iPhone RPG, Ash, but those who didn’t play the first game need not worry. Ash II is unique, and stands on its own. Everyone should try it.

The Great:

A real, honest RPG for when you’re on the go.  A simple, yet elegant battle system, exploration focus, and wonderful narrative aid Ash II in delivering a console-like experience. By being able to save anywhere, this pick-up-and-play RPG harkens back to SNES-era classics. The package is just delightful. I’m now a believer in mobile RPGs.

The Good:

+ Interesting narrative, great humor and perfect timing.  The cast of characters is charming, the plot focuses on an eventual world-threatening enemy, and there’s light-heartedness where it belongs.

+ Real-time encounters. Ash’s random encounters are out, in is a system more akin to Chrono Trigger. Enemies are visible on the battlefield, and can be avoided.

+ Simple battle system that finishes the job. Tap the desired action (attack, magic, defend or flee), then tap the enemy or ally you wish to attack or heal.  It works perfectly.

+ Strategic battles.  The top of the screen displays the character and enemy turn order. Players can perform a range of special magic attacks that affect enemies in different ways, from status effects to altering their turn in the battle.

+ Equipment/weapons can change with accessories. This makes exploration worthwhile.  If you locate a unique rune and equip weapons/armor from the same class, your characters become extremely powerful.

+ Great controls.  A virtual d-pad and action button can be used to talk and investigate environments, or your finger can move the character around. Both methods work perfectly.

+ Fantastic audio-visual experience.  Regardless of the iOS device, you’re in for a treat.  Varied environments, detailed sprites and an awesome soundtrack make this an RPG to return to.

The So-So:

+/- Too simple for its own good. Items don’t exist. If a character is low on health, only one character can heal. Magic is unlimited however, so you can cast as many spells as you wish.

+/- Unproven business model. You can pick whether to buy every chapter now via the Gold Edition, or two with the Silver. There’s a problem though; we don’t know what the remainder of the game will be like. It’s hard to gauge the overall value.

The Bad:

– Unbalanced difficulty.  When Ash II launched, it was a cakewalk. Bosses could be destroyed in seconds by spamming the attack command. Since the latest update, bosses aren’t more difficult per se, but attacks now miss or are blocked.

– Easy regardless of balance issues.  Without MP and items, characters are healed fully when battle is finished. That eliminates any fear that another enemy could be right around the next corner.

The Ugly:

Fighting a boss I can’t seem to hurt.  How can he defend against everything I try to do?

The Lowdown:

Ash II: Shadows Chapter 1 is a solid and fun RPG. It’s a throwback to a simpler time. The problem is it’s just too unbalanced in terms of difficulty. It’s also impossible to know if the pricing models are wise. There’s certainly room to fix the balancing, and the game is improved since the updates, but I hope SRRN focuses on the strategic elements of battle. In the meantime, anyone wanting an RPG with a great story, huge cliffhanger and interesting characters ought to invest in Ash II.

Average Score Scale: 7.0 (+/- 0.5) out of 10

Personal Final Score: 7/10 (Neutral)

Reason for +0.5 Inflation: RPGs are your favorite genre and you crave something on-the-go. The production values are worth the cheap price.

Reason for -0.5 Deflation: It’s a simple game. If you want to be challenged for hours, skip on this.


7 thoughts on “Ash II: Shadows Chapter 1 Review”

    1. Given what I know about the major game devs and pubs, I wouldn’t expect an Android release at all. Most of these companies simply don’t want to make an Android version because of the hundreds of devices that handle the operating system in their own way. Since iOS is basically the same across the iPhones, iPads and iPods, there’s far less optimization work involved. Trying to polish a game for an operating system that behaves differently on hundreds of devices isn’t something these folks typically jump at. It costs money, and usually still results in hundreds of potential consumers complaining about some defect in [x] game on their [x] device.

      Gameloft is really the only company I’ve seen willing to consistently put out software for Android that do very well to recreate console experiences.

  1. It’s surprising just how good this game is Tim. It’s a social RPG, meaning it’s really easy, but there’s real promise here for future titles. I may just check out the FF titles to see how they hold up in comparison. The virtual d-pad works perfectly for these types of games because you don’t need pinpoint accuracy.

    As for an Android release, no word just yet. How many Konami titles are currently available on the Droid marketplace? For comparison’s sake there are around 30 games for iOS from Konami. That should give you an idea if/when the game will hit Droids. If there are only say 5 games available for Droid, don’t expect it anytime soon.

  2. I see what you guys mean there. Unfortunately, I don’t have access to an iOS device and it’s extremely unlikely I’ll get one for a long time, so unfortunately these games are out of my reach. I was going to get an Android phone sometime soon though. I’m on a plan with the provider US Cellular, and I’ve slowly been saving up member points to get a nice new phone. Probably will get a Motorola Electrify.

  3. Well I actually just upgraded to an iPhone 4S, which ended up costing me $10 for the 16GB model, on a $50/month plan. Considering I was paying upwards of $100/month beforehand, I consider that a steal. Keep in mind Canadian cellular plans are NOTHING compared to what you guys have. We have some of the worst plans in the world, although given I will keep my 6GB data plan, I’m extremely satisfied right now.

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