Overlooked 1.17.14: Shadow of Memories
Posted by Cara Alex Brown on 01.17.2014
411's Cara Alex Brown takes a look at a commonly-missed Playstation 2 title where you travel back in time to solve your own murder! Check out what she has to say about Shadow of Memories and why it's overlooked!
Howdy folks. This week I'm going to skip the introductions a bit. You know who I am, you know what I'm doing, and I've had some stuff going on in my personal life which means that I'm a bit further behind schedule than I'd like to be. So, without delay, I bring you to:
The Look Back
Okay, so, I was so nervous about last week being my first "real" column that I replied to the comments there and then, so I'll refrain from reposting those comments and answers here due to repetition. However, I had 2 I didn't respond to, so that brings us:
sdelfin - sdelfin - making the lives of game columnists slightly more difficult than necessary since 2013!
I never heard of this one before. There is a lot I like here and some things I don't like. I really like the origin of the game being from a two-person team and a married one at that. It's cool to see small developers have some success in this age of ridiculous game budgets. It also sounds like the game is filled with many good ideas and a lot of creativity, such as the pets and enemy designs. I don't like the Minecraft-style look to it, though I suspect the style is much easier for the developers. I also don't like that it's a sandbox game, like it seems so many games are now. I've tried the sandbox thing, and I never got into it. Without a bit of structure and purpose in a game, I lose interest. These issues are just a matter of taste. The game appears well made for its intended audience and full of interesting ideas. It may be something I'll try at some point.
Cara, for whatever reason, I found this particular edition to be your best one so far. I found I was at the end before I knew it. Your enthusiasm for the game came through very well, I thought.
You have indeed you rascal and my MSWord is doing it again this week! I'm glad to have made you consider a game you wouldn't normally, given that that's the aim of this column! The fact it's by such a small team is one of the reasons I find it so impressive. However, I can understand the things you dislike. The "Minecraft" style is definitely like marmite in that you either love it or hate it. Yet, when it comes to the "sandbox" game bit I have to disagree slightly. Although it features around many sandbox like functionalities, it does have quests and is in the process of being given a real "main" storyline to follow, making it similar to an RPG. I guess it's a cross between the two, which helps to give it a bit more depth. This is further enhanced by the class and race systems, providing a starting point for further development into the RPG field! I'm really, really glad you found last weeks' column to be so enjoyable! As it was my first solo column, I was able to up the length and detail I put into it without feeling like I was swamping people, so I hoped it would bring across a much stronger and enjoyable reading experience for everyone! I can only hope this column goes down as well.
AG Awesome - Looks a bit like that 3d dot games hero ps3 game.
Okay so, admittedly, I had to google this as I'd never heard of it but you're right. I wouldn't be surprised if this game had been a key influence on the developers. The graphics style is quite similar and the basic concept for the game has its similarities as well, although that can be said about almost any RPG or sandbox style game ever. It looks like an interesting title though, and I may have to look into trying it in the future!
Right, now to "reveal" (even though you've already read the title, and the description) what game I'm writing about this week in Overlooked!
So, this week I've chosen a hidden gem of a PlayStation 2 game. What game is that you ask? Why, it's Shadow of Memories. Now, I know many of you are from North America and may be sitting there going "What is this game? I've never heard of it? I know most PS2 titles!" and that would be because in North America, its name was changed to "Shadow of Destiny". Now, I'm going to refrain from a rant about how annoying it is to the rest of the world that the US feels the need to pointlessly change names on a whim (another example being "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. IT WAS PHILOSOPHER'S. The sorcerer's/philosopher argument is actually valid here, so I'm bringing it up. You'll see in a bit.) and instead, just let everyone know that since I'm Scottish and it's the name I've always known, I'll be calling it Shadow of Memories – or SoM from here on out for ease.
What makes it Overlooked?
When it was released, SoM had mostly praising reviews. Everyone agreed that the detailed storyline was engaging, the graphics and attention to detail were absolutely breath-taking and all round it was praised as being a pleasing game. However, there were complaints. Due to the style of game and storyline, the game is not action based. Of course, in the small-minded world of some reviewers were a good game can only ever equal "high adrenaline action, speed, fighting, gore, blood, violence, shooting, weapons, cars, YAY!" this was inevitable. I find that there are very, very few non-action based games that don't get reviews putting them down for their lack of action.
Despite the good reviews that were given overall, the game went largely unnoticed by many and now many collectors will class it as a fairly uncommon find. Granted, it may not be one of the absolute rarest games out there, but it's not that common either. Outside of my family, I only know of one person who instantly recognises the name and only a few others who have heard of it at all. Many PS2 enthusiasts at its time of release are likely to have ignored it due to the lack of action, similar to many of the "calmer" games that have been neglected over the years.
Do I Agree?
As almost always, no, I don't. There are an incredibly limited amount of games where I believe that their lack of action impacts the ability to enjoy them in any way. The detail, depth and beauty of Shadow of Memories more than makes up for any "lack of action" that you may occur, and those thrills can easily be gained from the intense storyline that unfolds.
Looking at the Overlooked
SoM was originally released for the PlayStation 2 in 2001. Later on, it would be ported to Windows PC's and the original Xbox in 2002, and a PlayStation Portable version would be released in 2009 (the day before my birthday actually, I've only just found that out, that's pretty cool). The game is set in a small fictional village in Germany, called Lebensbaum (Meaning Life's Tree, ironically. You'll see why). You play as a 20-something old man named Eike Kusch, with his long, blonde hair in a ponytail, exaggerated reactions and somewhat sexy voice to boot. Eike wakes up in a coffee shop having passed out on the table with the waitress frantically trying to wake him up – who wouldn't be? After you wake up, you freak out, get apologetic and leave. Oh, and then once you leave you get stabbed and killed. GAME OVER.
Just kidding, of course.
Dead Eike then gets transported to a creepy room full of junk where a being (Nobody seems to know if it's male or female) called Homunculus (very inventive name, might as well call Eike "Human") confronts you. He basically gets sassy as all hell and starts mocking you for getting killed, then tosses you a piece of technology known as a "Digipad" that he wants you to use to travel back in time when necessary to prevent your own death. However, he warns that Eike cannot just prevent that single attack, but instead has to get to the root of the problem, figure out who is trying to kill him, and stop it there so as it doesn't keep occurring. Oh, and he wants you to find the philosophers stone. Can't forget that part.
Meet Eike and the he-she-it-thing-being.
This starts the whole motion of the game. The basic chain of events that you'll go through are as follows:
- Get killed
- Get revived
- Figure out a way to prevent your death
- While figuring it out, likely travel back and forward throughout time
- Prevent your death
This continues until you eventually get to the root of the problem, complete the game and reach one of the 5 obtainable endings. While time travelling you'll go to four different periods that can be told apart by their colouring, with older times becoming monochrome or sepia in colour. These time periods all take part in Lebensbaum and the town will have minor changes during these times, as the village obviously developed. The first of these periods is 2001, your current time frame that will hold the normal colouring and layout that you start the game with. Then, going back chronologically, you'll also go to 1980, 1902 and 1580.
Now, I really don't want to give away spoilers so I'm trying to refrain from going into much depth about the storyline. While you're discovering your fate though, it's not all doom and gloom. For example, in one of the above scenes, you're scaring villagers of the past with modern inventions (such as a lighter) so as to scare them away after you randomly appear in the 1950's. This spawns some pretty amusing reactions. The one warning I will give you though is that only 4 of the endings are incredible. They're well thought out, detailed, give big plot twists and are all together just very interesting. Each one is unique, and pretty much every one cancels out the next. It's not a case of a set of corresponding endings that you can piece together into one big picture. Each ending is individual and wraps up the loose ends of the plot and answers questions in a different way, meaning that the other endings become impossible. Think of it as a set of different stories, and you're working to see which you end up with. Anyway, as I way saying, 4 of them are really good but one is… just trust me. There's one you don't want. It's blunt, lazy and a complete disappointment. This is ending "C", and I pray you don't get it should you play through.
The different endings are achieved depending on which ways you go about preventing different deaths along the way and possible chunks of side story you may uncover. You could play through the game and get the most straightforward, easy to reach ending that doesn't leave many loose threads. However there are a lot of hidden, harder to get plot developments in the game that can lead to more interesting endings and open up questions that can then be answered by reaching different endings. Given, the endings don't correspond, but sometimes you'll discover something but not complete the rest of it, therefore leaving you sitting trying to figure out what happened. Successfully getting the ending for that piece will answer that.
One ending in particular is very, very difficult to get and I'd be surprised if many people at all got it without looking up how. However, it's definitely one of the most interesting ones!
Right, now I'm really having to resist giving away much more because finding out each death, discovering how to prevent it and the twists and turns that you discover really are what makes the game, so I'll leave it up to you guys now!
The only other thing I'll add in is that you really should appreciate the aesthetics. The design is gorgeous for its time and the use of particle effects and lighting for scenes including things such as snow is incredibly stunning. The music created for throughout is gorgeous and relaxing, and more than makes up for the decent, but not brilliant, voice acting.
I cannot hope more that at least one person will be intrigued and play through this game now. It's not hugely long, so you could easily play through it in a day, and now that it's available on multiple platforms it will make it much easier. I originally played it not long after its release, when I was only 7 or 8! Although it may involve running around, finding items and figuring out what to do for the most part, it's incredibly captivating. Think of it as an interactive detective novel with a twist. Or 20.
That's it for this week, I hope you've enjoyed it, and I'll see you again next Friday!