The original Shadow of the beast came out in 1989. I had the chance to play it many years later on my sega megadrive (genesis) but I still was a kid back then so I barely remember anything. I do remember however how cool the graphics looked back then and I do remember enjoying it if only for those exotic-looking graphics.
Now I’ve just played the ps4 reboot but this time I won’t wait 20 years until the memories of my experience with it gets blurry. This is my review on Shadow of the Beast.
This ps4 Shadow of the Beast game is a 2.5D beat em up kind of game. The whole game is rendered in 3D but the progression of your character will always move on a 2D plane. It has some platforming as the game will have you jumping and climbing ridges and also avoiding stage hazards but the main dish of the game is in its combat.
The combat in this reboot is similar to the original in the sense that most enemies will go down with just one hit. Apart from that, however, the fighting here is very different from that game and from any other game for that matter really.
The encounters in Shadow of the Beast will have you often trapped between two “portals” and dozens of enemies will spawn from them coming at you then from both sides and you’ll have to manage that crowd as fast as possible before they swarm you. Unlike in the original game, your character has a certain weight to it so dispatching them is a more methodic ordeal. In fact, I’d dare to say that the combat in this game is very similar to a rythm game. There’s an efficient way in which each enemy could (and should) be defeated so, judging by the way they’re approaching you, you have to evaluate your situation and simply perform accordingly some simple moves that will dispatch every enemy one by one without giving them a chance to harm you. Become good at it and you’ll really feel like a badass.
I don’t feel like I should spoil the story to this game but I also don’t feel like I could. The characters from this game are certainly from another world and they certainly don’t speak a language you could understand so, understanding the motivations of our alien protagonist from the get go requires certain intuition.
However, the game lets you unlock subtitles for any of the strange races you’ll encounter through the game using ingame currency subtitles, and furthermore, there’s some collectibles in the stages that will unlock side stories that will also let you know more about the game’s lore which is pretty intriguing.
The game’s graphics on a technical level may not be today as revolutionary as the original was back in the day when it came on the amiga but it still looks great being probably the lighting my favourite part. On an artistic level though, the game is a masterpiece. The design of the world, it’s creatures and the color palette… It’s just marvelous.
It’s known that the original game had a really memorable soundtrack and, though I don’t think this one will be remembered as much, I think the modern tracks are very good as well. And, if you’re that much nostalgic, you can also unlock the old-school soundtrack to be played during the game.
Things I liked
- Visuals: Some really exotic designs here, great use of lighting and color and you get some of the most unique vistas in a game. I kind of wish there would exist some sort of rpg set in this amazing world so I could immerse deeper in it.
- Combat: It’s certainly needs getting used to it because of its weighty feel and because it’s so different from any game I’ve played but once you get the hang of it, the combat in Shadow of the beast feels truly satisfying. It’s almost as if your character was dancing without any music and for every silent note someone loses a limb. It’s flashy and gory like a 2D God of War even though it plays nothing like it.
- Replayability: The game really makes a big deal on getting a high score, evaluating your performance in every encounter and you’ll certainly will want to improve your skills and unlock the additional encounters. Also, the collectibles hidden in the levels that give more snippets of the game’s lore and the possibility to unlock subtitles for the game’s rare languages and then re-experience the story in a whole different way will sure lure you into spending more hours into the game than just beating the main campaign.
- Nostalgic appeal: I already mentioned how the game lets you unlock the game’s original soundtrack and play it during the main game but there’s way more nods to the original game than that like a little documentary on the reception of the original trilogy back then and, the best thing, the possibility to play a full port of the amiga version of the game.
Things I didn’t
- Levels: Particularly, the lack of them. The design of them is good enough, their length varies but it’s mostly fine. The problem is that there’s just so few of them. Being the first one a tutorial and the last one a simple boss fight, you’re left with really a handful.
Who’d like this?
I feel like this Shadow of the Beast reboot is really an acquired taste because it has such a different approach to the usual beat ’em up fighting. I’m sure there will be people who will really love the gory almost rythm-based combat but there will also be people who won’t dig that style at all. Get it with an open mind and, even if the combat isn’t for you, I think you will at least really enjoy the designs and the intriguing lore.