Friday, 3 July 2020

SHADOW OF DESTINY (aka SHADOW OF MEMORIES)


Shadow of Destiny (or Shadow of Memories as it was known as over here) was the third PlayStation 2 game I ever purchased. It came a whole four months after the console's November 2000 launch, which I naturally bought immediately after saving up for months. While I managed to beat Konami's quirky adventure game fairly quickly, returning to the likes of TimeSplitters or Tekken Tag Tournament far more often, the images it conjured still managed to stick with me for many, many years. I remember being wowed by the graphics, totally immersed in the distinctly Bavarian town and gripped by the time-travelling mystery contained within it. It's been almost 20 years since I've played it, so I anxiously revisited it to see if my fond memories still hold weight or will they be overshadowed by the ravages of time.

We begin with your death. Eike Kusche's death. A bold way to begin any adventure. While visiting a quaint German town called Lebensbaum, you were stabbed in the back by an unknown assailant. That is not the end of Eike, though as none other than Satan himself gives you aid to solve the mystery and save your life, giving you the ability to travel through time to prevent your murder and unmask your killer. But something about this effeminate deity (voiced by Mario's Charles Martinet no less) appears off.

The fortune-teller provides clues of your time of death 
and eventually becomes an integral part of the plot.

This plot allows for some interesting gameplay. You get to explore the town, then change it by going back in time. Your initial death is scuppered by inviting a load of residents to loiter in the area where it will happen. The next is prevented by making sure a tree isn't planted in the town centre middle ages. Depending on the decisions you make, you can either replace it with a nice flower garden or a statue of Eike himself. Many puzzles are solved in different ways, many with equally entertaining outcomes. That statue you resurrect, for example, may include you holding up a turn-of-the-millennium cell phone making for some awkwardly brilliant comments from the residents.

Time travel is the crux of the gameplay, and you can travel to select time periods with your digipad. This is given to you by that devil of indeterminate gender (who'll later introduce themself as Homunculus). If you have the energy, you can travel to any pre-determined moment in time open to you. The top right of the screen will indicate how many energy units you currently hold, with a maximum of 10. These are found in the game would as glowing green orbs and are usually replenished whenever you travel back to a time period. I never really came close to running out, but I can imagine doing so later on in the game when multiple moments in time can be travelled to in your quest to progress the story.

Choices in the past change the present in a myriad of ways.
There are 6 very different endings as a result.

In this way, the game rewards exploration and experimentation. If you do a fair amount of the former you'll find enough energy to do a great amount of the latter. It helps that it's pretty hard to out-and-out die. Well, you will die - quite often in fact. I'm talking about a game over. When visiting the past, the clock will still tick in the present. If you reach your time of death while in another time, the continuum will short circuit and not even Homonculus can resurrect you. The trick is to return to the present at the time of death so that you can come back and try again.

The way the game handles saves is in line with this philosophy. Permanent saves will be offered at the beginning of each chapter, though you have access to one temporary save at all times. These are solely used for when you want to leave the game mid-chapter and are deleted as soon as you restore it. It's the David Cage philosophy of game design, making sure you own your decisions, though I do like the more lenient approach here.

Pick up the glowing green energy units whenever you can (left). In the past, two times run concurrently. 
Your digipad will pulse green if time is running out so don't overstay your welcome! (right)

All of the puzzles have a vaguely esoteric aura to them. Never once did I feel like I was working towards a solution to a problem, but I instead felt like any progression was put upon me. If I was stuck, I simple wandered the town - whenever that may be - talking to everyone until I triggered something. Normally, I would say this is leaning towards a bad, unfocussed game design for some reason it fits here. The nature of the story and presentation have a weird mystical feeling, and this puzzle design complements that perfectly.

The graphics add to this Lynchian atmosphere too. I remember marvelling at the game's look, at how the eyes have actual eyeballs instead of painted textures, how each finger is individually modelled instead of going for a mitten shape to save polygons. It is also overly clean and shiny, perhaps dating the game but also providing each character with an uncanny air of unreadable mystery.

The time periods you can visit will gradually increase over the games' chapters.

As for the voice acting, well, it's equally strange. The lines of dialogue are deliberate and perfunctory, performed in an almost emotionless inflexion that perfectly encapsulates the tone of the game. If you think they don't add anything, try the PSP version released in 2009. They re-recorded the dialogue with different voice actors and an aim to make it sound better, but it fails. The new dub forgets that Shadow of Memories was supposed to be - above all else - weird.

If there was one issue I had with the PC version over the PlayStation 2, it's in the controls. The mapped keys aren't exactly broken, but they cannot be changed at all. You can use a control pad, which surprisingly accepts the XBox One controller, but the buttons are not placed in a similar way to the PS2 and the analogue stick doesn't work as it's supposed to, restricting movement to only four directions. I played with the keyboard and mouse, and while a little awkward, it suited me just fine. It's not like it's an action-heavy game at all.

A map of Lebensbaum in the present day (left) and the 1500s (right)

Upon playing the game again, my memories of my first playthrough back in March 2001 came out of the shadows. I fondly recalled the exhilaration of that burning building, the odd behaviour of the medieval wenches or that strange man eating spaghetti in the cafe. I remember plot points and actions, giving me a heads up on certain scenarios. It got to the point where I could complete a whole chapter in 10 seconds, 'cos I knew how to prepare for it. Every chapter has multiple ways to complete it, and decisions made in earlier moments affect how later scenes play out. That's some attention to detail.

Despite Shadow of Memories being its original Japanese name, I believe the American title of Shadow of Destiny is far more fitting a title. While the game does occasionally play on recollections, the main theme is much more about fate and playing with perceived inevitability. It's a game with many layers ripe for discussion. If you haven't played it, it's about time you step out of the shadows and make your own memories of it. It holds up incredibly well.


To download the PC game, follow the link below. This is a custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber uses dgVoodoo to run on modern systems. Manual and Quick Reference Card included. Tested on Windows 10.

File Size: 619 Mb.  Install Size: 665 Mb.  Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ

Download

Watch the video review!



Shadow of Destiny (aka Shadow of Memories) is © Konami
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me


Like this? Try These...

http://collectionchamber.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/time-gate-knights-chase.html  https://collectionchamber.blogspot.com/2020/05/city-of-lost-children.html  http://collectionchamber.blogspot.co.uk/2015/03/nocturne.html


26 comments:

  1. This game is very interesting indeed, I tried it many years ago but never got very far. I really enjoyed the atmosphere and the unique gameplay. Some weeks ago I remembered this game - and now it's here. Thank you for making it available and playable! :)

    There seems to be a problem with the download however: One file is encrypted and cannot be downloaded (should be Install-SOD.D02).

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    1. Ugh! Thanks for letting me know. Mega is a bit crap about making such errors visible to the user. Give me a few moments and I'll fix it.

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    2. Thank you! :)

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  2. NICE! I've been wanting to play this for a while!

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  3. Another fantastica game. Thanks!

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    1. Yes! This is another great game inside a fantastic collection, and I'm only surprised to see it wasn't here already. The question now is what is not inside this collection. (Not a lot, it seems!)

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    2. Indeed, the collection is unparalleled! The only game I'm still longing for - as it's one of the most difficult to get emulated properly with full 3D - is Warhammer: Dark Omen.

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  4. I almost had forgotten about this lovely Mystery 3D Adventure that once constituted a reasonable cause for getting a Playstation 2 soon after the game console's Western release; at a time when the machine was still young and fresh and a bright future as Sony's soon-to-be golden goose was just about to start. But while it was only later that I owned a PS2, jumping on the bandwagon on the golden road to Sony's further success, somehow Shadow Of Destiny slipped my mind time and again over the years, despite wandering within the depths of my unconsciousness all the time since the pre-millennium when first previews had been publicized in relevant game magazines.

    So, once again it is unrivalled Biff to whom I owe the rescue of another hidden gem from my personal mental recollection of lost games I always wanted to play, but actually never did. And as a person who has a soft spot for time travel mysteries, Japanese game design and also XBox 360 game controllers (which are rather lovelessly supported here, according to Biff's passionate review, but maybe joypad tools for remapping key and mouse controls like XPadder or JoyToKey work wonders), I'm more than happy so see the PC version getting celebrated here at The Collection Chamber, eventually. A fine choice, indeed, Biff! :-)

    Bye for now,
    Thomas

    P.S. Nice-to-know fact: Shadow Of Destiny's portrayed fictional town Lebensbaum is loosely based on Germany's most popular among tourists' town Heidelberg. That's what one of the responsible designers of the game once revealed.

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  5. This tourist was told the best medieval German town was Rothenburg instead of Heidelberg. Still, that was satisfying enough!

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    1. Yes, in Rothenburg (ob der Tauber) you find the fairytale-esque charme of a medieval walled town, while Heidelberg offers an exciting mixture of the old and new, I'd say. In any event, it is just half the fun to only visit one of them, since they both offer unique and very well worth seeing townscapes that both go back deep into German history.

      Bye for now,
      Thomas

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    2. I wonder if there is any good reason why one has a "burg" ending and the other "berg". (I suspect there is no other reason than to trip me up!) Exploring Rothenburg, I did feel like I was inside a Brothers Grimm fairytale, or something written centuries earlier. All that was missing was a Pied Piper and some rats.

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    3. Now you've got me, James, haha! No, honestly, I can just vaguely suspect about the different meanings of "-burg" (translated as "castle") and "-berg" (=hill) and their utilization in German town and city names. So, for instance, I can imagine that when such a city or town had been named many centuries ago, it could have been played a role if either a castle, a fortress, etc., or a hill, a mound, etc. was regarded as the distinguishing cityscape attribute in whose range of vision the particular human settlements had been developed. Well, I don't know how much truth can be found within my unfunded assumption, but it could at least pass for a possible theory.

      Visiting Rothenburg, I must confess, is still on my bucket list (which actually is a shame for a German citizen who has traveled half way around the world), but until then I'm basking in the beauty of your visual impressions you had absorbed during your visit at Rothenburg, where I guess that - besides all these charismatic prota- and antagonists invented by the Brothers Grimm - only some airily floating little fairies should have been additionally present to make for your perfect happiness. :-)

      Bye for now,
      Thomas

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    4. Your interesting question about how it behaves with "-burg" and "-berg" kept bugging me as well, and so I did a quick research on an official explanation. So how about that? Places that end with "-burg" or "-berg" are usually located on a little bit higher lying natural grounds.

      Sometimes the simple interpretations are so close at hand, aren't they? :-)

      Bye for now,
      Thomas

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    5. Ah, so it refers to a castle or a hill, or a castle on top of a hill, just like Edinburgh. Thanks. Rothenburg is a must-see place in Germany, and seeing pictures is not as good as being there in person. The town isn't big enough to contain fairies or Pied Pipers, sadly for me -- but it's still the most perfectly-preserved medieval experience in Europe, probably.

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    6. Well, I don't know how you imagine your typical household fairytale-fairy, but the one I have in mind fits into every guy's trouser pocket, and together in the collective they would show themselves only during daylight hours to enchant the thousands of Rothenburg's marvelled daily visitors at free will, before eventually it would be time again to return back into the nearby woods to get their well-deserved sleep amongst spreading tree crowns softly swaying in the night wind. Pied Piper, however, who's a different kind of beast, would take his not less well-earned timeouts in one of the cosy town's hotels whilst keeping his (trained) rats in a spacious cage during the night, so they'd be well-rested and ready for devotedly following their master's delightful flute playing as of next morning again...

      Hmm, seems like I'm runnning the risk of drifting away here. Very. Even for our usual standards, haha.

      Bye for now,
      Thomas

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    7. Oh sure, pocket-sized fairies can indeed be enchanting (I think there were some in Lord of the Rings, but I could be wrong), although full-size ones are even better. I too had in mind the ones who would fit into every guy's trouser pocket, and are also carefree enough to spend their private time in the dark woods. And if I was in Hamelin at the right time, I might also have been one of the devoted followers of this dapper gentleman who showed expert flute-playing skills. He's not necessarily such a different kind of beast, I would guess.

      Hmm, I'm getting carried away too. Well, I'm glad we ended on a note of agreement, at least.

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  6. Nice pick Biff,this one definately deserves a remaster.

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    1. Ditto. You're taking the words right out of my mouth. :-)

      Bye for now,
      Thomas

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  7. Great game, thanks! a little question. When i try to save the game, i can choose only thr first slot. is normale? Maybe i need to use the jopad to select the others? At the momnti i am using the keyboard.

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    1. You're right. You can only save in a permanent slot at the end of each chapter. When you want quit the game, you have access to the single temporary save file. When you load the temp save, it will automatically be deleted forcing you along the path you're already on. It's a werid way of doing things, but it's designed to make you own your decisions.

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    2. Thank you for the answer!

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  8. I was always curious about this game. Is it like classic adventures (with inventory based puzzles etc) or more like interactive dramas like Fahrenheit (and other David Cage games) or the Telltale games?

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    1. I would say it's a mixture of both. There are inventory puzzles, but nothing too complex (use ladder to get crest, show crest to person - that kind of thing). The difficulty is mostly in how you interact with people, finding them and paying attention to the time, though I find the most memorable elements from a story perspective are the choices. They're not quite as many as a Telltale game but it's still well worth a number of playthroughs to find how the plots diverge. It's not as if it's the longest of games anyway.

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  9. Tough game,played about 30 min.then made a mistake and see game over without saving.How frequent permadeath in this game?

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    1. You do die a lot of the time within the actualy story (eg, chosing to enter a burning building), but actual game-over death only happens if the time runs out and you haven't done enough to avoid your future murder. Even if that does happen, you can still load your save at the beginning of the chapter with the added bonus of being able to skip scenes you've already seen (and having previous knowledge of some of the time-consuming red herrings you came across). It plays a bit differently to most adventures, but stick with it and the style will click.

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