Though Japanese game developers are traditionally known for creating some of the very best console games around, some also develop PC games. Among them is Denyusha, a small developer from Kyoto that created the straightforward fantasy-themed action RPG Shadowflare and released it to the Japanese public in 2001. The game was subsequently brought to the US by publisher Emurasoft in late 2002, and while it retails for only $15, it's still difficult to recommend for a number of reasons.
Shadowflare is a hack-and-slash action RPG, and it's very, very similar to Blizzard's original Diablo from 1996 in many respects. You play as either a female or male character and hack your way through hordes of monsters in order to complete simple quests, such as defeating a certain monster or retrieving a specific item. The fighting consists of simply left-clicking repeatedly on your enemies, just like in the original Diablo. Unfortunately, Shadowflare doesn't let you click and hold your mouse button on a specific enemy, like Diablo II, and it doesn't have anything like the auto-attack feature from Gas Powered Games' Dungeon Siege, so you should be prepared to do plenty of clicking. And just like Diablo, Shadowflare has a paper-doll equipment system and an inventory of limited size (three health tablets take up as much room in your backpack as a short sword, for instance).
Shadowflare does have a few unusual features, though they don't add too much to the core game. Rather than play as a specific character class, you start off as a generic adventurer and then later change to a different class depending on which weapons you've been using. In addition, every character class can drop land mines that inflict a great deal of damage upon multiple enemies. Also, Shadowflare gives you a guard dog who fights with you. Your dog, like your weapons and magic spells, can be tuned to a specific elemental power and will cause a specific type of damage. Your dog can be useful to occasionally draw enemy fire and remotely pick up items for you, but generally speaking, you'll be doing most of the work throughout the game, clicking repeatedly on your enemies until they're slain.
Unfortunately, you might have trouble appreciating Shadowflare's gameplay nuances, because the game's sound isn't too great and its visuals are absolutely primitive. Shadowflare's instrumental background music isn't memorable, but it isn't offensive, and the game's sound effects, which generally consist of brief sound samples for your character attacking, monsters getting hit, and your dog barking, are repetitive but otherwise appropriate. On the other hand, Shadowflare looks like a game that might have come from 1996--the game runs at a locked resolution of 640x480, and although some of your character's attack animations are decent, they don't really compensate for the ugly, blurry rendered sprites that represent your character, your dog, and your enemies.
Shadowflare isn't really paced well, either. At several points in the game, you'll be tasked with hunting down a specific powerful enemy that will be far too strong for your current character to fight. So the best course of action in these cases is to kill off weaker enemies for experience points, save, quit the game, and then return so you can fight the same weak enemies to gain experience levels and become more powerful--this makes an already repetitive game even more so. Yet this game--the first episode in what will be a four-part series--is very brief, so what little enjoyment you might find in hacking and slashing will eventually be cut rather short. Considering the fact that Shadowflare isn't available as a CD, but only as a 100MB download from Emurasoft's Web site, you may want to think twice before you go to the trouble.
It's commendable that a small Japanese developer would take on the challenge of breaking into the highly competitive field of PC games. Unfortunately, Shadowflare is a completely outdated game. It attempts to improve on the sort of game formula that Blizzard helped establish with Diablo in 1996, but Blizzard itself has since refined and improved this formula with its own sequel, and similar games like Dungeon Siege have made even more improvements and additions to the formula.