Taito’s Cadash tried to be two things when it hit the arcades so many years ago. It was a side-scrolling role-playing game and action game. The hybrid wasn’t flawless, but it was enjoyable. The multiple characters gave it even more depth than the genre-mixing did. You could choose a ninja who tossed shurikens at foes, making him a great long distance threat and effectively making your Cadash experience very Shinobi-like. If you were a big Castlevania fan, the Priestess had a flail not unlike the whips borne by the Belmonts. And who didn’t relish the thought of being a sword-swinging barbarian? If you liked Taito’s own Rastan, you could have a similar experience using the Fighter in Cadash. Finally, there was the Mage, an old, hunchbacked sorcerer in a cloak with pointy hat and beard who offered perhaps the most unique angle of the four. Adding further to the already tasty recipe was the fact that the game was a two-player simultaneous mission. Not Rastan, nor Castlevania, nor Shinobi allowed you to take a buddy along, but Cadash did.
The cultish hit made its way to both NEC’s Turbografx-16 and Sega’s Genesis. The former was more colourful and vibrant certainly, but that’s not the real reason why the latter turned out to be the coin-op’s bastard stepchild to the NEC port’s shining son. For whatever reason, Taito felt it was too tough a task to include two of the characters from the quarter munching original–and worse yet, they chose the two most beloved characters to omit! The somewhat standard and banal Fighter (even his name is boring) and the slow moving, ugly outfitted Mage are the unspectacular two-man package Taito decided to provide.
Cadash fans will know that the Priestess truly enjoys the best adventure of the four, due to how well her Castlevania-like whipping fits the fighting, as well as her enviable ability to heal herself. And during the late eighties and early nineties, the popular ninja character fought hard to earn obligatory inclusion in many an action game–and Cadash was no different, so that the agile, blue-clad mystery warrior, though fragile, was always the coolest choice among arcade goers. In short, Taito should be ashamed at their omissions.
The game we’re left with is still a two-player jaunt through five areas, each guarded by a legendary and lecherous boss creature, ranging from a sentient black blob called Black Pudding to a massive guardian composed of flames. The story has an evil demon King Balrog (off come the boxing gloves–look out Bison!) kidnapping the human King of Dirzar’s daughter, Princess Salassa, in order to perform some dubious blood transfusion, with absolute power hanging in the balance. All you have to do is get her back alive, and since we’ve all had extensive experience rescuing helpless maidens and princesses, please consult your ”Advanced Princess Rescuing” manual once again.
The attempt at role-playing element implementation works like this: there are no level separations and there is no score. Your character can gain experience points and gold by whacking infinite streams of enemies. In turn, that gold can purchase healing time at the local inn; poison antidotes (blasted spitting spiders!) and life-giving herbs at the apothecary; and equipment and weaponry at weapon shops. Beyond that, you may speak to dull-witted townspeople who offer obvious clues, do not learn after major storyline changes, and who manage their cliched constitutional within five stride limitations. They’ve got nothing to do, and nowhere to go, and as is often the case, there are not enough buildings to accommodate all the day walkers when night comes–which of course, it never does.
Your key to success at Cadash for the Genesis is backtracking, because unlike the arcade version where you’ve got as many lives as you have quarters, the Genesis port gives you only three chances to do your deed. This turns a fairly fast action game with enjoyable novelty RPG elements, into a sluggish action-adventure where the RPG elements are exposed for all their shortcomings. That is to say, you’ve got to be a lot more careful than perhaps Taito intended you to be in the original.
Leave the town, find a relatively safe spot to build yourself up a few levels by slashing swollen Pigmen and ceiling-hugging blobs, then head back to the village to heal up and buy a new weapon before venturing out into the wilderness once more. This time, make it to the boss, kill him, and find a shortcut portal door (thank God for these) to send you back, yet again, to the village (the village in the area ahead of you may not have what you want, or may charge twice as much for it) for more resting and shopping. The constant repetition shows up the tritely designed villages, and makes the game longer than it should be.
The music is extremely catchy, but as you might expect, it becomes painful to hear certain tunes over and over as you revisit the same places ad nauseum. The coin-op and Turbografx versions contain these same problems, but because of the option to choose the better characters in both, and the lack of real credit limitation in the former, the concerns do not become the glaring weaknesses that manifest in the Genesis version.
While Cadash for the Genesis does prove its worth as a challenging, solid side-scrolling quest complete with two-player capability, to really experience this excellent adventure game, hunt down a copy for your Turbografx-16. And while it’s generally frowned upon by ‘real gamers,’ you could always try your hand at the coin-op version for the Raine emulator–a seemingly dubious choice for most, until they’ve played Sega’s competent, though somewhat dull copy of what is a superbly engaging game.