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Shadow Gangs, developed by Isle of Wight-based JKM Corp, and printed by the more and more prolific WAVE Sport Studios, has lengthy been anticipated by these within the know. For the reason that first hints of a possible Dreamcast port surfaced in 2016, the group has been often up to date on progress by the sport’s lead developer Ali Jakamy by way of the Dreamcast-Discuss boards. It has not been {smooth} crusing from there on out although – an preliminary Kickstarter marketing campaign launched in 2021 failed, almost definitely as a result of setting of an overambitious six-figure funding goal. To their credit score, JKM Corp dusted themselves off and returned with a practical funding purpose of £25,000 which was met in March 2022. The truth that the builders have persevered by to the purpose of delivering the sport into the fingers of Dreamcast homeowners – and have achieved so inside the house of three months because the shut of the profitable Kickstarter marketing campaign – is not any imply feat and is worthy of our kudos.

All this backstory is a bit of tangential to the principle difficulty at hand although; what can Dreamcast fans anticipate from the sport itself? Shadow Gangs is actually a side-scrolling beat em’ up with platforming components. You are taking up the position of ‘Grasp Dan’, considered one of a cohort of worldwide brokers whose goal is to function within the shadows, sustaining the worldwide steadiness of energy, and thereby making certain peace. With world peace safe, Dan will get his P45 within the publish, leaving you to direct him round his home as he traverses the punishing job market and mooches on the sofa consuming Pop Tarts…

Alas, that in all probability wouldn’t be a lot enjoyable, would it not? In fact, the delicate international order maintained by Dan and his comrades is underneath menace from the dastardly ‘Shadow Gangs’; teams of rogue ninjas who’ve damaging goals. It’s your age previous good vs. unhealthy, save the world situation, the place righteous protagonists have an excuse to beat seven bells out of hordes of despicable enemies. 

Shadow Gangs takes a mammoth dose of inspiration from the enduring Shinobi, and this exhibits within the basic gameplay mechanics. The participant directs Dan throughout 10 more-or-less linear ranges, making liberal use of ranged and melee assaults (prepare for sore thumbs) to conquer his opponents, and exact use of the ducking and leaping capabilities to keep away from incoming hearth and hits. 

Your arsenal is spiced-up by the inclusion of highly effective however sparsely numbered landmines and ‘ninja magic’ assaults (think about the screen-clearing particular assaults from the Streets of Rage sequence), in addition to occasional power-ups that change out Grasp Dan’s shuriken for a a lot heftier combo of samurai sword plus sub-machine gun. Six boss fights are interspersed all through the common ranges, in addition to shooting-range model bonus levels, offering a good quantity of content material in all.

Though I lack the technical know-how to check it, I’ve no purpose to doubt the writer’s declare that Shadow Gangs runs at 60 frames-per-second on the Dreamcast. The silky-smooth efficiency definitely appears to bear this out, and the customisable controls really feel tight, responsive and map properly to the usual Dreamcast controller. The big, detailed sprites and diverse backgrounds, with color schemes that pop with out changing into too garish, look beautiful outputted over VGA. Shadow Gangs is effectively polished in terms of its audio options too.

The music is effectively composed, catchy and fits the character of the sport all the way down to a tee, and though the voiceover (which sounds prefer it was recorded by a stereotypical classically educated British actor) is undeniably tacky, it introduced a smile to my face which might solely be a great factor. A phrase of warning although: keep away from taking a giant slurp of tea simply earlier than ‘COLLIN!’ is blurted out of your audio system, except you propose on redecorating within the close to future. In sum, the porting of Shadow Gangs from the PC to the Dreamcast has been executed extraordinarily effectively—one thing which is probably not too shocking contemplating the who’s who of skilled Dreamcast programmers which might be thanked within the sport’s credit. The care and a spotlight that has been afforded is obvious all through, from the VMU icons and rumble pack compatibility, by to the 4 language choices. 

Nevertheless, regardless of this, I don’t suppose it could be honest to say that Shadow Gangs will enchantment to utterly all audiences. Most Dreamcast homeowners will certainly be capable of squeeze a dozen or so fulfilling hours out of the sport, however the sheer problem could imply that solely those that are up for a troublesome problem are prone to stick with it by to the top. Little doubt this attribute can be welcomed by a sizeable chunk of hardier avid gamers who’re prone to have a really rewarding expertise after mastering the controls, honing their reflexes, and memorising the ebb and movement of the degrees. 

These of us whose capabilities have been softened up by altogether extra forgiving video games in recent times could battle although. I can’t assist however really feel that this might have been addressed by implementing a simple mode that strayed farther from the conventional and onerous modes, thereby making the sport extra accessible with out denying a full-throttle expertise to those that want it. Because it stands, the ‘rising ninja’ mode does go some approach to fulfilling this want, however the truth that it comes with 99 continues (versus the 15 on the conventional ‘ninja’ mode) looks as if a refined recognition of how tough many will nonetheless discover this iteration.

However, regardless of this caveat (which is in any case extremely subjective), Shadow Gangs is a sterling first-effort on the Dreamcast from JKM Corp. The builders have kindly made a downloadable demo obtainable, and one other demo will function prominently on the forthcoming Dreamcast demo disc that may accompany Challenge 5 of Sega Powered journal

I’d encourage readers to make use of those alternatives to dip their toes into Shadow Gangs. In my eyes, the bodily sport is well-worth it’s £29.99 price ticket, and WAVE Sport Studios are actually additionally providing a digital version for a really affordable £19.99. Fingers crossed every further sale will enhance our probabilities of receiving a sequel someplace down the road, one thing which JKM Corp have already signalled as a definite chance.

Have you ever performed Shadow Gangs? If that’s the case, what are your ideas on the sport? Did you additionally really feel the necessity to swap the soar and assault button controls? Tell us within the feedback!

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