Shadow of Destiny

 

Genre:     Adventure

Developer & Publisher:    Konami

Released:   2002

PC Requirements:     Windows 95/98/ME/XP, Pentium II 450, 128MB RAM, 16MB 3D DirectX 8.0 compatible video card, DirectX compatible sound card, Keyboard, Mouse

 

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by Becky

This is the story of a mysterious Everyman (Eike Kusch) who walks the streets of a quaint European town trailed by an assassin. In the next scene he wakes up dead. Although in most games the screen would then read "GAME OVER", this is Shadow of Destiny in which you help the hero wrestle fate, death and time -- all between coffee and late-night cocktails.

The opening sequence compares favorably to some of the best in the adventure genre. The ending sequence(s) are in a class all their own. There are eight different endings (that I've seen so far) and you have to trigger at least six of them to fully understand what's been happening in the game. I've seen Shadow criticized by gamers who played one ending and then felt cheated because things didn't make perfect sense. In this game, the alternate endings are not optional -- you have to see them if you are going to gather all the possible futures together and shape them into a completed whole.

The game takes place in the same town during different historical periods. You explore the nooks and crannies while meeting various townspeople and looking for inventory items. There are no pixel hunts, no mazes, no sliding tile puzzles, no mechanical puzzles. Inventory items are easy to find if you figure out the correct actions to take first. Deciding which time period to visit and what to do once you arrive is the chief challenge of the game. There are also a handful of key decisions you must make while engaged in conversation with various characters.

The game's second greatest challenge (at least to this gamer) was getting used to the keyboard control system. The controls are extremely sensitive, and the town is (artfully) littered with decorative stone posts. An accomplished keyboarder can run slalom patterns through these barriers. For me, it wasn't until Chapter Three that I became sufficiently competent to keep from constantly bouncing off of them. Although it is possible to use the mouse to pan around outside locations, once indoors it's keyboard control only.

Should you happen to make all the right decisions, it is possible to finish this game in about four hours. It took me forty. The game (I played it on Windows XP) crashed to the blue "Windows has shut down" screen six times in that period. Other criticisms -- I didn't have enough save-game slots. And although part of the time you can Escape through already-viewed cutscenes, it is inevitable that you will be stuck viewing some of the cutscenes more than you would like.

Shadow is a game you are likely to feel strongly about. I loved it. My gaming partner was, at times, ready to fling the disk across the room in frustration ("We have to watch THAT cutscene AGAIN?"). Up until the endings, anyway, when we both watched in awe as each plot thread was tied up in an intricate bundle.

You can explore this game in a leisurely fashion if you don't mind dying. Or you can avoid dying multiple times if you miss the little details and avoid the side-quests. Feeling the constraints of time, wondering what on earth is going on and whom to trust -- these are all part of the Shadow experience. The game does a wonderful job of gradually revealing background, motivation and character. You think you are just beginning to see the truth when the plot twists, the hand of an assassin appears from nowhere, and our hero lies dying in the street.

So what did you learn? Life is a wheel of changes. Do you wish to begin again?

Final Grade: A

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