Shadow of Memories
USK: 12 years and up
A review by slydos 1st March 2003
"Shadow of Memories" (in the USA also known as "Shadow of Destiny") is one of the rare adventure games, which was developed for console (PS2) and already very successfully published. Japanese publisher Konami has decided to start a PC-offensive to ensure their share in the PC market. "Shadow of Memories", a classic adventure without action elements, was almost exclusively decorated with maximum grades by the console press. Particularly the differentness and originality was praised - not surprising - console players relative seldom mingle with the adventure genre. Whether "Shadow of Memories" also outstands within the adventure genre and whether Konami succeeded in transporting the game to the PC-platform - you can read it here ...
Eike Kusch, a young man in his early 20s, is murdered from behind! In the middle of the road and in broad daylight! We cannot recognize the murderer, who drives the knife in his back. That's the way the knotty story begins. But Eike gets another chance - he awakes in a kind of in-between-world - a battered study - and a voice tells him that he can live on, if he only travels to the past and takes precautions that the murderer cannot come into operation. He gets a time machine, called Digipad and disbelievingly travels into the near past.
But even if he manages to survive, the murderer doesn't give up. Eike will be slain in the course of the day, poisoned, over-run by a car and kicked from a tower and we never see the mysterious attacker. Each time Eike's task is to adjust things in the past so that the crime cannot take place. Each time the matter gets more tricky and more multilayered and the time journeys will lead Eike sometimes years, sometimes centuries back.
We travel back in time with Eike, experience the small town in different epochs and become acquainted with family stories and people, who all have influence on the present.
Who hasn't already asked him-/herself, what would be the result in the present, if an action didn't happen or maybe happened in a different way in the past, which influence that would that have on our own fate and our environment?
Without too much to betray, I can say that there is of course more behind it than you may realize at first sight. We finally get to know, who is interested in killing Eike and who on the other side tries to prevent that.
Since the game has certain key situations, which affect the game process, we will experience different game endings, depending on our decisions. These ends are marked in the game by the letters A to E. Who wants to experience all of these endings and also the different strands of the game, must play "Shadow of Memories" several times.
Personally I didn't encounter any problems with the automatical installation and the start of the game. There was however a group of players, who had their drives arranged another way than presupposed by Konami and therefore couldn't get along without a patch.
"Shadow of Memories" comes on 1 CDROM with German manual in a DVD-box. One can click-off the start logos fast and also the artistic intro can be stopped with the right mouse button. This shows, that Konami had thought about the PC mouse gamers. The main menu has 4 items and is in English: Start, Continue, Exit and Options. The option menu offers many possibilities to select keyboard or joypad, to adjust graphics etc.
The control of our hero is a mixture of mouse and keyboard and made big problems at the beginning. Of course we use the arrow keys as usual, but instead of the expected relative (to the main character) control we find an absolute control, what means, in whatever direction our character looks, if we press e.g. the left arrow key, he'll walk to the left on the screen. That's also an option with other games, but usually the second possibility is offered too - thus relative to the main character, e.g. in Grim Fandango. In "Shadow of Memories" there is however no choice and at the beginning you only stumble around without orientation.
Better, even really comfortable, the whole thing becomes however on the outside locations. Because there you can additionally use the mouse for control. The mouse regulates our point of view on the scene and on our hero. If you use mouse and keyboard at the same time, then you can concentrate the point of view on Eike's back and let him always run forward, while only moving the mouse, in order to turn into a side street e.g.. This can be done fast and very directly, unfortunately, like I said before, this kind of control is only used outdoors not within houses or other buildings. And unfortunately too, one needs 2 hands for this kind of control.
I do not know a 3rd-person 3D-game to please everybody, but here we have at least a version that tries to offer an acceptable compromise, giving the gamer the freedom, to really look into each corner while freely selecting their own perspective and location of the main character. If the developers would have applied this combination control to the interiors, it would have been not so bad at all. So now one is again and again forced to reorientate.
Everything else is done with the mouse, as taking up objects, opening the inventory or the handling of the Digipad time machine. These functions are executable also with the keyboard.
Less satisfying the save-function and also its documentation in the manual. At the end of each chapter in each case 10 savegames can be saved into one of 2 files. This happens automatically with indication of the chapter number and time. How one can make a savegame while playing is not described in the manual - there is only a reference on the fact that it is possible.
The saves only function, if you leave the current game - however not with ESC and then Exit, but by opening the Digipad in the inventory. There you must select the time interval "End". In this case there is a possibility in each of the two files to save the current game as is.
The inventory handling is relative simple. With the right mouse button you open the scrollable inventory bar at the left of the screen and can there find e.g. the city map, the Digipad or Eike's note book. Objects cannot be combined and one can use them only when standing right to a person or a hotspot, otherwise you see Eike in close-up, fetching the object, briefly looking at it and then again putting it back.
You can get the new and old city maps in or before the city hall. On the map you find places, which one can enter and in addition the current position of Eike in shape of a direction arrow (if you selected this option prior in the options menu).
You receive the Digipad just at the beginning. As soon as we implement actions, which must be logically followed by a time journey, the Digipad lights up in Eike's trouser pocket. In the Digipad we get a bar-shaped overview of the possible time periods. In principle we don't need to think here much either, since the logical next epoch is marked as default and a text line shows us each time, why we should straightly jump into the indicated time.
As soon as we are in a different time, a digital clock appears below the clock of the present time in the right screen corner. Most important is the expiration of the time in the present, which is affected in each case by conversations and actions. Since all conversations and most actions take some minutes (which is indicated on-screen after each video sequence), one should keep an eye on the clock - Eike's time is always limited until he dies. If one should not return to the present before expiration of the given time, this means Game Over. If one should be killed in the present, one can replay the chapter from the in-between-world.
During each time jump a green energy cell is used. Available energy is shown at the screen. In all epochs there are places, where one can find this green energy balls to fill up.
Ingame-help is offered by Eike's note book, that gives hints about the next necessary actions.
The graphics of "Shadow of Memories" are impressing and also surprising, because as location a medieval city in Germany was selected. Thinking that the game was created by Japanese artists, we can imagine well, that with the usual organized short study trips in Germany they maybe had only stop-overs in Castle Neuschwanstein and Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Neuschwanstein is already occupied by Gabriel Knight 2, so the developers selected the medieval North-Bavarian gem Rothenburg. It's not converted 1 to 1, but one can easily identify the market place with the impressing Renaissance city hall and the the houses at the Ploenlein beside many other places. I recognized it (I only visited the town last year so my memory is somwhat fresh), was also visitor in the town's Kriminal-Museum and like every other tourist learned about the special punishments when someone infringed against the dress order of past centuries, which led in our game to the meeting of Eike and Margarete.
(If you are further interested in comparing the city in the game and in reality - here are few www-links of Rothenburg - they are in English too, partly also in Japanese. There is also a Webcam with view on the market place:http://www.rothenburg-online.de/ http://www.rothenburg.de/ photos Rothenburg)
The developers not only let themselves be inspired by one of the most beautiful medieval German locations, but also carried this location back 20, 100 and around 460 years. You can experience the small town at night and in a snow-covered winter. The scenes are highly detailed in 3D, even if here and there somewhat roughly textured. Particularly interesting it's of course to explore and compare the city in the different epochs together with Eike. For the beginning of the 16th century the developers selected a monochrome brown representation, while at the turn of the century grey tones appear. Perfect the foggy-white winter location where Eike leaves his foot prints well visible and sounding.
In the present and near past you can find parked cars, road signs and an advertising pillar with movie ads. Only the "Wait to be seated" sign in the cafe is a bit strange for German eyes.
Likewise in 3D and likewise impressing the characters. While Eike and few others are shown in Japanese Anime style - childlike and androgyn - most other persons have European facial features, clear sex attributes, very different faces and wear clothes according to the time.
Eike is a North-German name, which can be taken as female or male first name (according to the antique androgyn ideal) - just like our long-legged, slim, blond hero - if we wouldn't hear him speak with male voice. Maybe this two-in-one-sex perhaps looks a bit strange with our hero, but it exactly fits to the red-eyed tender Homunculus. Because a human created artificially by Alchemy quasi must be androgyn. The combination of the characters Homunculus and Dr. Wagner does not leave doubts about the literature it's based upon: Goethe - Faust II. Still there may be a number of further German sources for the characters or at least their naming, e.g. mystic and writer Master Eckart, mental instructor of Goethe and Luther equally. (one finds Luther as small painting in the museum of Mr. Eckart).
But enough digressed - in the different epochs Eike meets a lot of characters, who might be able to change his fate or whose fate Eike might change. Others supply information or are simply extras, who, like the jogger animate the scenery following their businesses. We can interact with all characters. Their expressions look drawn from life, but there is only little mimic and speech animation. The movements of the actors in the controllable part of the game are flowing and naturalistic, nearly just as perfect as in the extensive and frequent, partly really gorgeous video scenes. These video scenes take a large part of the game and if one should have played it to the end only once, one has seen only a part of them. So it can happen that you'll miss a whole chapter, depending on which decisions you made before. "Shadow of Memories" occasionally really looks like an interactive movie (where we can mostly skip once watched dialogues and already seen scenes with the ESC-key).
Survival is the primary goal! But you can't play this game without dying. Much the opposite, one first must experience again and again, what will actually happen to Eike without appropriate counter measures in the past. After each death we get back to the in-between-world and receive hints from Homunculus. We are then sent back to the start of the chapter and have a certain time interval, in order to save our life. If we don't manage it, we must replay the chapter. If we can't survive and are in the past at the time of our death it means Game Over. Before our time runs off, the screen dangerously begins to flash and requests us to do something.
At the beginning the tasks are still linear and simple. Later we can back-travel to more than one time-period and jump between different times. We must find the energy balls necessary for the time jumps and other needed objects. Likewise we can change the future by talking to people. Puzzles are not necessarily solvable with only one method - there are sometimes different possibilities, which do not only save our life but also affect the future of other persons.
Not all inventory objects are necessary at all or for a certain strand. We get hints by our note book, the fortune teller and the Digipad. The puzzles are logical and well thought out (as far as you can speak of logic in time travel stories). If one survived some attempted assassinations, one must find out, what is actually behind it all. You can even increase your highscore, if you die repeatedly and therefore be capable to carry out more and different actions. If you die, the system nevertheless records whether you'd already led certain dialogues and directly offers the ESC-key to continue.
Most dialogues run off automatically. At some particularly pivotal points in conversations we have however the possibility to make selections. All tasks are to be settled in a certain time period. There are no action elements.
Music and soundscape are suitable and add another splash of suspense to the anyway exciting story. I got really frightened, when I suddenly heard the gasping up of the jogger beside me and also Eike hyperventilates if he must run longer ways, which reminds me a little of Silence of the Lambs. His steps in the snow sound extremely real and the music starts at the right time, when Eike looks over his shoulder listening for his murderer to come.
The English speech is partly too quiet. Some characters were casted with the same actors, what however didn't disturb me much. Surprising again and again the dark voice of Homunculus in opposite to the tender-female appearance. All spoken texts, as well as text lines in the note book and Digipad appear in well readable, large letters and can be followed without stress. Also the translation succeeded.
If you have played "Shadow of Memories" once to the end, in the main menu a further menu option appears: Extras. Here one can find out, which possible end one has reached, your highscore per chapter in per cent and also the shortest play time is shown. Only after you reached all 6 endings, you'll get 2 bonus levels.
At the beginning there are problems with the controls and you miss also a certain amount of interactivity and freedom of movement. But at the latest starting from chapter 5 (of 9 chapters or better said 10), it really becomes exciting and captivating. What seems at the beginning simple and little challenging, later gets nested and more complex. With the numbered endings and the per cent score the developers were out for the gamers to replay the game at least 6 times, until you watched the last video sequences. It's possible to rush through the game within 6 to 7 hours, but it can also take you 20 hours. "Shadow of Memories" has a really good and thought out concept. It is exciting and surprising. I would have wished myself however more interactivity at least up to chapter 5, a better handling and more savegames.
My rating: 76 %
- 80% - 100% excellent game, very recommendable
- 70% - 79% good game, recommendable
- 60% - 69% satisfactory, restricted recommendable
- 50% - 59% sufficient (not very recommendable)
- 40% - 49% rather deficient (not to be recommended - for Hardcore-Adventure-Freaks and collectors only)
- 0% - 39% worst (don't put your fingers on it)
- Windows 95 OSR 2/98/ME/XP
- Intel Pentium III or AMD-processor 450 Mhz or higher
- 64 MB RAM (128 MB recommended)
- CD/DVD-ROM-drive (8x recommended)
- 16 MB AGP DirectX-8-compatible graphic card (64 MB recommended)
- DirectX-8-compatible sound card
- DirectX-8 (on CD)
- 700 MB free disk space
- Windows XP
- P IV 1,6 GHz
- 512 MB RAM
- 16x DVD-ROM (Artec WRA-A40)
- nVidia GeForce 2MX400 64 MB graphic card
- Sound card DirectX-compatible
Eike in the in-between-world
Keyboard or joypad selection
A game can be saved in the middle of a chapter only in the first save slot of the 2 Files
The fortune teller helps Eike
Standard save procedure at the end of a chapter
The mysterious juggler
Map of the city in the present time
You'll meet this gentleman eating his spaghetti in the cafe and the bar
Eike fell asleep in the cafe
One of many video sequences that can be skipped
Eike must prevent the fire
During a time jump ...
A crime has been committed
"Easter walk" with Margarete
Market place in the 16th century
The Digipad is easy to handle
At the butcher's
Bar "Zum Ei"
Eike looking for a special information
Eike's sex is defined by his voice
What's about Mr. Eckart?
Every corner of the beautiful scenery can be examined
Nail polish in the 16th century?