Seething Cauldron of Pop Culture Talk

Irascible Analysis of Popular Culture

Nostalgia Challenge: Shadow Madness

Now here is a title that, by all rights, should have long since been consigned to the dustbin of history. The graphics are atrocious in every possible way, the story is well-worn at best, the characters paper-thin, the CG is ugly, the combat is dull and repetitive, and…so on. Most of the major aspects that people point to when speaking of the greats of the RPG genre are all, at best, sub-par here, so why bring it up again so long after its release and financial bomb? Well…there’s just something about it. Shadow Madness was born out of Square translator Ted Woolsey’s Craveyard studio, which was shuttered in 1999 after the release of its only title, which was also parent company Crave Entertainment’s first title. Also of note, Paul Reed, designed for Metroid Prime, was responsible for the game’s story.

Well, with that out of the way, let’s get down to why the game is being brought up some eleven years after its release. I bought it back when it first came out, during a phase where I was inclined to purchase anything from the RPG genre that was released for the PS1. That included a few that really weren’t very good. I recall playing it some back then, but I don’t think I ever go to the second disc. It was somewhat fun then, but it eventually got put away and I haven’t been back to it a good number of years.

On May 10, 2010, I played it again. When I stopped, I found that nearly two hours had passed, almost without me realizing that I’d spent that much time with the game. In part, I think I can attribute some of this to the graphics no longer really being a major factor. Yes, it still looks quite awful today, but all the other PS1 games I’ve been playing lately look rather dated themselves, even the graphics powerhouses of their day. FF7 has blocky characters and highly compressed CG, but it’s still a good game, you know? It’s the same concept, although you really have to take it a bit farther with Shadow Madness.

To make a long story short, Shadow Madness gets by on its quirky nature and humorous dialog, which works far better than when it tries to be serious and generally fails. While all other components of the game have failed it utterly, the game’s writing saves the day and somehow makes the whole thing worthwhile. It might simply be the contrast with the other PS1 RPGs, which have writing that often feels a bit stiff and overly formal. Shadow Madness plays things loose and isn’t afraid to get a bit silly at times. That’s actually kind of refreshing when you think about it. And…that’s what the game has going for it. That and nothing more, I’m afraid. But, oddly enough, that did me two hours in and I actually kind of want to play it some more tomorrow.

It’s currently being sold on Amazon for a little over $3, which is probably about what it’s worth.

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May 10, 2010 - Posted by | Games, Nostalgia Challenge | , , , ,

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