Version Reviewed: Sega Genesis
Year Published: 1992
Publisher: Taito Corporation
Developer: Cyclone System

A curiosity of the ARPG genre is that some are most difficult at the beginning when your power is low, your equipment is bad, you have no skills, and you're still learning the game's controls and mechanics. Taito's Cadash might be the most ridiculous example of this I've ever experienced.

Cadash is a sidescrolling ARPG in the vein of Faxanadu and Ys III. Unlike those games, and just about any other games like them, Cadash does not include a method to save your progress. No passwords, battery save, nothing. You do start with extra lives and can earn more (though there isn't a way to see how many you have), but when I first attempted to play it, I quickly expended them all.

When I started over again, I figured I would not only prepare better, but since I was using an emulator I would make save states. Weirdly enough, I never used the save states, and I never even lost another life. As it turns out, leveling up was the key to surviving. Your character gains levels quickly, and a good rule of thumb was to repeatedly defeat any foe that took more than one hit to kill until I could beat it with one hit. But a low exp level and lack of skill wasn't the only issue - in the beginning of Cadash there's no way to heal!

Technically you can find some herbs that restore 30 HP, but once they're gone, that's it. The first inn is located after the first boss, and did I mention that leveling up doesn't restore your HP/MP? Success here revolves around conserving HP as much as possible and level grinding until you only take 1 HP of damage from enemy contact. Once you reach the town with an inn and shops, you're suddenly in a much better position to stay alive through the rest of the game.

The reason for this strange design is that Cadash was based on an arcade game. Judging from what I saw when I watched a longplay of it, the only differences between the arcade and Genesis versions are the addition of two extra characters on the arcade version (a Priest and a Ninja - the Genesis port only has the Fighter and Mage), and a timer that would force you to put more quarters in the machine to keep playing. The graphics are also slightly better on the arcade vesion, but the music is identical on both.

This is why I believe Cadash did not afford players a means of saving progress, why it's so difficult in the early stages, and why its world is not the most sprawling. There are only a few instances where you even can stray off the main path to find hidden items. The game is mostly straightforward and consists of only five major areas. If you put any effort into it, you'll complete it in an afternoon.

If you want more to do after finishing Cadash, you can replay it with the other character. I started with the Fighter because the game recommends him for beginners. I replayed with the Mage, who is less powerful and has shorter weapon range. In theory, his magic should make up for this, but his spells are awkward to use. You hold the attack button which causes the spells to cycle onscreen, and let go of the button when the one you want appears. If you take damage, it interrupts the cycling. Because boss projectiles fill the screen (and the characters are huge targets), it was difficult to stay still long enough to wait for a preferred spell, so I beat most bosses with whatever it landed on.

I'd like to say things were harder as the Mage, and they would likely be for a beginner, but I still didn't lose any lives. Knowing the game well and preparing for the road ahead was all I needed.

I've gotten this far without mentioning what Cadash is about, and that's because there isn't much to say. A princess is kidnapped (how original) by a demon called the Balrog (how original) and the king sends you to get her back. There isn't much else to report, except for a cute gnome village and an uncensored topless mermaid, if you care about that sort of thing.

Graphically, the game is competent but not spectacular. The Fighter looks more like a buff woman than a man, but I suppose I'm okay with that. The music, despite being faithfully reproduced from the arcade game, is mediocre. The game allows for two simultaneous players, but I went solo both rounds so I don't have any comment on that.

While many older games, even some that were obscure in the past, have only grown in popularity over the years, Cadash seems largely forgotten. It doesn't have much of a cult following nor any sequels. Most information on the internet refers to the arcade version, although they're so similar, maybe it doesn't matter.

If Cadash had been completely reimagined as a home console game instead of being a straight arcade port, with bigger areas and more story, it's possible it could've transcended its era. Those who played it and gave up because of the limited lives may want to give it another try armed with the information in this review. For those who never played it, there are better recommendations out there (even on the Genesis, I'd cite Wonder Boy in Monster World), but it's not a bad way to pass an afteroon, especially if you already own it, or are willing to emulate it.


  • Not really a bad game, just a short one.
  • You might like it if you like games like Ys III and Faxanadu, but it is shorter and easier.
  • Fast leveling up system keeps things at a good pace.
  • Graphics are okay, not great. Bosses look good.


  • No save feature, but that's becoming less relevant in the age of emulators.
  • Some bosses are rehashed in the final area.
  • The Mage's magic system should've been reworked to use a menu.
  • No way to see how many lives you have in reserve.

    Score: 3/5



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