In early 2001, Konami released a fairly ambitious adventure game, Shadow of Destiny, on Sony's newest console at the time, the PlayStation 2. Coming hot on the heels of Silent Hill, Metal Gear Solid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, players expected this new entry to be full of action with a deep story and possibly a few scares along the way. While some gamers were delightfully surprised at what the title delivered, others were disappointed since it was different from what they expected, and the community waited for more action-oriented fare from the studio. The game fell into a bit of obscurity after that, relegated to being a small cult favorite. Times have changed for gamers, however. There are more of them interested in trying something different, and adventure games have received a bit more exposure lately. With the Sony PSP experiencing a renaissance of sorts, Konami felt that the time was right to give its game another chance on a system that's currently on the upswing. While fans of the original will find little to nothing new here, gamers who want to try something different will find lots to keep them interested for some time.
Most games start off with your main character being alive. This one starts off with your character, Eike, dying immediately. After you breathe your last breath, you are sent to a peculiar room with the voice of a Homunculus offering to help you cheat death. After some thought, you accept the offer and come back to life moments before you die. Your quest is to figure out why you died and try to change fate to prevent that from ever happening.
There are a few traits that make Shadow of Destiny a bit different than other adventure games. Time traveling, for example, is a nice little twist since you have to constantly think about how your actions will affect future versions of the characters you'll meet in the game. The free-roaming nature is also a big plus since most adventure games tended to have their adventures limited to small, confined areas. The title's most significant trait is the branching story line. Just about every puzzle, which is cleverly laid out, and every approach to said puzzle carry some sort of consequence that alters your approach to the game. The adventure is decently long and lasts six to eight hours, depending on the path taken, but with eight different endings, including bonus endings, players will be motivated to try things differently the minute they beat the game.
If there is one knock that can be levied against Shadow of Destiny, it would be that it really is just a port of the PS2 game. Save for a few minor changes in dialogue, such as the renaming of the digipad to z-pad, everything else here is a carbon copy of the PS2 original. There are no new camera angles to explore, no new cut scenes or characters to interact with, and no new extras to be opened. All of the puzzles, solutions and endings are the same, and while new fans will be perfectly fine with this, there is no incentive for any veterans to run out and purchase this game. Unless their PS2 copy is broken or their system gone, those players will be perfectly content with their original version, knowing that this PSP iteration offers nothing new or special.
At the time, the game's graphics were fairly impressive on the PS2. The transition to the small screen retains the same look to a fault. The character models still look pretty good, and the colors don't feel as washed out as they do on other games. Animations don't look too awkward, and there is an overall sharpness in the picture quality. The particle effects may only be present during time period changes, but they look fine as well. However, there is still the issue of jagged edges to the polygons even though it isn't as pronounced as in the original PS2 release. The textures, while brighter, still aren't as clean as some would expect. Signs and some wall textures are still blurry, especially up close, and some extra work cleaning them up would have gone a long way toward making this a more graphically definitive version of the game, aside from the PC iteration.
The sound is the one department that has seen any changes, and though the changes can be considered minor, veterans will immediately notice the differences. A few of the voices have been recast, and they come out much better as a result. Eike, for example, sounds younger, and the new voice is a good match for his look. Those who haven't been changed still sound fine for their roles, though some of the lines are a little cheesy, regardless of the voice actor or the line's delivery. The music is another thing that has changed. Thanks to the involvement of Koji Igarashi, the music sounds more in line with a Castlevania title with its loud gothic score permeating almost every scene. This doesn't really change the original moods too much, but you will want to turn down the music volume since the default level feels like it could ruin the ambiance and drown out the speech volume.
After all these years, Shadow of Destiny is still a fine adventure. The branching story line, de-emphasis on combat and more focus on the actual mystery at hand bring about a type of adventure game rarely seen on the portable console. With barely any changes made to the graphics and story and a few minor changes to the audio, it is a bit tough to recommend Shadow of Destiny to aficionados who have already seen all of the game's endings. Fans who have already played the original but want to play this title on the go should pick up this PSP version. For gamers who are just looking for a good adventure, Shadow of Destiny is very easy to recommend.
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