Note 1: This game was played on a PC Engine Duo that has been modded to play games from the U.S. region. It was also modded to output in component video. The console was connected to a 40-inch HD-tv.
Genre: Platformer/RPG hybrid
Players: 1-player or 2-player co-op
Time to beat the game: between 1 and 2 hours
Brief History: Cadash was released in arcades in 1989. It received two home ports in 1991 and 1992 – for the Turbografx-16 and Sega Genesis, respectively. Both the home ports shared numerous commonalities as well as differences with their arcade counterpart, but the core gameplay experience was the same. This review does not compare the three different versions (other websites do a good job of this), except for a bit about your Stats, but instead focuses exclusively on the TG-16 version of the game.
Story: The evil monster Baarogue has kidnapped Princess Sarasa of the Kingdom of Deerzar, and the King tasks you with her rescue and the slaying of Baarogue.
Characters: Four significantly different characters are available for selection: the Fighter, the Mage, the Priestess (the game lists her as ‘Priest’ because of spacing issues, but the manual, at one point at least, refers to her as ‘Priestess,’ which makes more sense) and the Ninja. Each of the characters has strengths and weaknesses in terms of attack and defense power, with some characters being better choices for beating the game more easily than others.
HP and MP: Your character has both a Hit Points life bar and Magic Points bar (the Ninja and Fighter can’t use magic, so their MP bar is darkened and serves no purpose). Each character starts with a different number of Hit Points or Magic Points. As you take damage from enemies, or cast spells, these bars decrease. If your HP empties, and you don’t have any medicinal herbs, it’s Game Over (there are no Continues in this game).
Magic: The Mage has five Attack Spells that he learns as he levels up, and the Priestess learns Healing Spells and a Super Shield spell that makes her invulnerable to all attacks for a decent length of time, thus making her the best choice for beating the game.
Gold: With every enemy you slay, a bag of gold is dropped, with the amount dependent on which enemy was slain. Gold can be used in towns (more on this below).
Leveling Up: At the beginning of Cadash, each character begins on Level 1, and is relatively weak. However, you can ‘level up’ your character over the course of the game by slaying enemies, with Level 20 being the max. You don’t necessarily have to get to Level 20 to be strong enough to beat the game, but the higher you go, the more likely it is that you can complete the game.
Stats: If you wait to watch the demo play before starting a game, you can see your character’s Level 1 Stats in three categories: Strength (how powerful your attack is), Armor Class (your defensive ranking), and Agility (how fast your character moves). These stats increase as you gain levels and purchase new weapons and armor.
*Unfortunately, although the current level you’re at is always on display, you can never actually view your individual Stats in-game, nor see how many experience points are needed before you level up. In the arcade version of Cadash, and the Sega Genesis version, you could view your Experience Points leading up to your next level, your Gold, your Items (medicinal herbs and antidotes) and your Stats at any time by not moving or pausing the game, respectively (a small window would open up displaying those things in those two versions). However, for some inexplicable reason, you cannot view ANY of these things in the Turbografx-16 version (the window never pops up), with the exception of your Gold, which is viewable when you enter a shop or an Inn only. Hence, you never actually know how close you are to leveling up, exactly how much Gold an enemy has dropped, or how many antidotes or medicinal herbs you have left (unless you manually keep a count). You can, of course, always see your HP life bar and MP bar, but having these other things omitted from viewing in-game is an unfortunate exclusion from the TG-16 version.
Controls: Run pauses the game. Select does nothing. Button II attacks with your main weapon (sword – Fighter, staff – Wizard, Flail – Priest, Thowing Stars – Ninja). The Fighter can swing upward if Holding Up + Button II, the Mage can do a downward thrust if Holding Down plus Button II while jumping, the Priestess can do an overhead whip if you press diagonal/upward plus Button II, and the Ninja can do a diagonal downward throw if you jump then hold down/diagonal plus Button II. If using the Wizard or Priestess, holding down Button II brings up your acquired Magic Spells. Your spells cycle every few seconds while holding the button, and releasing the button while a certain icon is displayed unleashes that particular spell. Button I jumps. You can also duck when on solid ground and climb up and down vines.
Towns: As you travel through the Kingdom of Deerzar, between deadly caverns, forests, and a castle, you’ll enter towns where you can do several things. You can buy (up to 9 each) medicinal herbs that are automatically used if your energy is depleted and antidotes that automatically take effect if you’re poisoned by a monster. You can stay in an inn to completely replenish your health and magic or resurrect your ally if in 2-player mode. You can also stop at the Armory and purchase weapon and armor upgrades (these change the appearance of your character each time). You’ll also interact with the towns inhabitants, and must often perform some type of quest for a citizen, sometimes needing to double back to the town after obtaining an object.
Bosses: There are 5 different areas to traverse in Cadash, with a boss waiting at the end of each. Beating the boss typically opens up the next area of the game.
The importance of Grinding: Enemies constantly respawn, making grinding easy. It’s also necessary at the beginning of the game (and a few other times) if you don’t want the first boss to kill you immediately. I recommend taking ten to fifteen minutes to level up your character to around Level 7 in the first area.
Elixir and Life Bells: In a couple of places in the game, you’ll find chests that contain Elixirs. Elixirs completely refill your HP and MP if you’re killed, making them invaluable. In one shop, also, you can buy Life Bells that extend your HP total. Both of these items make beating the game easier.
SECRET – Playing two players with 1 controller: If you select two players without a multi-tap hooked up, you can actually control both characters with one controller after naming the characters! This makes for a unique playing experience, as you cannot choose the same character, and each character moves at a different speed. A truly challenging experience would be to try and beat the game while controlling two characters. I’ve never given it an honest try, but it would certainly be an exercise in patience and skill!
The Southern Gentleman’s Opinion and Letter Grade: B+ Cadash for the Turbografx-16 is one of my favorite games for any system, but it’s not without its flaws. Although it’s not terribly long, some type of saving system (even passwords) would have been a nice addition, and the aforementioned removal of the Stats/Experience/Gold viewing box in-game is puzzling, and while not problematic, it is at least mildly frustrating until you get used to its absence. Using magic can also be a bit frustrating until you get used to it. The lack of a continue system or multiple lives could be viewed as a positive or negative; I tend to side with the former, as this forces you to learn the game and grind your levels and adds to the challenge. Despite these few flaws, however, Cadash has an amazingly addictive nature; perhaps that is because of the rarity of RPGs of this side-scrolling, platforming nature. The four different characters add great replayablity and an added challenge once you beat the game for the first time as well. Everything is big and colorful, and if you’re looking for a short RPG, this is definitely a great choice!