My other time machine is a Lexus IS300.
Video games don't need anymore androgynous game characters. Square, Konami - listen up. We're not gonna take it anymore. Who wants to be a frail, effeminate atrophied girl/boy with long flowing hair delicately tied back, and a few strands strategically placed to look slightly disheveled? I don't want to name any names but Cloud (FFVII), Sion (The Bouncer) and now Eike Kusch (Shadow of Destiny) are all overly delicate. Come on, even the Broccoli Boys somehow manage to be more masculine. How many more girly-men must we play as before someone finally says enough?
Shadow of Destiny is a third-person classic adventure that send players tumbling back and forth through time in an attempt to avert your own deaths. Note the plural. The game has some pretty interesting characters, such as your ancestors from several different time periods, alchemists, fortunetellers, demons and even eccentric screenplay writers. Cool, eh?
SoD brings to the fray good graphics, incredible FMVs, spot on animation and a seemingly ho-hum story containing enough plot twists, mystery and intrigue to compel you to finish the game and discover at least one of five endings. But the game is not without its weaknesses - namely, an astonishing lack of interactivity (you're essentially just watching the game) and the wussy lead character.
The game opens with you, Eike Kusch, walking out of a caf" only to receive a shank in your backside, ending your life. Upon awakening you find yourself in a strange netherworld. A voice informs you that you are dead and offers you a time travel device called the Digipad (most generic name ever?), which will aid you in preventing your own demise. After a brief repartee, you accept the offer, suspicious of what your new helper has to gain in the matter, and are whisked away to a point 30 minutes before your passing.
That's the story. It may sound familiar and kind of dull, but believe me at least one of the five endings comes together better than most Hollywood blockbusters. I'm thoroughly impressed.
Each chapter in the game represents a different death that you must avert (your death outside the caf" is chapter one). Who are these killers and what is their agenda? This is for you to piece together on your temporal jaunts.
The first thing you'll notice about SoD is the high graphic quality. The textures are clean and detailed and there is no obvious anti-aliaing issues. The eye candy is as sweet as anything you'll find in the Dreamcast's Resident Evil: Code Veronica. If you like the graphics, which I know you will, then you will love the nicely executed and well-animated FMV sequences. It's good that these are pleasant to watch, since that's what you're doing for the better part of the game.
The entire game takes place in the same town, and the gameplay is very typical for an adventure title. Eike traverses the town back and forth talking with residents, gathering information and acquiring items. Again, a large portion of the gameplay entails long FMV's. Grab a soda and get comfortable.
There are tiny energy units conveniently scattered throughout the town that power your Digipad time travelling device. This is really cool. Each time period has these EU's scattered in different places. Try to remember where you last spotted them, so when you return to that timeline you can go straight to them with little hassle. You'll quickly find out (maybe the hard way) that an abundant supply of these little units is preferable. This will permit you to do some of the side quests or just explore different (but relevant) timelines at your leisure.
The time travelling is just what you would expect. You meet ancestors and tinker with the timeline, eventually seeing the effects manifested in later time periods. I traveled back a hundred years and instructed a groundskeeper to plant a flowerbed (for reasons you must discover on your own) in the exact spot where a tree is standing in the current time. Upon travelling back to my own time I noticed the huge old tree was gone, and there stood a flowerbed in it's place. That was fun, and Eike engages in much more temporal meddling of the like.
This time tweaking is directly related to the game's numerous branching points. The events you effect in the past can later dictate which ending you will uncover. Branching is something that is definitely needed in a game where there is little interactivity, as it offers the player a little something to do when there isn't much else.
And that's the biggest problem with Shadow of Destiny: the lack of action. While adventure games are often more cerebral than other genres, this one goes out of its way to ensure that you do very little. It gets frustrating at times.
But I must give credit where it's due, and this game just keeps on giving. Not only do you get five different endings, you can also open up a few movie trailers and even another game mode known as EX Mode (wow, what an original name). Even this EX bit allows for two different endings. SoD is just packed with more gameplay than you can shake a memory card at.
In general, the Playstation 2 has many laughably mediocre titles. Few are turning heads or raising eyebrows, and that's sad. Sony should be happy that gamers can't sue them for false advertising. Faster load times - Ha! Revolutionary gameplay - I beg your pardon? So when a solid, intriguing game such as Shadow of Destiny comes along, we light incense and thank the gaming gods for blessing us with a decent title to act as more rain for our village of gaming.
It may not be a gift from the gods, but Shadow of Destiny is a solid game. Initially the story feels retarded, but give it some time and you'll see the light. The multiple endings and extra goodies really ups the replay value, a rarity in a game of this sort. Still, the lack of action deals a heavy blow to this otherwise polished adventure.