Aragami is a third person stealth game in which you take control of a vengeance demon summoned by a princess to save her from captivity. The eponymous hero can teleport between shadows and use a range of powers to move through levels remaining invisible or killing everything in sight. The game gives a feeling of old-school stealth games like Tenchu, but is much more based on stealth than action.
The Story starts with an apparition of Princess Yamiko briefing the demon Aragami on her plight, having been trapped as a prisoner of war. Yamiko claims her people have lost a long running war to Kaiho, an army of light and been either enslaved or wiped out. The story is told with narration from Yamiko as well as animated scenes in which Aragami get snippets of memories which build up a bigger picture. This sounds clichéd, a princess in distress waiting to be rescued, but as the story progresses, Yamiko develops and gains depth which is refreshing.
On to the gameplay, Aragami is hard. Very hard. I say this as a gamer that has a clear pattern with stealth based game, this involves me trying to be stealthy to a point, getting spotted, and killing everything in sight. Aragami does not give you this luxury. The guards and snipers are all armed with weapons of light which fire a beam of energy that kills you instantly. Basically, if you are spotted, it is instant death. This makes for some very intense gameplay in which one slip up or wrong move will mean hitting “restart checkpoint” and losing current progress. This can be frustrating at times as there are very few checkpoints I the levels which can mean replaying a lengthy section over and over. The checkpoint system is sometimes a little flawed, in one level the aim is to break 4 orbs in rooms that branch from a central room. If you walk towards one of these rooms, you trigger a checkpoint but if you decide to go another way, that checkpoint will not reactivate. This meant on my first play of the level, I ‘used up’ the checkpoints and had to play most of the level in one run.
Aside from being difficult, Aragami is smooth and fluid and does well to draw the player into its story. Part of the immersion is the lack of a HUD which means the entire screen is dedicated to gameplay with no health bars or ammo meters and surprisingly, no map. This is achieved as Aragami’s cape is used as a shadow meter as well as displaying the current shadow power you have equipped. The cape is also used to show Aragami’s visual status, turning red if you are in the light or black if you are in shadows. This is a refreshing take on the display as many newer games tend to have a lot going on on-screen. There is a slight downside to this however in that on a few occasions, due to the camera being too close to Aragami or the cape getting caught on the handle of my sword, I couldn’t actually see the cape to know what my status actually was. This is minor though and has only happened on a few occasions.
Despite it’s few flaws, Aragami is a solid stealth title. It brings back the memories of older stealth games and through clever use of display, forces you to watch your surroundings and learn patterns. Nowadays it seems a lot of games spoon-feed the player and give an easy way out but Aragami just gives an objective and that’s it, it’s up to the player how they get there. The graphics are gorgeous with some excellent lighting effects and the sounds bring the scenery to life. If you can look past a few minor flaws, this is definitely worth playing.