Once again, Jerod Mackert drops some knowledge on you. Be grateful.
Shadow of Destiny was a mostly overlooked adventure game released for the PS2 by Konami in 2001. You assume the role of Eike Kusch, a man with a mysterious past (because of course it is) who is visiting the German city of Lebensbaum for his annual vacation. After visiting the local cafe, Eike steps outside, where an unknown person runs up and stabs him from behind, killing him. I hope you kept your receipt.
Seriously though, instead of actually dying, Eike wakes up in some sort of limbo-esque room, where a Homunculus offers to help him keep himself from being killed in the first place (probably for completely selfless reasons). To do so, Eike receives a Digipad, which lets him travel through time so he can figure out how to prevent the act from taking place. In this particular case, since Eike was stabbed while he was alone, he has to find a way to draw a crowd so his murderer doesn’t risk getting caught. He accomplishes this by going back to 30 minutes before he is killed and convincing random townsfolk to stand around in the town square. Returning to the present time, Eike notices his attempted murderer leaving the scene. Satisfied by his successful meddling with the time stream, Eike continues with his day, until the murderer hops out from behind a tree and stabs him to death yet again.
Eike’s murderer is determined to get the job done, and won’t let a little thing like temporary inconvenience stop him/her. Like a reverse Wile E. Coyote, he/she always seems to find a way to kill Eike regardless of how he gets out of each attempt. From stabbing to poisoning to straight-up getting run over by a car, Eike is going to get killed all over the place, and he’ll have to rely on his Digipad to get out of it. The murderer jumps out from behind a tree, so Eike goes back hundreds of years in the past to make sure no trees are planted right there. Eike has his dinner poisoned, so he goes through an elaborate scheme to get the antidote (I probably would’ve just gone back 5 minutes and not eaten the food, but whatever!). As Eike travels through time and avoids murder after murder, clues to his past begin to unravel, and we learn what role the Homunculus has in all of this.
For a game that’s about the main character being murdered, it’s surprisingly lighthearted. The music is pretty upbeat for most of the game, and most of the characters are friendly, or at least not menacing. Eike is also a pretty nice guy to everyone he meets, and manages to take his murders in stride. He’s even pretty nice to the person who ends up being his would-be killer. Looking back at this game, I started to wonder why I had considered it for a horror article to begin with, but then realized that it’s mostly because of the production values that came with being an early PS2 release. The town is pretty much empty except for a few NPCs here and there, which makes it seem like you’re all alone against your killer, despite the fact that there’s really no plot-related reason for there to be so few people around after the first episode. On that note, many of the NPC models look borderline terrifying, if only due to their quality (it looks like much more time was spent on the story-relevant characters). If you try to walk outside of the several-block radius that the game places you, Eike is always blocked from going any further by an angry black dog. Every street that you try to run too far down ends with the dog growling and scaring you away, so either there is one demon dog following you through time and space, or there has been a serious dog problem in Lebensbaum for hundreds of years (either of these possibilities would make for an interesting game on its own). It’s interesting what design constraints can do to the atmosphere of a game like this, but I think it works in a weird way.
Shadow of Destiny can be bought for the PS2 as well as PC. There is also an enhanced version for the PSP that adds more people to the town and makes the NPCs less terrifying in general, as well as redoing the voice work, which probably takes some of the creepiness out of the game, but may be a better experience (I haven’t tried it). Whichever version you decide to pick up can be purchased for pretty cheap. Despite having a bit of a lack of polish due to its age, Shadow of Destiny is an entertaining and sometimes creepy adventure game that is worth checking out.
- Released: March 5th, 2001
- System: PS2/Xbox/PC/PSP
- Developer/Publisher: Konami