A Blade in the Moonlight
A brave soldier plods along his patrol, further into the cover of darkness, away from the glow of a pale moon. A vengeful shade lurks within the shadow, eager to bring swift finality to his prey with ferocious grace. A wisp of air is the last sound the man hears as a piercing anguish gives way to black.
Aragami is a story of unrelenting revenge and canny manipulation, told through intermittent flashbacks experienced by the protagonist. Summoned by a young girl, held captive by the Kaiho army, Aragami has one night to retrieve six talismans to free the girl’s retainers. Armed with a host of supernatural powers and the prowess of an assassin, this enigmatic specter commences his journey into the night.
Stealth serves as the lifeblood for all virulent pursuits in Aragami, and clever use of shadow is mandatory for progression. Teleportation mechanics allow the player to blink from shadow to shadow, stalking the enemy before administering an ephemeral haze of lethal embrace. Kill animations are visceral and ritualistic in their aesthetic; however, there are only a handful of available executions based on the angle of approach the player takes. Navigation through each level is expedited by teleportation but also requires a delicate balance of strategy and awareness. Dancing between shadows can prove difficult at times, as I struggled on occasion to warp to my destination and found myself stuck within the environment once or twice.
Skills acquired, in the form of “shadow abilities,” include Kunai shadow knives, Shinen traps, which erupt in shadow and pull unsuspecting victims into the void, and targeted shadow generation for precise maneuvering. Chaining these supernatural abilities together often results in satisfying scenarios which reward tactical improvisation. Energy, charges and light exposure are all visible via Aragami’s cloak, which serves as an innovative HUD, lending itself to the games clean aesthetic appeal. Kaiho samurai patrol every corner of the environment, while archers scout for surreptitious threats. Generally speaking, being spotted by an enemy will result in certain death, which forces stealth but allows the player to decide if they will extinguish their foes or circumvent them entirely. Unfortunately, enemy variation is also lacking, as it feels like you’ve been dispatching the same two enemies all game long. Redundancy aside, challenging, fluid and decisive combat drew me in and kept me ardently embracing progression.
Fireflies hover around flickering flames which illuminate smooth stone graves and tufts of grass. Fog conceals pernicious intent, while pagodas breach the sky with imperial allure. An incandescent moon saturates the sky with a silky radiance, as viscous crimson envelops steel below. Aragami is an exquisite game to behold. Cel-shaded graphics, layered with strokes of vibrant color and soft outlines, provide a refreshing visual aesthetic akin to Wind Waker. Hauntingly melodic sounds evoke feelings of melancholy and loneliness, while providing an elegant backdrop for the visual experience. I often found myself taking a break from the action and absorbing my surroundings for several minutes at a time.
Fans of the Tenchu and Mark of Kri franchises of yore, will find themselves at home within the context of Aragami. While the game is less complex than the aforementioned titles in many aspects, it achieves a compelling level of immersion as a result. For those in love with the stealth genre, this game is a worthy addition.
|+Challenging stealth||-Intermittent frame rate drop|
|+Clean, vibrant visual aesthetic. Innovative HUD||-Recycled enemy designs|
|+Shadow and light gameplay dynamics||-Redundant kill animations|
Developer: Lince Works
Publishers: Lince Works, Merge Games Ltd., Maximum Games
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, Linux, Macintosh operating systems, macOS