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iPhone App Video Review: Ash II: Shadows

by Andrew Koziara

The original Ash from SRRN Games was an excellently written RPG with great art and music and unique characters. Now SRRN has been picked up by publishing giant Konami for the sequel, ASH II: Shadows. The sequel improves on the original in almost every way possible, with gorgeous redone graphics, a fun battle system, and the same top notch writing that made the original a hit among RPG fans.

Our story joins the rebel Damien and his friends in a new land across the sea as they explore and find that things are not quite as they should be. The story, as expected, is very well done, pacing out the information players receive well. The dialogue is some of the most humorous and natural dialogue I’ve seen in any RPG of this kind, let alone on the iPhone.

The battle system has been tweaked to include player characters on the screen, as opposed to the first person Dragon Quest view of the last game. Tons of JRPG tropes make their way into this game, such as weapon proficiencies and classic elemental advantages and weaknesses. Rather than level up single characters after a battle, every character in the game grows based on the shared “party level.” This keeps the party well balanced. Unfortunately, this game is just obscenely easy. You can just run right past most enemies in the game, and even if you do, the boss fights aren’t much harder. You can also buy special talismans that give you massive advantages through one dollar in-app purchases, but these shouldn’t be necessary for anyone at the current difficulty. SRRN has already said that they’re working on a patch to increase the difficulty, and the game will likely be heavily supported in the future.

The modern art style applied to retro graphics makes for a very unique look, and the visuals are much more detailed and vibrant this time around. The user interface has also been greatly tweaked, and feels less clunky than before. Of course, the sound and music are top notch as well. Both OpenFeint and Game Center achievements are supported. The game is also held back by a few bugs and glitches, as well as somewhat uncomfortable controls. You can play using the unique touch controls, which can feel awkward, or you can use a classic D-pad and button combo, but they’re very unresponsive and clunky. These are very minor issues though.

This game also introduces a new episodic release system. Once you finish chapter one, you’ll have to wait for the remaining five chapters to be released. The game comes in two separate price packages. You can buy the silver edition for three dollars, which comes with chapters one and two, as well as discounted prices for the rest. Or you could buy the gold edition for five dollars, which comes with every chapter in one purchase. The gameplay elements are a bit unbalanced and weak at the moment, but they’ll likely improve. If you only care about the story and writing, you’re sure to enjoy this game. I highly recommend it, regardless of which package you choose.

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