The edict for a great many adventure games has been having a plot in which your quest is larger than life itself, such as saving the world. In Konami's Shadow of Destiny, your task is not nearly so grand as that. The goal of this game is not to save the world, but simply to save yourself.
In the opening sequence, your character Eike is murdered and awakens in some sort of inter-dimensional space. A mysterious disembodied voice calling itself Homunculus speaks to you and offers you the chance to go back in time and prevent your own death. This otherworldly being seems to have other motives at heart besides saving Eike's life, though. What reasoning does it have to give Eike a second chance? Why must Eike's survival be ensured? Throughout the game's ten chapters, these questions and many others will you ponder as you seek to find the answers by traveling through time, and finding clues to ultimately unravel the mystery.
Shadow of Destiny is a time-based game. If it is 2:00 p.m., and you are fated to die at 2:30 p.m., you have half an hour of real-time to find a way to change your destiny. The first few chapters are mostly spent finding methods to prevent your imminent death. For example, if you are stabbed and killed, on your second chance at life you will want to try and do something like gather a crowd around you so that the killer will be deterred. You soon learn, however, that preventing your death by these means is only temporary. The killer will always find another way. So you must figure out and fix the root of the problem in order to ensure your survival.
The game is not very difficult, and the general method of solving puzzles is simply trial and error. If time runs out and you don't accomplish your task before the time at which you are fated to die, you're done for. You are brought back to the beginning of the chapter to try again. Thankfully you can skip through all of the cut scenes the second time around so starting over isn't as time consuming as usual.
The length of the game is very short; it can be beaten in less than 5 hours once you get a feel for how the game plays. The game does have extensive replay value though; there are six different endings and each time you play through the game you learn additional details about the mystery that weren't present the first time through. To get the full effect of the game, you really should see all six endings.
I wouldn't say that the gameplay is the high point here. Controlling Eike will be tedious for some and if you weren't a fan of the 3D control in games like Grim Fandango or Gabriel Knight 3, you should steer clear of this one. Getting around town is rather simple, but indoors is a different story. While outside, you can use the mouse to rotate the camera in any direction giving you a full view of your surroundings; during the interior scenes, there is no mouse control. You simply use the arrow keys on the keyboard to make your character walk in the desired direction, but without being able to see what's in front of you or around you, half of the time you will be bumping into walls. Thankfully time traveling, finding inventory items, using the interface, and navigating the outdoor scenes are a breeze.
Graphics in Shadow of Destiny are generally nice to look at. The colors and scenery were bright, vibrant and well-detailed. 3D character animation has steadily been improving, and the animation here is a step up from most. Although displaying emotions convincingly in 3D is difficult to do, they have made strides to do so in this game. The graphics ran very smoothly on my computer, although it should be noted that I have a higher end system and I'm fairly confident in saying that the game will run sluggishly on older systems.
The voice acting is a mixed bag. There is nothing that is flat-out bad, but there is some room for improvement. The voice of Homunculus is very well done and effectively chilling. The sound effects and score are very good, but nothing that will really jump out and grab you. They serve to complement the game nicely.
While I had a great time with Shadow of Destiny, it's not a game that I feel everyone will love. Some people will be more put off by the mechanics of the 3D engine than I was, and the length of the game could be a big problem for others. But those that are willing to try out something with a new and interesting concept should definitely give this title a shot.