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Shadow Tower
"It plays out much like an RPG, where your character gains points... yet there are also distinct adventure elements thrown in to mix things up a bit." Image Loading...
Developer: From
Distributor: Agetec
Game Type: RPG
Review Date: Jan 00
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Setting the Scene:
       You play the role of Ruus Hardy and have been raised by a kindly old granny in the land of Zepter. Once you were old enough to wield your own sword you leapt out of the "nest" and decided to explore things yourself. The world is a very vile and challenging place to live, but whenever times got bad you always think back to the pleasant smile of Granny and the soothing words that she used to whisper to you that always made you feel so protected and wanted.
It is for this reason alone that you have decided to return to Zepter and visit the old bag (oops). As you draw nearer the town there is something that seems very strange to you…there used to be a huge monolith called Shadow Tower that rose above buildings, overlooking the land. You are certain that must be the town in the distance, but you cannot see the tower…very strange indeed.
As you approach you notice that Shadow Tower is indeed gone…the only thing left is the foundation that supported that giant structure and a giant maw leading to a darkness that seemed blacker than a moonless night. You walk closer and see that a man is standing around the base…he sees you and beckons you to come over.
Right away this chap has you mistaken for some sort of "Chosen One" as he calls you by a name that you never heard before…Wedin the Earl of Marus. You try to explain to him he has mistaken you for another, but the old fool just blabbers on. He tells you of the night when the Shadow Tower suddenly collapsed upon itself and evil creatures arose from the depths dragging the townspeople into the darkness where the tower once stood. He tells you that you are the only hope to rescue these poor souls and return them to the surface…if it not already too late.
You begin to feel a fear that you have never felt before as the hairs on the back of your neck start to tingle…but you also feel something else…rage. A rage and anger far worse than any that you have ever felt before. You think about Granny's smile…you stiffen with resolve and swear that no matter what lies in wait down there you are going to bring her and the rest of the townspeople back to the surface. Slowly you descend your first series of steps and your adventure…or worst nightmare…is about to begin….
Sound and Vision:
      The music in Shadow Tower is a very subliminal thing. It pretty much plays a back seat to everything going on in the game and manages to blend in unobtrusively with the action.
Now the sound effects are another thing all together…the large variety of effects contained in this game absolutely takes center stage and monopolize this title.
There are basically unique sound effects for everything happening all around you. Each creature has their own sound, the sound your footsteps make vary with the terrain, and the hacking and clanking of weapons will certainly ring in your ears. Sound also plays an important role in determining enemies position relative to your own. If you are listening to the game in stereo or surround you will be able to pinpoint locations to the left or right (front or back too in surround). You will also hear if a creature is lurking just out of view…perhaps around a corner or in a darkened room. To be honest with you, some of the sounds just plain creeped me out!
Image Loading...The graphics in Shadow Tower came as a bit of a surprise to me. I have watched as the Kings Field series progressed in graphical flare from the first one to the second. It was one of those games that you either appreciated what was being done graphically (I did!) or hated the presentation entirely.
I figured Shadow Tower would at least equal the appearance of KF 2 and even possibly exceed it due to the fact that things take place in a much more confined space and a lot less depth needed to be drawn. Instead what I saw was a relatively plain and uninspired looking environment with walls that pixilated horribly when viewed up close. What the hell happened?
Image Loading...The monsters are certainly on equal footing with those found in KF 2 though. The character designs are at times downright unsettling with giant skulls positioned atop a gelatinous mass of quivering goop. Since you are in a dungeon there are certainly things that will go "bump" in the dark and much of the setting is quite surreal at times.
      Shadow Tower is a game that mixes elements from two genres. It plays out much like an RPG, where your character gains points in a large variety of categories as you progress through the game yet there is also distinct adventure elements thrown in to mix things up a bit.
The game plays out in a 1st person perspective with gamers getting an "inside the character" viewpoint of the action taking place all around you.
Image Loading...Your task is to descend ever deeper into the bowels of a subterranean world that was once the foundation of a mighty tower that stood tall in the land of Zepter. The game starts you out in some mysterious catacombs where you will face the first of many monsters during your journey. The first few levels are essentially there to get you used to the gameplay, find armor and weapons and build up your experience points before you actually reach the Shadow Tower depths. Trust me, even the first few levels are extremely difficult and many gamers will find themselves getting killed many times before even reaching the first save point. Once you get your "chops" down though and figure out how to maneuver around your opponents you should be ready to take on the true portion of the game, which is the Shadow Tower itself. Here the difficulty factor ramps up considerably so take your time in the upper levels and get your characters experience points up as high as you can and also obtain as many powerful weapons as possible.
Image Loading...While obtaining weapons is relatively easy (creatures will occasionally drop them after they have been killed or you may find one lying in a corner), keeping them is another matter entirely. As you use things in the game, and this includes armor, gloves, shields, boots, weapons, rings, etc. they begin to wear out. Equipment is given a maximum and minimum point value in the game with zero being the worst case scenario. At this point your weapon will cease to work or your armor will stop protecting you…they are basically useless and cannot be used again. There are trading posts that you will find along the way where you can turn in the broken equipment in exchange for health potions, but it sucks to lose a really good weapon in this way once you find one. The easiest way to keep your equipment in top shape is to warp to a shop that will repair stuff for you. Unfortunately you must relinquish hit points in return for the repairs though. You can also repair a completely broken weapon here but the cost to you in hit points is usually not worth it! You may also be lucky enough to find boxes of ash that are scattered throughout the tower that can be used to repair equipment to a small extent as well. What really sucks though is that if you are in a heated battle and your weapon or magic ring hits zero you're pretty much screwed and will have to try and avoid encounters (nearly impossible) until you find another weapon. Once again, expect to die a lot. Try to save as often as possible!
Image Loading...The sheer diversity and amount of monsters that you will encounter along the way is impressive, with each having their own unique skills and strengths. Learning the creature's weaknesses is essential as certain weapons and magic are more effective then others depending on whom you are fighting. Each monster you encounter is also logged for you, enabling you to review each creature from the menu prompt. These monsters can also be fought with others monsters that other players have saved from their own Shadow Tower game. Pretty cool.
The Tower is also filled with other types of perils like trap doors, hidden pits, poisonous pathways and other assorted dangers. You will also notice the occasional message that appears to be printed in blood on the walls. Read them, as they often divulge important clues as to what awaits you just around the bend.
Unfortunately all is not well in Shadow Tower land. As I mentioned earlier, the graphics are at about the level of Kings Field I and considerably sub par when compared to the newer Playstation games available today. There is also a LOT of slowdown that occurs at very strange times in the game. You could be in a room with almost nothing going on, yet you hear a good deal of commotion coming from behind the wall and your character will slow his pace to a crawl. The only explanation that I could come up with to address this phenomenon is that the game must be processing the physics for the creatures in the other rooms, even though they are off the screen at the time! I could find no other logical explanation, but needless to say it was very frustrating. The game in general also moves along at a rather leisurely pace. Being that your character only has the ability to walk, you must go through the entire game at that same ponderous pace. Actually, if you get hit with a "Weight" attack you will walk even slower for a certain amount of time…ahhhh…
I found the atmosphere created by Shadow Tower to be adequately spooky and foreboding but the lack of save points, shop warp locations and weapons almost totally killed the game for me. I thought Kings Field 2 was a masterpiece of a game for its time with its wide-open level designs and creative interface. I expected Shadow Tower to equal or exceed KF 2 in many areas considering the fact that it is a newer game and should have built on the KF game engine and interface. While I like the idea of being able to carry reserve weapons and shields I couldn't figure out why the graphics where actually worse and the interface took a nosedive. The game certainly had its bright moments and you can tell that it manages to retain some of that distinctive King Field flavor, but for the most part the game become a bit of a chore to play and left me overall quite disappointed.
Image Loading...For those of you gamers out there that are familiar with the Kings Field series, gameplay in Shadow Tower is somewhat similar with a few notable exceptions. There is no run command in Shadow Tower and the way that you use your magic and retain accessories (weapons, armor, etc.) are vastly different. The game also plays out in a much more claustrophobic environment…with everything taking place in a dungeon type setting. Also, there is the absence of a compass…errr…so getting lost in the maze of passageways is a frequent event.
Game Options:
      This is a 1 disk game for 1 Player. It is compatible with the standard (digital) joypad and the digital controls of the dual shock joypad. Games can be saved via memory card (2 blocks per save).

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Staff Opinions  
Tom: " I guess I was just expecting too much from Shadow Tower. I anticipated a Kings Field 3 when all I got was a stripped down KF I. By stripped down I mean that the entire game takes place in a dungeon environment. I don't even get some of the wide-open expanses that the KF series offered me. The graphics where below the efforts of KF 2 and the musical score was somewhat lacking.

The game does offer its fair share of monsters though and comes through with a reasonably long adventure. The sound effects are brilliantly unnerving at times and the level design of the Tower is rather intriguing. I am just frustrated that the developers appeared to take what I thought was a superb interface (from the KF series) and butchered it.

The game is also hard and will leave a lot of newbies lying in splattered, bloody chunks on the Tower floor time and time again. It will take an almost superhuman effort to get through the title without throwing your controller down in utter frustration.

Bottom line: if you are in the category of gamers that liked the KF series then you may well enjoy Shadow Tower. I recommend a rental to get your feet wet and if it appeals to you pick it up…it is a nice long game if you like this sort of thing. "
Graphics: 13/20
Playability: 37/50
Sound: 7/10
Lastability: 16/20
Overall: 73%
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