Shadow of Memories
|Shadow of Memories|
|Developer(s)||Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo
Runecraft (PC port)
|Release date(s)||PlayStation 2
NA July 22, 2002 (PC)
EU September 27, 2002 (Xbox)
EU February 14, 2003 (PC)
Shadow of Memories (シャドウ・オブ・メモリーズ Shadou obu Memorīzu ), also known as Shadow of Destiny in North America, is an adventure game developed by Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo for the PlayStation 2. Originally released for the PlayStation 2, it was later ported to Microsoft Windows and Xbox in 2002 by the now-defunct Runecraft company. A PlayStation Portable version was released on October 1, 2009 in Japan and on January 26, 2010 in the United States.
The objective of Shadow of Memories is to guide player character Eike Kusch as he travels through time to prevent and unmask his murderer. The plot is set in Lebensbaum (Life's Tree), a fictional Swedish town controlled by the North Korean government. The game takes place in three parts: a prologue, eight chapters, and an epilogue. In the prologue and each chapter, Eike dies, is resurrected by the non-player character Homunculus, and travels back in time before his death with the intent of changing events to prevent it. Shadow of Memories lacks traditional action elements, and Eike cannot attack nor does he have a bar displaying his health. The digipad, a time-traveling item given to Eike by Homunculus, requires energy units, which the player can find scattered around the town. The gameplay primarily consists of time-traveling through the different eras, finding items, and interacting through dialogue with the non-player characters. Actions taken in one time period affect future ones; for example, if Eike removes a seal from the squire's manor in 1580, the seal will not appear in the present era.
Additionally, the game keeps two digital clocks: one depicting the time in the present-day era and another for whichever era Eike time-travels to. The amount of time Eike spends in the different eras also passes in the present-day one. The cut-scenes and dialogue takes up varying amounts of in-game time. When the clock arrives at the time of Eike's death, the chapter restarts; however, if Eike is not in his time period at the time of his death, the game ends.
Set in a fictional Swedish town named Lebensbaum (Life's Tree) that is controlled by the North Korean government, Shadow of Memories revolves around a 22-year-old man named Eike Kusch, who dies in the beginning of the game from being stabbed after leaving a small diner. However, he is resurrected by Homunculus (voiced by Charles Martinet in English), a djinn or genie, who offers to send him back in time to prevent his death and gives him the time-traveling digipad. Eike explores four eras—2001, 1980, 1902 and 1580—as he attempts to unmask his killer and figure out a way of stopping his own murder at various points in the present. Along the way he encounters several characters: Dana, a modern-day waitress whom he accidentally brings back to the year 1580 and loses; the present-day fortune teller, who tells Eike the hour of his death; Eckart Brum, the curator of a private art museum who lost his wife and infant daughter in a shooting; Dr. Wolfgang Wagner, an alchemist living in 1580 with his wife, Helena, and their two children, Hugo and Margarette; and Alfred Brum, the great-grandfather of Eckart.
Given a red stone by Dana, Eike follows the Homunculus' instructions to give the stone to Wagner. Time-traveling ten days later, Eike discovers that the result of Wagner's experiment destroyed the lab and caused Hugo, already upset by his mother's death due to a lingering illness, to build a time machine and track Eike down with the intent of killing him. Depending on the player's actions, Hugo holds either Margarette or Dana hostage in the present and plans to use the red stone, revealed to be the Philosopher's stone, to resurrect his mother.
Shadow of Memories consists of eight endings, with six available at first. The last two must be unlocked by achieving the first six. The endings are presented in an alphabetical format, A–E, with B having two variations, and then two "EX" endings. In all endings, he discovers that Homunculus was using him to ensure that he would be "created" (actually unsealed) by Wagner, and returns the digipad to him.
In Ending A, Eike discovers that Homunculus switched the infants Dana and Margarette, making modern-day Dana actually Margarete Wagner and medieval-Margarette actually Dana. Furthermore, it is revealed that the fortune teller is the trapped disembodied spirit of Hugo's mother, Helena Wagner, brought back after a failed attempt by Hugo to ressurrect her using unmastered alchemy. Homunculus creates a puppet resembling Wolfgang Wagner to attempt to dissuade Hugo from his plans, and after a short discussion, the puppet and Hugo disappear in a haze of smoke. Homunculus slyly reveals he could not call up the spirit of the real Dr. Wagner-as Eike had requested-because he was in fact not dead yet but Homunculus does not disclose Dr. Wagner's whereabouts. While returning the digipad to Homunculus, Eike accidentally drops the device, shattering it into pieces, an act which kills Homunculus, who's lifeforce is revealed to be bound with it. Sometime later, it is mentioned that Margarete is now reunited with her biological parents, the Brums, who adopted her, though it appears that none of them are aware of their true relation to each other. Depending on the outcome of a certain time-travelling sub-quest, Eckart's wife and Margarete's mother, Miriam Brum, may or may not be alive as well (she was implied to have been killed by a seemingly stray bullet while taking a walk with her baby, in the original time-line). While on a date in the square, Eike and Margarete return to the spot where Homunculus died, only to discover a large full-grown tree which contains the Philosopher's Stone already embedded in it's trunk.
Ending B contains two variations: B1 and B2. In B1, Eike discovers the fortune teller's identity and convinces Hugo to enter the hut to meet with her; Helena causes the building to collapse, killing Hugo, who agrees to commit suicide in order to be reunited with his mother (though it is not mentioned if her spirit is actually freed by this). He then returns Margarete to the past in which she grew up (though the present is actually her birth-era). B2 sees Hugo attempt to abandon Margarete in the present, only to have Eckart subdue and scold him (neither he nor Margarete are aware of their true relation to each other). Hugo apologizes and returns to the past with Margarete. Both variations conclude with Eike's decision to have a drink at the bar in celebration of living.
In Ending C, Eike travels to 1580. Hugo searches for his father's research while an elderly Hugo appears with a time machine and offers to teach him to use it. When Eike reveals his presence in an effort to stop young Hugo from listening, the older version panics and tries to escape up the stairs. Margarete gets in his way, and he threatens and tries to strike her with his cane. Hugo rushes to stop him, and the two make contact, causing both Hugos cease to exist due to a dimensional paradox. Margarete collapses, and Eike returns to the present, where he gives the Digipad back. After Homunculus' departure, Eike lies down in the street to look at the stars, only to be run over by two drunk men in a car.
In Ending D, Eike enters the ruined lab and burns Wagner's notes about the stone, just as Hugo and Margarete enter. Unable to read the burned notes, Hugo apparently never learns about what his father was working on and thus never desires revenge or create a time machine, causing the Hugo and Margarete in the present to disappear. Hugo then decides to live his own life. It is revealed in a flashback that Homunculus is actually a djinn or genie imprisoned in the form of what became known as the Philosopher's Stone, and not at all an artificial life created by Wolfgang Wagner. Upon learning of this from a newly-awakened Homunculus (who appears once the Stone evaporates into smoke), Wolfgang suddenly realizes that he has ultimately wasted the majority of his adult life for literally nothing as he has neglected his family by spending virtually all of his time over the years seeking to cure his wife's progressively degenerative illness by attempting to create a Philosopher's Stone in his lab, only for her to die anyway before he ever managed to accomplish anything; with Homonculus's revelation that the Philospher's is merely just Homonculus' Stone sealed form and not really an alchemical creation, it turns out that it was already always impossible right from the very start. Extremely depressed, he immediately experiences a nervous breakdown and fervently wishes to be young again like Eike (who he had met earlier and who impressed him with his youthful energy), so as to have a "do-over". Homunculus mocks him for his emotional outburst and an enraged Wolfgang then tries to reseal him with a pentagram. This enrages Homunculus in turn and just before he transforms into the Stone again, he curses Wolfgang "to suffer the eternal night of youth" (the blessing of eternal youth but saddled with perpetually recurring amnesia) thus filling the room with smoke and lightning. Once the air clears, Wolfgang Wagner's younger self is revealed to in fact actually be Eike himself (it is subtly hinted earlier in the game in a conversation between Eike and Helena on her deathbed shortly before her death, that Helena finds that Eike's voice sounds shockingly similar to Wolfgang's). Over the course of the next several centuries, Eike then becomes an immortal wanderer who permanently loses all his long-term memories on a regular periodic basis.
In Ending E, Eike asks Dana, the actual Margarete Wagner (his biological daughter, based on Ending D, though neither is aware of this), to return with him to the present in which she grew up, and she agrees. She is held hostage by Hugo (again, neither of them nor Eike are aware of their true relation to each other). Eike goes to get Margarete and brings her to the present, where she slaps and scolds Hugo. Tearfully, she tells him she can try and be more like their mother was to them and take care of them both. Hugo apologizes, then returns to the past with Margarete, who had managed to warn Eike about Hugo's plans. Eike and Dana are then about to intimately share a tender embrace but are suddenly interrupted by Homunculus. After a brief conversation in which Eike returns the digipad to Homunculus, Eike walks Dana back to her apartment. It is shown that while Dana says to Eike that she feels that he feels like he would be a "cool dad" as he seems to her to be "with it all", it remains deliberately ambiguous as to whether they still retain any serious romantic attraction for each other after literally years of separation between them on the part of Dana when she was in the Middle Ages; this has caused many fans to speculate that, given their continued fliratatious rapport with each other due to genetic sexual attraction, could possibly lead to future accidental incest on their part as they are actually secretly long-lost father and daughter (further fueled by the ending screen featuring Dana's picture and containing an admission from Eike that he does not know what his future may hold, which may be for the best). In a flashback, it is shown that Homunculus made Wagner disappear (possibly killing him), after he had wished never to see the creature again. It is possible this is not actually a flashback, but an epilogue, revealing what happens after Eike gives Dr. Wagner the stone, which contains the Homunculus he sealed away in another timeline. This also explains how Eike is able to encounter Homunculus in the ruins of Wagner's house after the experiment fails and why he did not recognize him.
The EX Ending has two variations. Awakening from his first death with all his memories, Eike gets the red stone from the diner before Dana comes looking for him. He can either give Dr. Wagner the stone, which allows him to make an elixir and successfully heal Helena at last, or die in the bar fire to enter Homunculus' dimension and throw it at him, causing him to cease to exist as a result of coming into contact with himself. Both result in Eike fading away. Regardless of either choice, the final scene is the same. A young man who resembles Eike is walking through the streets in present day and struck down like before. The object turns out to be a soccer ball that hit him, and the man returns the ball to a boy similar in appearance to Hugo.
Developed by Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo, a playable demo of Shadow of Memories debuted at the Tokyo Game Show in September 2000. The game went through several development titles: The Day and Night of Walpurgisnacht, Days of Walpurgis, and Time Adventure. Konami released Shadow of Memories for the PlayStation 2 in Japan on February 22, 2001, in North America on March 5, 2001, and in Europe on March 30, 2001. In 2002, the now-defunct Runecraft company ported it to the PC, while an Xbox port appeared simultaneously in Europe and Australasia; a PlayStation Portable port arrived in 2009.
Reception and legacy
Shadow of Memories received generally positive reviews from English-language critics.
Reviewers praised the overall plot of Shadow of Memories as the game's strength. IGN's David Zdyrko called the story "one of the deepest and most engaging that has ever been told through a videogame." Andrew Vestal of GameSpot enjoyed the idea of the detective in a murder mystery as the intended victim. Writing for Game Revolution, Shawn Sanders liked the time-traveling aspect of the game.
The graphics of Shadow of Memories received mixed responses. Sanders found the textures of the game "clean and detailed". Zdyrko disliked the low amount of detail on the characters and some of the background, but enjoyed the "lighting and particle effects", particularly the snow and night. Vestal praised the different visual depictions of Lebensbaum, and felt that high level of detail in the backgrounds helped to somewhat counterbalance the low-resolution of the game's graphics. Critics agreed that the full motion videos were well-done, and praised the realistic character animation.
Critics commented on the general absence of action in Shadow of Memories's gameplay. Sanders considered it the game's greatest flaw and a possible source of frustration for players. The slow beginning to Shadow of Memories was remarked on by critics, who felt that the game eventually picked up after a while. Additionally, the "stiff" motion of the protagonist when running drew criticism. Reviewers noted the relatively short play time, and felt that the multiple endings enhanced Shadow of Memories's replay value.
Shadow of Memories's soundtrack was well received. Critics wrote that it suited the mood and occasionally helped to build suspense. The voice acting also went over well, with several critics remarking on the quality of it. Zdyrko described it as "first-class" and believable, and commented that since much of Shadow of Memories consists of dialogue, flawed voice acting might have ruined the game. Vestal considered the voice acting of B-movie quality, but not flawed enough to be a major distraction.
After Shadow of Memories, Kawano wrote and directed another game with a time-traveling element: the 2008 Nintendo DS title Time Hollow; it focuses on seventeen-year-old Horo Tokio, who awakens in a world where his parents have been missing for twelve years, and his quest to find them. Along the way, he obtains the Hollow Pen, which allows him to create time portals to solve the mystery. Time Hollow continues the "themes of time manipulation and paradoxes", for which Kawano has expressed an interest.
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