What a surprise! As a fan of the excellent iPhone RPG Ash, I was pleasantly
shocked to see its sequel, Ash II, pop up on the App Store with literally no
warning. The original told a funny, entertaining tale and coupled it with some
very satisfying old-school RPG action. A number of updates made the original
even better, and it stands right next to Rocketcat's unbelievable Mage Gauntlet
as my favorite iPhone RPG. For the sequel, it looks as though veteran developer
Konami has thrown their considerable resources behind the title. Does the house
Metal Gear built help or hinder this sequel? And can Ash II: Shadows recapture
the original's simple glory?
The simple answer is "Who knows?" You didn't click on this review to find out
I'm as clueless as you are, and luckily, that's not the case. I say "Who knows?"
because as it stands now, Ash II: Shadows is an incomplete game. In a move that
throttles the imagination, Konami has decided to go episodic for this sequel.
What does that mean for you? Only part one of five is available right now, with
the other four promised soon. You can either purchase the Gold Edition ($4.99),
which will give you all upcoming episodes automatically as they come out, or the
Silver Edition ($2.99), which will prompt users to pay for upcoming episodes one
at a time. This move flies in the face of traditional RPG gameplay and length,
as the game that exists now will only take about six hours to finish. So my
answer stands at, "Who knows," but the first few hours are pretty good.
If you can get over the heinous pricing model and episodic, disjointed
nature, Ash II: Shadows is an improvement over the original in a few ways, but a
major setback in others. We'll talk good first. Its pretty clear that Konami's
bucks helped with the game's look. Every aspect of the presentation is better
than ever before, with the character portraits being a high point. The game has
also adjusted its battle system. Instead of the Dragon Quest-style first-person
battles of the first title, players view the action from the top down, more like
how battles were handled in Chrono Trigger. It's a change that really works, and
the improved pacing speeds up the whole game experience.
Now we come to the bad, and I won't even mention the episodic stuff. The
biggest blunder is the softened difficulty level. Ash was a brutally hard RPG,
and it looks like the challenge has been toned down to placate the masses. Of
course I'm complaining because I like harder games, but it's more than that. Ash
II: Shadows gives the player tons of equipment and stat building options, but
you'll probably never need to strategize much beyond selecting attack over and
over. And with the ham-stringed first episode length, the game feels more like a
spectator sport than an actual challenge.
I loved the first Ash, enough to play it twice through. And while its nice to
see old characters continue their journey, the episodic decision and lowered
difficulty were terrible ones. I have to assume Konami was responsible for the
sequel's missteps, and it's a real letdown to see loved game get a successor
that falls so flat. My recommendation is to either skip this one, or at least
wait until the game is available in its complete form. What a waste.
Final Rating: 40%