Shadow of Destiny Review
Silent Hill was Konami's first stab at the survival horror genre, a lot of critics hailed the game as a great first try and great game overall. I was one of the very few who thought it was a good first try but not quite as entertaining as a Resident Evil game. That was back in 1999, and ever since the release of Silent Hill a sequel was in demand by many who bought the first. It's no secret now that Silent Hill 2 is in development for Playstation 2, but Konami's Silent Hill staff was working on another game, a game that is reminiscent of Silent Hill, but plays nothing like it. Shadow of Destiny (Shadow of Memories in Japan) is the name of this PS2 title, and is one of the three amazing games that Konami shipped for the month of March. This game is easily a sleeper hit, I for one have never heard of this game up until maybe late February, and seeing as how this is one of the most unique and inspired videogames to date, I wonder why?
This game may not be as impressive as say, Onimusha: Warlords, but Shadow of Destiny is still a very good-looking title with a lot of high points to it. For beginners the cut-scenes in SOD are all real-time animated, and the same goes for the excellent looking backgrounds. The environments are incredibly impressive; some may easily mistake them as pre-renders rather than actual polygons. Everything from tress, houses, lamp posts, books, vases, couches and other common indoor objects look absolutely solid and detailed. I would go as far as to say that the environments in SOD are just a few steps below The Bouncer's environments, they are that good. The authentic feel of actual structures on screen is something that needs to be seen in more videogames today. Pre-renders are really a thing of the past, and games like The Bouncer and Shadow of Destiny will make that a fact.
Moving on to a new subject... character detail. Onimusha is the undisputed king of featuring the best looking characters in a videogame to date and The Bouncer is right behind Onimusha. While I'm not trying to imply that SOD has character detail as great as the aforementioned above, Konami did put a lot of effort into making SOD a very pretty game to look at. The real-time cut-scenes will show off what kind of detail Konami put into SOD, you will see close-ups of characters faces, and also notice the facial animations. The characters look very detailed, the bodies are well constructed, and seeing as how you will end up meeting dozens of townspeople it's quite surprising that they all look different than one another. Yes the characters do look good, but SOD lacks some extra 'flash' to boost the game's visual score up into the 9's.But all in all, I like the graphics, they may not be Onimusha or The Bouncer, but they still hold up for some great performance.
Like I said before, Shadow of Destiny is easily one of the most unique adventure titles you will ever get your hands on. The game starts off with the main character Eike (pronounced: Ike) being stabbed in the back (literally) and finding himself in some sort of weird chamber with a huge head of some statue and a voice in the background. This voice (who will reveal him self as Homunculus) will tell you that you have been killed by an unknown human being. In spite of this happening, the voice will tell you that it will grant you your life back if you can find out who your murderer was. In help of the journey you will receive a time traveling device called a DigiPad, this will allow you to travel back into time, changing a certain aspect of the era to prevent your death in the future. Granting you the ability to use the DigiPad are Energy Units. You will be able to store a maximum of 10 Energy Units, but don't worry, there is absolutely no problem in trying to find more when you run out of them. The Energy Units are scattered across the European town which constantly changes as you travel back and forth in time.
Now that you have the ability to travel back in time, you can prevent your death, but little do you know is that every time you prevent one death, another will strike at an appointed time in the game. In total you have to prevent your death ten times, once for every chapter, and catch the culprit. Sounds a bit repetitive but it isn't at all. (Slight spoiler ahead) One of the deaths you will encounter, is the murderer leaping from a tree that is standing behind you, and killing you again. You will return to the weird chamber, with the voice in the background telling you that you have to prevent this death by going back into time and stopping the planting of the tree in which the attacker was hiding in. You take the voice's advice, who by the way will be revealed later in the game, and you travel back 500 years, from 2001 to 1582. You will come across a man who is planting the tree for the Squire, if you speak to him he will tell you to go away. You will now have to find a piece of evidence proving that the Squire sent you (which he didn't) and told you to tell the planter in order to built either a Statue or Flower Garden. While doing all of this you must be aware of the appointed hour of your death, and be aware that the clock ticks in real time, so a second is a second, and a minute is a minute. The only exception is when you are speaking to somebody, a short conversation is 30 seconds added to the clock, while a whole cut-scene may range from 5 to 20 minutes added, but this time is elapsed.
Even though you have prevented one death, you will be killed another way, and then you will have to solve a puzzle in order to prevent that death. This game contains absolutely no guns or gruesome violence of any kind, instead SOD features an impressive scary story, that will surely get a hold on you. Throughout the game you will meet key characters such as Dana and Mr. Eckert, who's unfortunate pasts you will be asked to change for the better. Shadow of Destiny also features multiple endings, all connected to the choices that you make during the game. If you loved every minute of Silent Hill, then you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy of Shadow of Destiny, if you enjoyed a game like Shenmue, the same goes for you. I think I will leave it up to you to see what SOD has to offer.
Shadow of Destiny's story is told through over 3 hours of real-time cut-scenes, all overflowing with great voice acting. It's obvious that Konami has spent a lot of time in hiring excellent voice talents to record the 3 plus hours of dialogue, the conversations do experience some hesitation in between responses, but it's quite minor. The clarity is amazing as well, but just for those who also enjoy a little RPG flava' in their games, subtitles can be read on the bottom of the screen. If you access the options menu, you will be able to toggle between Japanese or English voice acting. The sound effects and background effects are exceptional as well, my hat goes off to the audio department of Konami, kudos!
The controls are very, very simple. You aren't really required to do anything like jumping or attacking so there are no action buttons. Moving on the other hand consists of two motions walking and running, I really wish there was more sensitivity in the controls, even though it wouldn't be necessary. You will be required to pick up objects, show key items to townspeople and access your inventory, so controlling really is as easy as 'one, two and three'.
In the end I should be honest about Shadow of Destiny, I wasn't expecting much from it, until I had a copy sent to me for review. At first I would play the game for about 3 hours straight, then another 2 hours to realize that this is the Playstation 2's first sleeper-hit. Shadow of Destiny features great visuals to accompany the most unique adventure game created to date. I advise everybody reading this review to go purchase Shadow of Destiny, this is one game that will really make you say "wow, that was cool". It's not as complex as you think it may be, in fact the story is quite easy to follow, I just don't want to give away any of it. Shadow of Destiny, is your destiny people, you've been waiting for a game like this! I know I have.
3/22/2001 Arnold Katayev