everyone talking about this game?
There are SO many
reasons why Shadow of Destiny should roll off the tongues of adventure
gamers everywhere, and yet the game appears fated to disappear into the
oblivion of indifference. Well, in keeping with the spirit of the game,
I’m about to do my best to reverse that course.
Hands up the number
of people who have played Shadow of Destiny (called Shadow of Memories
in the UK). Hmmm, that few?… Okay, how many people have at least
bought Shadow of Destiny? Yeesh… Perhaps we should start over.
How many people even KNOW there’s a new PC adventure game out called
Shadow of Destiny? Oh dear – this could be harder than I thought.
If you weren’t even
aware the game existed for PC, that’s understandable. Originally
released for the Playstation 2 by Konami, Shadow of Destiny was ported
to PC with relatively few enhancements outside of some graphical
improvements. Unfortunately, in some kind of marketing blunder, the
game’s scheduled release date passed with no updates from Konami, and
ultimately it disappeared from popular radar. Then, with no hype or
fanfare at all, the finished game simply emerged (in limited numbers) on
store shelves. So much for publicity.
For those tempted
to write the game off simply because of its console roots - DON’T, I
urge you. It does possess some elements of its Playstation heritage,
but there is no jumping, fighting, or quick-reflex finger twitching.
This is a pure adventure game through and through. It also happens to
be one of the most intriguing, innovative titles to grace either system
in a long time.
Shadow of Destiny
is part classic whodunit murder mystery, part time
traveling sci-fi, part fantasy, part love story, and part character-rich
drama that compares to really nothing else on the market. For starters,
you’re dead…. I’ll just let that sink in for a moment. Yep, dead….
Not Grim Fandango dead, either. You play the role of a young man named
Eike (Ike) Kusch, and you witness your own murder in the opening scene
(though not the identity of the culprit). Fortunately, you are roused
in a kind of Twilight Zone netherworld by an amoral “Q-like” creature
called Homunculus, who offers you the chance to prevent your own death
with the aid of a time traveling device.
right? Well, not so fast. Since destiny has targeted Eike for death,
it will also be necessary to eliminate the very root cause of your fate,
lest death find new ways to claim your life (as it will inevitably do).
As it turns out, over the course of 10 chapters, that will take Eike as
far back as the year 1580, and include several time periods in between.
For anyone who recognizes the words “space-time continuum” (someone
shoot me if I use another Star Trek term), you realize that messing with
timelines has a serious cause and effect impact on the future, so this
becomes an intrinsic part of your problem solving on one hand, and your
greatest potential danger on the other.
And so begins our
game proper. Shadow of Destiny plays out in a fully 3D gameworld
controlled by a (gasp!) keyboard/mouse combo…. Uh oh, I just lost a few
readers – darn! But for those who remain, you’ll be glad you did. The
keyboard (primarily just the arrow keys) will take a little getting used
to, but most of your movement will be done in large outdoor areas, so
navigation is very little problem. Only a few indoor areas will be a
nuisance, as the navigation is further hindered by bad camera angles.
I’ll admit, this isn’t the ideal setup, but it shouldn’t be enough to
discourage anyone but the most ardent keyboard hater.
The graphics are
vibrant and colourful, and the anime-inspired character animations are
particularly beautiful. All of the people have large doe-eyes and soft
features. Facial expressions and gestures do a great job of conveying
genuine emotion. The variety of characters is also nice, as you’ll see
age ranges from children to the elderly, bald men, portly women, and so
on. In other words, what you’d expect to see in any cross-section of
The game takes
place in a small unnamed European town with cobblestone streets and a
quaint charm. There is enough activity to make the environment seem
alive, from people walking the streets to flags waving in the breeze.
As you move through time, you’ll see the same town in its different
iterations, and each time period is marked by a slight alteration in
colouring that gives each a unique look. Each time period also has
different weather, so from a dark spring night to a light afternoon rain
to a bitterly cold morning snowstorm, the town is completely
transformed. I particularly liked the snow scene, as it carried
additional effects like visible breath, and a slower pace as you trudge
through the snow.
Some of the
background textures are slightly dull or blurry, and the trees are
rather wretched looking, but that’s quibbling. It’s no Syberia, but for
a fully 3D environment, this is a very attractive game, and anyone who
thinks differently needs more prunes in their diet.
Early in the game,
you’ll acquire both a current and historical town map, each of which
will come in handy as you begin to travel time. The maps have the
available locations marked on them, so your options are always
apparent. On the actual streets, doors that can be opened are indicated
by a symbol pointer. Realistic, no – handy, yes.
Time travel is as
easy as the click of a button, providing you have an “energy unit” to
power your device. Not to worry, though, the energy units are quite
plentiful in all time periods, and regenerate each time you return, so
keeping yourself supplied should never be a problem.
In his travels,
Eike will encounter two women who seem particularly entwined with his
own destiny. This is no cheesy Harlequin story, mind you; it simply
adds a layer of personal interest… Will Eike end up with one of them?
CAN he be with either of them? How are they connected to his fate?
Hey, don’t look at me - no answers coming from this review. Just the
The characters you
meet are all given a detailed treatment rarely seen in games. Even
secondary characters each possess a distinct personality of his or her
own, rather than simply being a plot device. From the man who curses
his emotions after Eike leaves him alone, to the little girl who
delights in receiving a kitten for company, to the pigeon toed walk of a
young lady, to the bar owner who wants to show off pictures of his
grandkids, Shadow of Destiny seems filled with REAL people.
Unfortunately for Eike (but fortunately for gameplay), the people he
meets are not necessarily what they seem, and discovering the truth
about each character is a vital part of the mystery.
Sound quality is a
mixed bag. The music is decent and never seems overbearing. The voice
acting is generally quite good. Eike’s voiceover seems perfectly suited
to him, and he always comes across as believable even as he struggles to
reconcile himself to the unbelievable events he encounters. One of the
central young ladies has what might be termed a bimbo voice, although
her character doesn’t come across that way. My only real objection is
one boy, Hugo, who was surely voiced by a developer’s younger brother
who insisted on being part of the project. Leave the kid at home next
The sound effects
in the game are one of the primary failings. While overall fairly
decent, the game contains one particular effect that drove me nuts. In
an attempt at realism, rather than maintain a steady footfall sound as
he runs, Eike sporadically produces a louder heel clicking, but this was
WAY overdone, and had the effect of someone whapping a kid’s clacker toy
in my ears. Unfortunately, in another strange move, that particular
effect was tied to the sound volume for VOICES, so it wasn’t possible to
turn it down significantly. The other bizarre effect occurred in a time
period which contained a jogger. For some reason, regardless of where
the jogger was in relation to Eike, the LOUD! tired panting sounded like
it was coming from right beside me. Hey, there’s a time and place for
heavy breathing, but this wasn’t it.
All right, I’ve
skirted around the fringes, but now it’s time to come to the most
contentious aspect of the game. Timed sequences. In fact, the whole
GAME is one timed sequence after another, and a clock is a permanent
fixture on the screen. It’s a design decision that won’t be unanimously
embraced, but hear me out.
First of all, being
dead already, you’re not really penalized if you can’t prevent
your death (again) in time. Each segment of the game is MEANT to be
played through several times in order to get the full effect of the
story. If you just want to progress through the main storyline, you’ll
likely have more than enough time in each sequence – as I said, it’s not
about fast reflexes; just logical decision making. But if you want to
take your time and explore fully, there’s no punishment; you’ll simply
re-visit Homunculus’ netherworld, and then be placed back in time again
to continue your quest.
philosophy to the extreme, there are a total of EIGHT different endgame
scenarios, depending on several crucial decisions that you make. These
decisions are emphasized by asking you to verify your choice, so you’ll
know when you’re making them.
Just so you
understand my own preferences, I dislike repetition in games. It goes
against my nature to recommend a game that encourages repetition, but in
this case I will. The story is simply so compelling (and the game so
short otherwise) that it’s worth a little repetition to uncover all
The other major
objection to this game might be its degree of interactivity. This isn’t
an interactive movie, but it can have that feel at times. After a
period of controlling Eike through different actions and choices, you’ll
frequently break to watch lengthy cutscenes which drive the story
forward. Again, it runs contrary to my nature to sit still during many
such scenes, but I never felt that I was waiting them out to get to my
next play session; I was witnessing a story of which I was the audience,
a participant, AND a director, and that made it worth the time and
energy I invested in it.
I didn’t say
everyone would love this game. What I initially said is that
everyone should be TALKING about it. It’s a fresh approach to adventure
gaming, and as such it should be debated high and low for its merits vs.
limitations. What it shouldn’t be is ignored.
There is, of
course, another reason to promote this game. For years now, adventure
gamers have been the underdog – a persecuted niche market whose genre is
“dead” and gets no respect. Well, gang, this is a glimpse back into the
big time. This is the sort of game, no matter how poorly marketed, that
will likely serve as fodder for future corporate decisions. If sales
numbers for Shadow of Destiny are pitiful, it’ll simply reinforce the
concept that there’s no money in adventure games and the cycle will
Having said that, I
would never recommend a game solely to support the business of adventure
gaming. No, I do so only because this game stands proud and tall on its
own credentials. There is no denying its flaws, but I think everyone
should do themselves the favour of at least TRYING this game.
If you appreciate
an engaging story, lovely graphics, complex characters, and most of all,
something new… go grab Shadow of Destiny. You can either thank
me or yell at me later – just make sure you do it after you’ve played
P4, 2 Ghz
512 MB RAM
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