Shadow of Destiny

ShadowofDestiny

The PlayStation Portable (PSP) exclusive Shadow of Destiny (a.k.a. Shadow of Memories), originally released by Konami on the PlayStation 2 then PC and Xbox, features a time travelling theme with multiple plotline, endings and puzzle challenges. Developers provide new voiceovers for this hand-held experience, but could have improved the character interactions, navigational elements, music score and sound effects.

Events in this one player game take place in a fictional German town and the plot centers on the lanky blond Eike, a seemingly amiable guy who has a very open mind. Players must turn back the clock on Eike’s fate and impending death. Mysterious beings and fortune tellers explain his fate and possible actions in the engaging cut scenes, which present different ideologies and perspectives on life and death. Culture differences also become obvious in noticeable mistakes in the Japanese translations like “then I will tell for you the next fortune”.

After receiving a special time travel device called a Digipad/Z-pad, players begin exploring a fictional town as Eike in the third person perspective. Players need energy units for this device and can only time travel at certain points, which act as a prompt telling players they need to explore the current settings more to trigger events. The “How to Play” helps the process (if players choose it) and the 10 save files keeps key progress intact.

Solving puzzles and interacting to other characters for direction and clues can get tiring, especially without considerable logic and navigational skills. Inexperienced players can find the trial and error decision making and puzzles especially challenging.

The clear date and time format (upper right corner) keeps players on task while providing tense countdowns when gameplay solutions require time limits. Players can easily access a map (square button) and collected items (triangle). The elapsed time counter (bottom right) distracts and the compass (upper left) helps with navigation. Display settings allow players to customize certain elements. Players can also view unlocked cut scene events and listen to music

The basic concepts support a common sense approach. For example, players quickly learn not to make contact with themselves during the time travelling (ever see Back to the Future?). Eventually, the open-ended explorations and possible plot lines culminate in multiple endings, eight in all. The “past effects the present” logic works well in the time span (1500s to present day), but events and possible actions could use a more intuitive navigation design.

The open format and navigation creates some excitement, but developers include some especially manipulative situations, which diminishes the realism and emotional effects in the event. Players need to escape and feel “lost” within the game at times. For example, developers use dogs at the end of several alleyways to stop player progress in certain areas, which indicates some areas could be considerable reduced to create a more concentrated, intimate experience. Sharper graphics would also elevate eyestrain in noticeably pixellated settings.

Developers concentrate on the graphically superior cut scenes for key player interactions, mainly conversation. Eike initiates characters conversations within the settings by approaching certain characters, but developers could add dialogue choices for Eike without changing the main plot and consequential endings. The supplementary characters are minimal here. A waitress named Dana notices Eike never develops into much more than an observer, which creates a strange sense of isolation even though you see people everywhere. Players must depend on their own skills to change Eike’s fate and discover the perpetrator(s).

Developers re-create a decent 2001 PlayStation 2 game, which some players might dub “outdated”, for the PSP, but miss possible enhancement possibilities. Players can expect similar remediations due to recent price drops in PSP development tools, which might have attracted developers in this case. The base concept is solid, but the improved graphics, interactivity and music/sound effects could have boosted this remediated game (recommended with a few reservations, **1/2 out of four stars) to a higher level.

Copyright © Michael Siebenaler

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