Sclash Review – The Sound Of A Dull Blade

It’s fighting game season! Evolution Championship Series, better known as EVO, is in full swing, and after one of the greatest gaming comebacks in Street Fighter 6, Mortal Kombat 1 and Tekken 8 are right around the corner. While these AAA series are passing off the torch to their newest installments, several indie titles are still battling for attention during one of the busiest years in the genre’s history.

Enter Sclash, a one-hit-kill 2D samurai fighting game with beautiful, hand-drawn environments. The animations are on a lower framerate, hits and parries accentuated by zooms and a slow-down effect, and the final hit turns into a classic, dramatic, dark silhouette-based shot where the winner gets to give their one-liner. These make for an eye-catching product, but in its current state, Sclash is failing to execute its ideas properly.

Jinmu on the right with the blade, Susano on the right standing tall, both ready to battle with a beautiful reddish background
The tension is palpable thanks to the red background

The single biggest issue with Sclash is the lack of online multiplayer, which is mentioned in the trailer. In one of the posts on the Steam page, it is mentioned that it will be coming in the upcoming weeks, but nowhere else is it said that it is currently unavailable. The PvP experience is only available through Steam Remote Play or Parsec, but in a fighting game, any input delay is a matter of life and death, so it is far from an ideal solution.

As is, the only available modes are local play, battling against AI on different difficulties, and the 30-minute-long story mode. I can only assume Sclash will be better once online is implemented; there are plenty of unlockable cosmetics and achievements which should be more than enough content for anyone invested enough, but it is hard for me to imagine myself wanting to return once it is implemented.

Closeup of a Samurai Helmet
The hand-drawn cutscenes and environments are the best thing about the story mode

There are more issues plaguing Sclash. Some mechanics are a problem due to being overpowered, while others due to being completely useless. Mind you, this largely comes from the conclusions I arrived at while playing against the game’s hardest AI. Sclash has a total of five playable characters, all beautifully animated, but all with the same moveset, only differing through design and animations.

The moves the player can perform are as follows: an attack that you can charge for greater range and modify with the directional buttons, one dash for each direction, a parry, and a pommel for interrupting an opponent’s action from up close. Each, except the last, takes up one of the four stamina bars, which regenerate while being passive. To be frank, to beat the story you only need the first two, and one only to move faster.

Jinmu against a few weaker opponents attacking from both sides
Sometimes the campaign will pit Jinmu against a few weaker opponents attacking from both sides

Realistically, all you need to beat anything in Sclash is the attack, which is why there exist modifiers for the campaign that allows the player to do just that: remove all other moves. For the first part of it, the player character, Jinmu, does not possess the charging ability. At this point, I was tricked into thinking there’s more depth to the movement than there is, but once the charge is acquired, it is game over for all complexity.

The AI completely cracks when faced with charged attacks. It breaks parries, so they do not attempt that. Instead, they try to dash through the player. This rarely works, as the hitbox on a fully charged attack is so large that it extends even behind the character, and the dash does not provide a long enough invulnerability. If one samurai is close to a corner and the other can zone them out, they are doomed.

Showcasing the dash
The dash is a good gap closer, but the characters move when they use the forward charging attack as well, so it becomes somewhat obsolete

And they will get stuck in a corner, at least during the campaign. During regular fights, opponents are put back at the same distance as when they first started, but during the story, the two jump away from each other in their respective directions, only pushing them further. This turns all the seemingly climactic final battles into a joke, to the point where each of my attempts would turn into a cacophony of voice lines, many of which did not finish by the time I won.

The campaign, very loosely inspired by Japanese mythology, follows Jinmu, who tries to bring peace to two warring factions led by Susanno and Amaterasu. He runs to the right a lot, dispatches some easy enemies, and occasionally fights a boss that has to be defeated several times before falling. Overall it goes like this: stop the war by beating up some people who are too dumb to understand that they may be wrong otherwise. Combat prowess above all!

Jinmu in between two opponets in a bamboo forest
Stuck between a rock and a hard place, except not really because these fellas are absolute chumps

The voice acting undermines the story. Actors pronounce names differently, and some cutscenes go by so fast that they cut outspoken lines, it is just a mess for what is a 30-minute-long campaign. The only highlight is being able to see all the wonderful backgrounds scroll through as Jinmu runs to the right a lot, as the combat leaves a lot to be desired. Such a short experience is already showing so many cracks.

Sclash has also deleted my save file, which was placed just before the final boss. Running through everything and skipping cutscenes led to an even shorter experience, where I was more aware of the cracks in the opponents, I was less invested in the story, and still could not apply modifiers. Moving on to just 1v1s from the menu was not much better.

A masked ronin dealing a strike to their opponent
A deep cut, but they may yet recover

Just within a few of those duels, I am struggling to find a use for the pommel. Its range is so small, and when the other attacks have so much range, it is just too situational. The only consistently good strategy is charging and using one of the three variations to catch the opponent off guard on the positioning. Should Sclash develop further, I could see the potential for other moves, but right now the combat is just very one-dimensional.

With a few other annoyances (Amaterasu has a double slash, but the second one’s hitbox seems non-existent for example), Sclash is just a very forgettable experience that is lacking in content. Perhaps worth checking out once the online features arrive, the game needs to figure out which direction to take its combat in as well to break through all the competition.

Mateusz played Sclash on PC with a review code.

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1 month ago

Hesitation is Defeat.