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Showing posts with label JKM Corp. Show all posts
Showing posts with label JKM Corp. Show all posts

Review: Shadow Gangs

So here we are, halfway through 2022, a year that seems to have come around exceptionally fast, probably due to the disorientating effects of the grim COVID-19 pandemic which has been looming over us. 2022. That sequence of digits, whether typed out or spoken aloud, sounds spookily futuristic, and so perhaps it is fitting that phenomena which were hitherto safely contained within the realms of dystopian fiction are now not too far from reality. Somewhat less foreboding, but still hard to believe, is the fact that the Dreamcast has just received its fifth commercial indie release of the year (not to mention numerous re-releases on top of this). If you are disconcerted by signs that Google’s AI may be taking inspiration from the eery “It’s Thinking” Dreamcast slogan, then what better way to soothe your nerves than to immerse yourself in a game for an oh so familiar console?

Shadow Gangs, developed by Isle of Wight-based JKM Corp, and published by the increasingly prolific WAVE Game Studios, has long been anticipated by those in the know. Since the first hints of a potential Dreamcast port surfaced in 2016, the community has been regularly updated on progress by the game’s lead developer Ali Jakamy via the Dreamcast-Talk forums. It has not been smooth sailing from there on out though - an initial Kickstarter campaign launched in 2021 failed, most likely due to the setting of an overambitious six-figure funding target. To their credit, JKM Corp dusted themselves off and returned with a realistic funding goal of £25,000 which was met in March 2022. The fact that the developers have persevered through to the point of delivering the game into the hands of Dreamcast owners - and have done so within the space of three months since the close of the successful Kickstarter campaign - is no mean feat and is worthy of our kudos.

All this backstory is a little tangential to the main issue at hand though; what can Dreamcast enthusiasts expect from the game itself? Shadow Gangs is essentially a side-scrolling beat em’ up with platforming elements. You take up the role of ‘Master Dan’, one of a cohort of international agents whose purpose is to operate in the shadows, maintaining the global balance of power, and thereby ensuring peace. With world peace secure, Dan gets his P45 in the post, leaving you to direct him around his house as he traverses the punishing job market and mooches on the couch eating Pop Tarts...

Alas, that probably wouldn’t be much fun, would it? Of course, the fragile global order maintained by Dan and his comrades is under threat from the dastardly ‘Shadow Gangs’; groups of rogue ninjas who have destructive aims. It’s your age old good vs. bad, save the world scenario, where 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 iconic Shinobi, and this shows in the fundamental gameplay mechanics. The player directs Dan across 10 more-or-less linear levels, making liberal use of ranged and melee attacks (get ready for sore thumbs) to vanquish his opponents, and precise use of the ducking and jumping functions to avoid incoming fire and hits. 

Your arsenal is spiced-up by the inclusion of powerful but sparsely numbered landmines and ‘ninja magic’ attacks (imagine the screen-clearing special attacks from the Streets of Rage series), as well as occasional power-ups that switch out Master Dan’s shuriken for a much heftier combo of samurai sword plus sub-machine gun. Six boss fights are interspersed throughout the regular levels, as well as shooting-range style bonus stages, providing a decent amount of content in all.

Although I lack the technical know-how to test it, I have no reason to doubt the publisher’s claim that Shadow Gangs runs at 60 frames-per-second on the Dreamcast. The silky-smooth performance certainly seems to bear this out, and the customisable controls feel tight, responsive and map nicely to the standard Dreamcast controller. The large, detailed sprites and varied backgrounds, with colour schemes that pop without becoming too garish, look gorgeous outputted over VGA. Shadow Gangs is well polished when it comes to its audio features too.

The music is well composed, catchy and suits the character of the game down to a tee, and although the voiceover (which sounds like it was recorded by a stereotypical classically trained British actor) is undeniably cheesy, it brought a smile to my face which can only be a good thing. A word of warning though: avoid taking a big slurp of tea just before ‘COLLIN!’ is blurted out of your speakers, unless you intend on redecorating in the near future. In sum, the porting of Shadow Gangs from the PC to the Dreamcast has been executed extremely well—something which is perhaps not too surprising considering the who’s who of experienced Dreamcast programmers that are thanked in the game’s credits. The care and attention that has been afforded is evident throughout, from the VMU icons and rumble pack compatibility, through to the four language options. 

Shadow Gangs (Dreamcast Edition) hits Kickstarter!

Good news! Everyone's favourite 80's inspired side-scrolling beat 'em up Shadow Gangs has finally hit Kickstarter! I say finally, because Shadow Gangs for Dreamcast has been a long time coming - news of it coming to the Dreamcast can be found as early as 2016. Since those first murmurings of a Dreamcast port, Shadows Gangs released to Steam and Xbox in 2020, with a Switch port following at the beginning of 2021 - to almost universally positive reviews. 

More recently, developer JKM Corp teased us with a clip of the port we've been waiting for running on a Dreamcast, with news that the Dreamcast version was pretty much finished, and a Kickstarter would be on its way soon. Well it's now here, with options for both digital and physical editions available.
But JKM Corp isn't just giving us any old version of Shadow Gangs, oh no. Considering the game's pretty obvious Shinobi influence, it is only right that Shadow Gangs would come to a Sega console with a bang.

According to the Kickstarter campaign, the Dreamcast version will have 7% more vertical resolution compared to other versions, and will also feature controller rumble - a feature exclusive to Dreamcast. The game will also benefit from its later release date in the sense that certain features will be tweaked in this version thanks to the feedback of fans who played the PC and console original, making it more accessible to everyone. Listening to fan feedback will always get a thumbs up from us.

For those looking for a more ass-kicking experience though, multiple difficulties will be available, including the absolutely ridiculous Crimson Ninja mode. Shadow Gangs may well become the Dark Souls of Dreamcast beat 'em ups. Dark Gangs? Sorry.
 
There are many perks for backing at different tiers, including a hefty collector's edition that comes with an artbook and a shirt, as well as a load of other collectable items. To get a physical Dreamcast release though, you'll need to stump up £45 or higher.

There are also some stretch goals, including a re-recorded soundtrack with a full band, PS4 and PS5 versions, and the promise of a sequel if the funding reaches the required levels.

Regardless, we're excited to see yet another new game come to the Dreamcast, and that it is one with such a pedigree is hugely exciting. Head over to the Shadow Gangs Kickstarter here to pledge your support.