‘Psygnosis’, the publisher of the original Shadow Of The Beast back in 1989 had a reputation for video game titles that brought something different to the table.
They were most famous, perhaps, for 2 of the longest running franchises on consoles, ‘Wipeout’ and ‘Lemmings’.
Two very different games but with the definitive feel of a polished Psygnosis title stamped on them.
Wipeout, with its futuristic track racing and banging dance soundtrack was played by thousands in clubs in the 90’s where many people had never seen anything like it. Likewise, many nights were justifiably wasted by players preventing small furry creatures from trying to meet their destiny off the edge of cliffs.
Both of these games were not your churned out, run of the mill standard game formats of the era and attracted a large number of fans who wanted a gaming experience different from the norm.
And so it was with Shadow Of the Beast on Commodore Amiga back in 1989.
I remember seeing screenshots of the game in magazines at that time and snippets of the incredible alien artwork. I became intrigued as to the content of the game and what it was actually about.
As with most retro hits these days a remake was inevitable. It is arguable whether remakes are actually popular. Looking at ‘Wolfenstein: The New Order’ , for example, it was a good shooter but didn’t really get the sales that it deserved, but the new ‘Doom’ has done well.
Shadow’s remake has good reviews but not of the type that would persuade the current generation to part with their hard-earned cash, this is a shame because it’s a remake done right.
It’s a remake of love, attention to detail and respect of the original game itself. You can tell that the developers wanted to take the original formula and bring it into the modern age which in my opinion they have achieved.
You are “The Beast”, transformed from human form into something much different by a sorcerer which aims to use you for his own means. You claw, slash and stab your way through numerous stunning side scrolling environments and eventually turn on the sorcerer and pursue him in revenge for kidnapping you as a child and dehumanising you.
As you take control of the Beast you learn the basics of combat which initially seem identical to the original version. Button mashing [Square] results in a combo of stringed attacks that effectively decimate the stream of on-coming opponents, of which there are a lot.
So run, punch/claw and turn then ?
Enemies come in waves from both sides and timing the turns correctly to prevent a hit on the Beast, quickly appears to be the main aim of the game. It soon becomes apparent, however, that this tactic is not going to get you far like it would have done in the original.
Shadow’s remake provides you with a completely new and updated tool-set of attacks for you to utilise. These enable you to take out large numbers of foes in a new string of combos very quickly, in over the top blood and gore fashion (It’s kinda awesome).
For example, ‘Rage Chain’ involves quick switching between left and right to face on-coming enemies and tapping the buttons at the exact split second to keep the chain going. Miss-time a tap and the chain ends and you are back to spamming the hit button.
As you power up and progress through the game you become aware of how satisfying the combat is, yes a few of the attacks take time to master but when you do nail them it feels great and spurs you on.
Environments in Shadow contain a myriad of beautiful colours and stick true to the originals parallax scrolling backgrounds. Layers of graphics move independently to give the feeling of motion, obviously the remake has modern animation techniques around this but it still has the original retro feel nicely in tact.
Level design flows well. I did get stuck in a few locations that involved teleports and puzzles but these type of complex levels are few and far between and I made quick progress through the world.
Environments change at just the right pace so that it keeps your interest and you stick with it to make it to the next area and to the end of the game.
Overall I would highly recommend playing Shadow Of The Beast, especially if you were around to appreciate the original (which amazingly, is an unlock able feature, an emulated full version of the classic…)
Shadow Of The Beast is a prime example of when a retro title is updated correctly for the modern age. It holds just the right amount of nods to the original to get that ‘warm fuzzy’ nostalgia feeling but with modern mechanics that demand you give it your full attention and help the Beast seek its revenge that it truly deserves.
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