Rating: B+

Cadash is a fantasy arcade game with minor RPG elements that after enjoying a modest sucess in the arcades was eventually ported to both the Turbo Grafx 16 and Sega Genesis. Gameplay in Cadash is straightforward: guide your hero down into the bowels of the earth and discover the way to the fortress of the evil demon Balrog who has captured the princess and enslaved the land. Along the way you must battle innumerable monsters. The more monsters you kill, the higher you climb in levels, each new level gained awarding you with increased power and skill.

Though in both the arcade and Turbo Grafx versions of Cadash there are a total of four characters to choose from (Warrior, Wizard, Priestess, and Ninja), in the Genesis version only two remain: Warrior and Wizard. Of course, this is quite disappointing, as offering four classes instead of two would have added substantial replay value to the game. Fortunately, the warrior and wizard are my two favorite characters from the original game to play. Still, if only all four were present, the Genesis version of Cadash come close to being a near-perfect port of the arcade game.

Cadash is a game for either one or two players. In 2-player mode, each player must choose a different character. Both characters then journey together and are limited to the same screen. Of the two classes that are available in the Genesis version, the warrior is harder to kill and much easier to play. He can't use magic like the wizard, but has better attack and armor ratings and is a good choice for someone who wants to hack and slash his way to the end of the game. The wizard, on the other hand, is not a very good fighter but does have the ability to cast spells. Some of the spells, such as Fireball, can only hit one creature. Others, such as Storm of Daggers, can inflict heavy damage to any enemy creature in the wizard's vicinity and is a good way to clear the screen. However, though a few of his spells are quite powerful, they are often difficult to cast. When the magic button is pushed, it takes a brief moment for the spell to be readied, and if the wizard is hit during that time he must try to cast it all over again. This makes for some frustration when contending with multiple enemies, as being surrounded is a common theme in this game and less-skilled players will find it difficult to cast their spells while being ganged up on by zombies and orcs.

As mentioned, Cadash is an action game with RPG elements. The more monsters the hero kills, the higher he goes up in level; the better his attack and defense rating become and the more hit points he gains. In addition, unlike the warrior who has only his sword to rely on, with every few levels the wizard learns new and more powerful spells. Leveling up is often quite easy as monsters always reappear in the place they were before, meaning you can move back and forth a short distance and rack up unlimited gold and experience by killing the same foes again and again until you want to move on. This is only exploitable to a certain extent, however, as eventually you will max-out at level 20 near the end of the game.

Also in line with RPG-style play, along your journey you will find shops in which you can buy better armor and weapons as well as healing herbs, potions, and charms, the money you've gained to barter with coming from the bags of gold dropped by all the monsters you've destroyed. Also during the course of your travels will you find several inns, where for a modest fee you can rest and be completely healed.

Overall, if you are into old school hack-n-slash fantasy you'll find Cadash a very appealing game. The graphics, while nothing spectacular (though charming they are), are very close to what they were in the arcade, and the fantasy style music is excellently composed. Indeed, this is what a fantasy game should look and sound like. The game is not too difficult unless played recklessly and will take about an hour, give or take, to complete -- if you're playing as the warrior, I should say. If playing as the wizard, Cadash will take a fair amount of practice to get good at, given the wizard's inferior fighting skills and the previously mentioned difficulty of casting spells. Even so, this is not a game that ever becomes frustrating or tedious. The platform jumping is at a minimum and none of the bosses are too hard.

I should add that, unfortunately, Cadash is a pretty rare find. I was lucky enough to find a complete mint copy on the Internet for around 10 bucks and grabbed it while I had the chance. If you can find it for even less, definitely take the plunge and give the game a try.

Gameplay tip: When entering the first cave, spend the first few minutes moving back and forth slaying the orcs (the pig men) until you reach level 5. This will give you a head start and make defeating the first boss a much easier task.

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