Shadow of Destiny
First posted on 19 February 2011. Last updated on 01 March 2013.
Shadow of Destiny (also known as Shadow of Memories) is an adventure game that revolves around time travelling and its consequences. The game is developed by Konami, the same developer of the Silent Hill series. Released originally in 2001 for the Sony PlayStation 2 in Japan, the game has since been ported to the PC and Microsoft Xbox with full English translation.
The story revolves around a young man named Eike Kusch, who lives in a fictional German town called Lebensbaum. It is a small town but with a big town square, decorated with trees surrounded by beautiful old looking buildings and alleys. It is a town where everyone knows everyone else.
The game begins with Eike coming out from the cafe and walking up the street on his way home. He does not make it up very far, when a shadowy character runs up to him from behind and puts a knife into his back. Eike falls flat to the ground and dies. Do not worry. It may sound like a big spoiler, but it really is not—it is only the beginning.
Instead, Eike wakes up on a wooden platform with some seemingly random objects lying around him. There is a huge stone head and a bookshelf close to the edge. There is also a window looking out into nothingness and a doorway through which its destination is unknown for now. The platform is very small and is surrounded by black empty space. It does not take long before Eike is addressed by a creepy voice, explaining to him that it is his destiny to die that day. However, the voice also tells Eike that he can alter the events leading up to his death and perhaps prevent his own demise.
Eike is then given a device that will allow him to travel through space and time, so that he may stop certain events from happening. He also learns that it can be very dangerous to change the past, since the smallest changes can lead to very big consequences.
Gameplay begins as you gain control over Eike. It is up to you to search for clues and help Eike survive from the many attacks on his life.
The controls for this game are really simple, even when the game does not adhere to a classic point-and-click interface. You use the arrow keys on the keyboard to move around and the mouse to look about, although the mouse can only direct the camera from side to side and not up or down. You select Enter (or click the left mouse button) to interact with objects and characters, Esc to reach the menu, Shift to bring up the city map, and Ctrl to access the inventory.
The map is a big blessing. Even though the town is quite small, it can be difficult sometimes to know exactly where you are and in which direction you are running. Using the map, along with the onscreen compass, navigating through the streets of the small town is quick and painless.
Owing to its aged console roots, the 3D environments are a bit blocky. It can be frustrating sometimes to run around corners with sharp edges or getting stuck trying to get past a tree. Fortunately, these glitches do not affect the overall experience in a bad way. Another annoyance is some of the fixed camera angles used indoors that make it difficult to know where you are coming from and where you are going. By contrast, the 3D characters look very good and are well animated. They are all voice acted, and the voice acting is surprisingly good for a translated port. The artists have done a very good job making all characters as unique and real as possible. In some scenes, you can even see real emotions in their faces and expressions. They are simply beautiful.
The music is strikingly good with its sort of eerie tone and tinkling sounds. It is a perfect match for the game's visuals. The atmosphere created is truly fantastic and adds very much to the very unique experience of this game.
Most of the puzzles you encounter are based upon finding certain objects or talking to certain characters to continue your quest. There are no odd inventory based puzzles where you have to find the most obscure combination of items. All the challenges are very logical. You can fail a challenge by failing to prevent your own death before the time which you are fated to die. If you fail, you are simply brought back to the beginning of the chapter to try again. There is not much with which you can interact in the town, and it can feel a bit lifeless and pretty boring at times. The focus of the game is not necessarily on the puzzles but on the telling of a beautiful story.
The game is divided into 8 chapters, with an opportunity to save the game at the end of each chapter. A most interesting aspect of this game is that there are multiple endings to the story (6 different endings, to be precise). The ending changes depending on the decisions you make during the game. What you say to certain characters affects the story that, in turn, alters the ending. This gives you plenty of reasons to replay the game in order to see all the different endings. The game is quite short in length, so you can run through it several times with ease, as long as you do not get bored by the repeated scenes.
In sum, Shadow of Destiny is an innovative murder mystery adventure with a very unique story that tackles a number of philosophic questions about life and death and all that lies in between. The game features a very appealing art style in both graphics and sounds as well as cinematic cut scenes that ravel the best of anime storytelling. Playing the game will definitely leave you thinking a lot about the deeper subject matters brought up in the game, which is why this game is worth a few hours of your time and attention.