Growing up I had a love/hate relationship with the arcade. The arcade was the place to see some of the most technologically advanced games of the time. And I loved it. I hated the fact that most of these games were tuned in such a way to empty your pockets. So I looked to home ports of the most popular titles to really dig into the ones I really liked. Cadash was an interesting case as both the Genesis and Turbo Grafx-16 received versions of the game. Both have their flaws however the Hucard game is the most faithful to Taito’s classic.
Centuries ago the demons were driven underground while humanity basked in the light. The memory of their spent above has never diminished, and one powerful demon named Balrog has rallied up an army to rule the world and has kidnapped the princess of the kingdom of Dizir. With the king offering his kingdom to anyone brave enough to save his daughter 4 adventurers answer the call. It should be noted that the arcade had a very bad localization which has been cleaned up by Working Designs although a few odd phrases slip in here and there.
The Turbo Grafx-16 version contains all four characters unlike its Sega counterpart. This is important as each class plays differently and the choice provides some incentive to play through it again. The fighter is your generic warrior with good attack power and the highest defense but no ranged attacks. The mage is his opposite, with weak defense and is painfully slow. If you can stomach leveling him up he eventually gains some of the most powerful spells in the game. Personally magic I found magic to be cumbersome to use and so avoided the mage.
The ninja and priest however are the most interesting. Despite whatever preconceived notions you may have the priest is the best-rounded. She can use both healing and defensive magic and has a mace that has incredibly long range. If it weren’t for the ninja she would be my go to. The ninja is my personal favorite. His long range attacks are weak at first but if you stick it out until his equipment shows up in shops he is the best character in the game with high defense, power, and speed.
Although this is primarily an action game it does have a few RPG trimmings. There are experience points, weapons, armor and items to buy as well as item drops. Technically the game is comprised of one big world but it is split into five individual sections. Each has a central hub village to buy supplies as you venture out. It definitely was not normal for arcade games of the time and in fact has more in common with Zelda 2 or Crystalis.
A few concessions were made when porting the game over and in some ways that is good and bad. In the arcade there was a timer that forced you to always keep moving. Thankfully that is gone but now that you can play at your leisure it is easier to notice the game’s flaws. Despite its attempts at being an action hybrid the little bits of platforming are terrible and incredibly cheap. Hit detection for melee characters can be spotty as well. While each chapter is a decent size the maps are pretty straightforward which is kind of boring.
While removing the timer was the right move for the console ports it does make the game easier. In the arcade the clock meant you couldn’t linger in one area too long and so were forced to move on whether you were prepared to face upcoming enemies or not. There were some pretty rough bosses in the game, no doubt designed to suck the quarters out of your pocket. By virtue of the fact that you can now stop and grind out levels and gold you can brute force your way through it. As early as the third world you can buy items that increase your maximum dirt cheap that aid in this.
One unintended side effect of the easier difficulty is that you’ll notice how short the game is. It’s funny but growing up I used to think of Cadash as this massive sprawling adventure that would take hours (and lots of money!) to complete. In retrospect that was silly but screw you I was 10. In reality however you can run through the game in about two hours or so. That’s not a bad length but it leaves you wanting more as the game has the structure of an epic quest but not the content of one.
While it keeps all of the arcades content the visuals are where the game deviates the most. The Turbo version is incredibly vibrant and a bit over-saturated in my opinion. Whether you prefer it to the grittiness of the Genesis version is a matter of taste. The levels and background graphics follow the arcade’s structure but have been heavily redesigned. They look similar but something is off. The sprites are smaller and the parallax scrolling in the backgrounds is completely absent. The music however is a faithful recreation of the soundtrack, which was pretty good to begin with.
Cadash is a hard one to judge. As a port the Turbo version is pretty faithful to the arcade. But as a game it could have used a little more content. While it can be pretty fun to go back and do another run with a different class it doesn’t make up for the fact that ultimately there is little reason to go back once it is over.