Review by KFHEWUI
"Stay your hand, Jack - and listen to what I have to say"
Michael LeRoi failed out of college, and instead of returning home, he got a job as a cabbie. One night, one of Michael's passengers is killed in a mob hit and fearing for his own life, he fled. Much later, he discovers a bag in backseat that is filled with money, and with the money he bought gifts before returning home and pretending to obtain success. Eventually the mob tracked down Michael, and they murder his parents and younger brother. Michael's life spiraled downward, and one night while wasting his life away at a bar, a woman stumbles in. Her name is Nettie, and she is powerful voodoo priestess. Nettie stitches into Mike's chest the mask of shadow making Michael the new Shadow Man, and Shadow Man has the power to traverse between Liveside and Deadside (the place where everyone goes when they die).
Jack the Ripper is recounting his events of murders and the reason behind them all before decided to kill himself. A strange man interrupts Jack and explains his business with Jack and how such power of the soul does exist. The man calling himself Legion has come to Jack to have him build a cathedral to pain where all misguided and dark souls could gather. Jack accepts before performing the ritual of the knife upon himself.
Lately Nettie has been having a certain prophetic dream of the Apocalypse, and the five heralds that will bring forth Armageddon. This will be brought about by the forces of evil collecting darks souls, powerful souls that derive their power from the fact that they cannot be destroyed. Time is ticking, and Michael must gather the dark souls before evil can get them in their clutches and stop the five from bringing about the end of time.
Shadow Man has a fantastic and macabre story that is well written with interesting characters that are fully fleshed out, and the story mixes Biblical content and voodoo content. This may sounds strange at first, but after seeing the game through, the combination works well.
The game starts up with Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata playing, and the beautiful track is just the tip of ice for the amazing sound track. Shadow Man has a fantastic atmosphere thanks to the music, and each track is catchy and unforgettable track. Not only does each track fit the locale and mood, but one track will never leave the mind of any one who plays this game. That track is for the playrooms level where the music is composed of numerous sound effects including a rubber duck squeaking then a baby laughing followed by a drill and children screaming. The whole track is disturbing and fits the level perfectly, and it is an unforgettable track that will stay with the player long after they have stopped playing the game. The sound effects are just as good as the music, and each enemy has their own distinct growl. Learning each one will definitely help with figuring out what lies ahead since some enemies will make their growl long before they are visible. One great touch is the footsteps sound effects which change depending on what surface Mike is traversing. On dirt there is a gravelling and crunching sound, but when Mike is running across pipes or metallic floors there is a clank sound.
Intro cut scene is a long sequence that sets up telling of Jack the Ripper and Nettie's prophetic dream, and there is a lot of dialogue, and what is a rarity for N64 games, the entire game is full voiced. The voice acting is great, and each character is unique and unforgettable from Jaunty the talking snake with an Irish accent to Nettie's Louisiana accent.
After the lengthy cut scene, the game starts players off in a Bayou in Louisiana, and Shadow Man does not look that bad. The character models look decent, but the textures are blurry. Shadow Man does support the expansion pak, and there is a noticeable difference. On high resolution, the textures look crisp and clean, and I never noticeable any slowdowns while playing on high resolution unlike most N64 games.
Controlling Mike is not too difficult, but the main problem with the controls lays with the controller not the game. The control stick for the N64 controller is awful, and Mike's speed is controlled by how the control stick is pressed. Slightly pressing forward will cause Mike to walk, but holding forward all the way will cause him to run. One unique concept to the controls is Mike can only carry one object with each hand, and items can be equipped to left and right hand. There is a single button designated for each hand, and the rest of control scheme is well placed out. Grasping the controls is very easy, and the controls overall are solid.
The first few minutes of the game takes place in Liveside, and Liveside is the place where the living live. The whole sequence is linear, and it gives the player a small taste of what is to come. Mike has to make it to a chapel and to do so he must jump gaps, run across a collapsing bridge, traverse a gap using a rope, and shimmy across a ledge. After passing through this, Mike is given a teddy bear which allows Mike to warp to places after has activated the checkpoint in it area, and the Marrow Gates is the only place available from the start. Using the bear transports Mike to Deadside, the place where everyone goes when they die, and there becomes Shadow Man. From now the vast majority of the game takes place in Deadside, and Mike will not return to Liveside until close to the end of the game.
In Deadside Mike's pistol changes and it is called the shadow gun. The shadow gun allows Mike to fire special bullets that can rip the soul out of enemies, and the gun starts out weak but over the course of the game as Mike becomes stronger so too does the Shadow Gun. The shadow gun is also capable of opening up of Govi which houses dark souls, and these dark souls give Shadow Man power. After collecting a certain amount, Mike will gain a new shadow level, and this will allow him to charge his gun to do stronger attacks. The most important part is that it allows him to open up gates, and there are numerous gates throughout Deadside. Some of the gates will open up new areas of Deadside or they will house an item, but there are a few that open up short cuts through Deadside. There are a hundred and twenty dark souls in the entire game, and there is a bonus for collecting all of them. For some strange reason unlike the original PC version and other ports, collecting every dark soul will unlock a second violator, but in the other versions collecting every dark soul would unlock the Book of Shadows which contains concept art. Why this change was made is mind baffling, and it is the only grip I have with the game.
Aside from charging up the shadow gun, one huge mechanic that is a must for combat is circle strafing, and the player can hold "R" to lock on an enemy then circling around the enemy while filling them up with lead. This is vital when fighting bosses although there are two fights where the circle strafing can be hard to perform.
Aside from Mike's weapon, Mike can also gain more health, and in the game are items called cadeaux. For every hundred cadeaux collected, Mike can gain a one new health bar, and in total, he can gain five health bar maxing his life total out to ten bars.
Mike's main weapon is his shadow gun and eventually he will gain a few more weapons like shotgun, machine gun, and Violator. There are numerous artifacts that Mike will gain throughout the game that can be used as side weapons including a baton which shoots out lightning, asson can shoot fireballs, marteau will shoot out shockwaves, and a few others. The items also have a primary purpose, and baton can be used to warp around using altars, and marteau is used to beat on drums. Gaining all of these items is must, and they will help Mike accomplish his goal.
The game play is similar to Zelda except it is a mature version, and the game earned its rating from blood drenched landscape to enemies that explode into chunks of flesh to furniture made from human flesh Shadow Man is a dark and mature game.
One of Shadow Man's strength is the way the game is played, and the game has a linear nature meaning start to end is predetermined, how the player goes about reaching the end is open and can be done in any order which makes up a huge replay value because each playthrough can be played differently. There also cheat codes to unlock which help the replay value, and there are two endings.
There are a few issues with Shadow Man, but none of them are game breaking. There is a glitch that allows dark souls to regenerate which is great so it is possible to end up with over hundred and twenty dark souls. Despite what the box and games says, Shadow Man does not support the rumble pak, and it probably was going to at some point but eventually it was scrapped most likely due to time constraints.
Shadow Man is a masterpiece, and it is a dark and unforgettable game that grabs the player and never let's goes. Games like Shadow Man are a rare breed which sadly have gone the way of Deadside, and the game a gem that is a must play. The most impressive part is maybe the fact that it is based upon the comic book Shadow Man, and it is an adaptation that is actually good.
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 08/17/12
Game Release: Shadow Man (US, 07/31/99)
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