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Shadow of Destiny - PS2 - Review

In most games when you die, the game is over.  In Konami's™ newest adventure game, "Shadow of Destiny," it happens to be just opposite of this typical game paradigm.  I know it's hard to believe at first, but in this game when you die, the game has just begun.

It is 02:30PM on 04.08.2001; a young man named Eike Kusch has just unexpectedly lost his life due to the actions of an unknown assailant.  He then wakes up in a strange environment, not knowing whether he's actually dead or not.  Suddenly, he is startled by a mysterious voice asking him "How does it feel to be dead...Eike?"  The voice, which belongs to a character named Homunculus, then tells him that he can offer some help, that is, if Eike has the will to attempt to somehow reverse his own fate.  Eike thinks that this proposal must be too good to be true and that he would probably be selling his soul to the devil if he took Homunculus (who he thinks is the devil) up on the offer.  Homunculus assures him that he just wants to help him out and that if he doesn't attempt to change his own fate, he will simply die immediately.  Eike realizes that Humunculus must not be the devil and decides to go for it, since he wasn't at all ready to die.  Humunculus then gives Eike some of his time-shifting powers in the form of a device called a "digipad." This device allows him to time travel in order to remove the underlying cause of his death and ultimately change his destiny.  This is your task; you, Eike Kusch, must change the course of history and find a way to prevent your own death.  Confused, you wake up in a restaurant, not sure if the experience was real or not, but then find the digipad and the fateful adventure begins.

The game consists of ten chapters in which you must avoid each mortal danger you face, in order change your fate.  If time expires before you complete your objective, you will be killed in accordance to your fate.  When this does happen, you will return to the strange setting from the beginning of the game where Homunculus will give you hints for survival.  This actually isn't entirely a bad thing because when you are killed you then know what you will have to avoid or change when you go back in time to prevent your death.  If however the time expires while you're moving back in time, you will be thrown into a "time limbo" and the game will be over.  Beware; another way to lose the game is by coming in contact with yourself while traveling back in time.

The setting throughout the ten chapters is a uniquely designed European town.  This is a town that you'll undoubtedly get to know very well as the game progresses.  In order to do so, you can take a look at the multiple maps of the town (made in different years), which are conveniently kept in your item inventory.  In this town you will visit many different locations and converse with many different people in order to solve puzzles and find clues to stop the killer.

I was disappointed by the fact that you're very rarely allowed to choose what Eike says to the various people he comes in contact with.  Instead they typically tell you almost exactly what you need to know and this makes the game, for the most part, pretty easy.  If they don't tell you what you want to know, sometimes the key is to be persistent.  By interacting with the same character multiple times, you can often get a hint regarding what to do next, if necessary.  The clues that Konami™ intended to be subtle just aren't subtle enough, and this also contributes to the low difficulty level of this game.  For example, the digipad signals for you to change times by blinking in your pocket.  This notification, and others like it make it relatively simple to know what to do next.

This game is a relatively short play, as it can easily be finished in one day.  Even though Konami™ claims that there are ten "massive" chapters; don't be fooled, they aren't "massive" in any sense.  After you complete the game, you have the ability to replay it in order to reveal new scenarios and to experience the numerous different endings.  In doing so, you will finally be able to recognize the complex relationship between the different time periods that you have visited.

Admittedly, this game is built over a fairly unique storyline and it does allow for a very original adventure gaming experience.  Though there's just something about the fact that the main character dies over and over again that gets kind of annoying.  I know this is the whole point of the game, but this unfortunate aspect causes the game to be a little on the monotonous side.  It's still a relatively fun game, but there's not enough variability in the game play to make this one a classic in the adventure genre.  Although it seems that it may temporarily beat out all of its competitors in the console market.

A large part of "Shadow of Destiny" is made up of video sequences that portray events pertaining to your survival.  You are able to skip video events by pushing the circle button, if and only if you have previously viewed them (before you died). There are a lot of videos that seem pointless, but don't be fooled.  Most of the details that appear to be irrelevant are important later in the game.

The graphics are impressive, but they could use some texture refinement among other things.  The video seems dark and this often makes objects in the distance almost impossible to see.  Unlike many games, the graphical quality of the actual game play is of the same quality of the various video sequences.  Some of the animation isn't as smooth as it could be, but this doesn't detract much from the overall presentation.  All the different environments are filled with much impressive detail, but unfortunately you cannot interact with the majority of the objects.   After playing "The Bouncer," the ante has been upped, and I've come to expect outstanding graphical quality from PS2 games that come on DVD-Rom, as "Shadow of Destiny" does.  Surprisingly, all the detailed scenes load up pretty quickly, so there's not much waiting around for the next sequence.

The music is of orchestral nature, which allows for dramatic contrasts and typical mood heightening characteristics.  The footsteps are cool, but if I can be picky for just a moment, they seem a little too loud and get quite annoying (since you're walking around throughout the whole game).  The sound of them does change when you get on different surfaces, and at this point most gamers have come to expect such minor details to be present.  I can't complain about any of the other sound effects, they were all extremely well done.  The voice-overs are up to par and seem to be as accurate as all other current games with frequent character dialog in them.  A couple of the characters' voices were ridiculously annoying and these characters happened to speak for long periods of time.  Just have some aspirin on hand and you'll be good to go.  Well, maybe they're not quite that bad, but Konami™ could have picked some better voice "actors" for these particular parts.

Controls are simple and straightforward.  The analog stick allows for precise movement, and by tilting it more Eike goes from running to walking.  Unfortunately I cannot say the same for the digital pad, as it isn't pressure sensitive.

This definitely isn't a game for those who are expecting a lot of action.  "Shadow of Destiny" is a typical third person adventure game, which is fueled by a very original storyline.  You must collect both items and information in order to piece together the various puzzles, which will control your destiny.  It's all or nothing, there's no turning back.  Are you up for this fateful challenge?

This game is Rated "T" for Teen and contains animated violence.  It requires 107KB on a PS2 memory card.
 

Reviewer's Scoring Details

Gameplay: 8.0
A large portion of the game consists of observing the various narrated video sequences.  The actual game play is typical of any adventure game, a little on the slow side.

Graphics: 8.5
Overall, the graphics were very well done; from the environmental detail to the unique characters, you'll surely be impressed.  If you've been spoiled by The Bouncer's graphics, then you might be a little disappointed, but you have to realize that all games just can't look that good!

Sound: 9.0
Aside from the few annoying, ear-piercing voices, the sound is great.  Realistic sound effects are present throughout and the music fits in perfectly in every situation.

Difficulty: 6.5
It takes a little while to get the hang of it this game, but once you do, you're likely to find this one a little on the easy side.

Concept: 8.0
The storyline is unique and well thought out, but could use a little spice here and there (for the purpose of variability).

Multiplayer: N/A

Overall: 8.0

Great

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