Shadow of Destiny

Review by Skinny Minnie

If you are an avid adventure story gamer and you don't like this jewel, then just throw your PS2 away!

Largely ignored by the mainstream gaming press, this fabulous epic of a game will draw you in with both its warmth and its ever-increasing tale. There are a total of six different endings, each full play through the game also opening up new sections of the game and unveiling more of the complex mystery as it evolves ...

The tale is woven from the third-person perspective, and you begin it as a frail, blond young man named Eike, just moments before his untimely demise! Eike is then resurrected after his apparent murder by an otherworldly figure called Homunculus. Not remembering who he is or where he came from, Eike is guided in the use of a mysterious time-travel device called a Digipad, given to him by Homunculus, which he must use to change his own destiny and the course of history. Chilled at the thought of being stalked by an unknown assassin but happy to have the chance to live again, you as unarmed Eike go back in time prior to his murder to alter events and foil the attacker. There is a veiled soothsayer (whose identity you may guess at as you play through the story) that Eike will come across, who advises him as the story goes along. Why does he need advice, you ask? Because the friendly neighborhood lunatic who wants Eike dead doesn't just throw in the towel after being circumvented in the first level, that's why! All told, in your first pass through Shadow of Destiny, you will play through ten levels, in each of which Eike will be killed in some way. It is your continuing job to dart through time, not only avoiding these disasters but piecing together the clues of who Eike's assailant is and preparing for a final confrontation with said assailant in the final level ... which is truly only the beginning of the immense story.

As you play through this game the first and subsequent times, Eike will be "drawn" to different time periods by the Digipad, all set in the same quaint German town (where everyone speaks proper English right down through the centuries, of course). Eike will meet and become entangled with different generations of families, all with their own problems, situations, and dreams. Guillotines, abductions, family heirlooms, scientific experiments gone wrong, the social caste system, and the ever-present Homunculus are all intertwined with Eike's mysterious background. Eike can potentially stop another seemingly unrelated murder back in time or continue the game down another path through history without being able to do so. Either way, you may eventually find that this additional murder is more connected to Eike than you had imagined ...

You can choose to confide in the characters you meet as Eike's journey unfolds, but be aware that even Eike's very presence back in time changes history, never mind anything he might tell of his true situation. You are given many choices throughout this game, especially as you play it through multiple times. You can opt to change the story at many given points depending on whether you decide to confide in or even take certain people along with you in Eike's travels, or leave them behind in history if you feel they truly belong there. Be aware that the characters you meet may have their own machinations as well! Even Eike's "stalker" may, upon game replays, turn out to be "stalkers." The mysterious Homunculus certainly appears to have Eike's best interests at heart, but who on earth is he, and is there a much grander scheme afoot beyond even Eike's assassins?

The graphics in this game are slightly marred by graininess, and they do not reach the standard set by some PS2 games. Eike too is quite stilted in his movements, especially while running. But if you desire to save Eike's life, as he has no weapons, you will be seeing a fair amount of this, so get used to it. Even at that, the town, its people, and its locales are fairly well-rendered, and the deep storyline will immerse you before long anyway. The movie cutscenes further the storyline immensely and are some of the longest and most prolific I have ever watched in a game. They are funny, heartwarming, and touching, and they will tug at your heartstrings if you have any buried anywhere at all. You will also notice, most likely in hindsight, that certain characters have accidentally given you hints about who Eike really is without meaning to; they will just make offhanded and seemingly confusing remarks about him as they meet him when he is traveling through their time periods.

Although there are a few timed sequences, especially when avoiding Eike's perpetual murders, much of the game sprawls forth at a languid pace with plenty of room for adventuring and mystery-solving. However, Homunculus or the aforementioned soothsayer will give you periodic time constraints as to when Eike's next murder scene will unfold, so at different instances you will feel under the gun to avert the next death in time, but it keeps things interesting and propels the game forward.

You are only able to save at the end of each successful level, meaning when you have averted a killer one more time. In the case of a failure, the levels are not overly long, and you will definitely want to begin that failed level again, to pick up more clues and inventory items you may have missed that will enable your success the next time around.

The background audio is sparse and at many points eerie, hinting at lurking danger but as well accenting lighthearted moments. The voice acting is, in Eike's case, flat at times, but perhaps this lends to a belief in Eike's originally drawing a blank about whom he is and where he is truly from. On the other hand, many of the other characters are quite animated and even moody at times, making this on the whole a well-acted venture.

As in most PS2 games, there aren't many gamepad commands to learn, and controlling Eike does become second nature quickly. The puzzles are pretty straightforward but are in fairly good supply, most requiring inventory items to be used in creative ways to avoid Eike's deaths. The inventory management system is easy to use, the only snafu being that you must keep an eye on the power gauge indicating the amount of energy left to run the Digipad. Without coming across and picking up little green energy balls lying around at certain locales throughout the town, your Digipad will not work if you need to leave a certain period in history in a hurry. You are also bound to be back to the right period in history in time to avert Eike's next murder, or he will die no matter where he is stuck.

The replay value of this game is incredible, unlocking more and more of a crescendo of intrigue with each replay, not to mention that on the sixth and final time through you must complete a timed miniquest to create an elixir of life to save ... not Eike but his ... oh, I can't tell you! You'll just have to do what you should have done after reading the first sentence of this review, and play Shadow of Destiny for yourself! The End

The Verdict

The Lowdown

Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
Release Date: 2001

Available for: PlayStation 2

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