Review – Shadow Man Remastered

Shadow Man was one of the most interesting games on the Nintendo 64 that I never got to play at the time, as it was deemed too violent and occult for my six-year-old son. Given the size and length of the game, I remember that many video game magazines published reviews of the game, spread across several issues, making me feel like I was missing out on one of the best games of the time. It took me twenty-two years to finally play it and discover what all the hype was about, thanks to Nightdive Studios and their brand new Shadow Man Remastered.

I was looking forward to playing Shadow Man Remastered, not only because I was curious for a long time, but also because the same people behind the development were behind the remasters of Turok and Doom 64. Nightdive doesn’t just remake the game and present it to the public, they practically turn a gem from the 90s into a visually and mechanically stunning modern gem that puts many games from the 2020s in the shade. Again, this was the first time I played a Nightly remaster that wasn’t a first-person shooter. Shadow Man has always been much more complex in terms of gameplay and level design, and you can only wonder how difficult it would be to bring such a game to market in 2021.

Night Dive did a good job of revamping Shadow Man’s graphics. Unfortunately, the figures still look bad.

First of all, if you don’t know what Shadow Man is ….. Well, it’s a licensed game. Believe it or not, Shadow Man is actually a comic book character created by Valiant Comics in the early 90s. He is a man imbued with the power of voodoo and can move freely between the world of the dead and the world of the living. After the great success of the previous Turok games, which were also based on the Valiant comic, the then publisher, Valiant, gave the game the green light in 1999.

The man in the shadows was a revolutionary at the time. It was dark, sleazy, dealt with the occult, had tons of doubles, curses, blood and everything else we take for granted in 2021. It was also a semi-open game, a precursor to the 3D Metroidvanization inspired by games like Metroid Prime and Dark Souls. You could roam freely over each map looking for Dark Souls to collect, which in this game seemed to be Mario’s stars. And yes, before the Dark Souls franchise was created, they were called Dark Souls. Innovative, isn’t it?

These are the things that still bring out the best in Shadow Man Remaster. The level design is excellent, with absolutely huge levels full of areas to explore and secrets to discover. Thanks to the game’s interesting progression system, which gradually gives you upgrades and new skills to explore further, you can also return to previous levels and unlock new areas that were previously blocked by pesky obstacles. Shadow Man can freely teleport between areas using a teddy bear filled with magic (makes sense if you care about his story), making it easy to retreat. In many ways, this game is like a collection marathon.

This is Jonty, the snake with a skeleton on its head. He also speaks with an Irish accent. Think of something.

Nightdive’s divine remastering efforts have transformed what was once a scary, but somewhat ugly and slow game into something scarier and sometimes more visually appealing than most games in the horror genre. New lighting effects have been introduced, adding realistic shadow and particle effects to the game. The skyboxes have been improved and the image is still fixed at 60fps. The game is not very demanding on your computer, so you can play it at a high level even with a medium setting.

I can’t say that Shadow Man Remastered is as good as Knightdive’s other works, but I should point out that this is not Knightdive’s fault. Unfortunately, compared to its siblings, this game hasn’t aged very well. Most of its problems stem from the fact that it was a third-person action-adventure game in its early years, and from its emphasis on storytelling at a time when Resident Evil’s dull plot was considered acceptable.

The level design is fantastic.

The environments and lighting effects are beautiful, but the character models are not. The shadow man in particular looks like a skeleton with a thin layer of skin over his body. He looks too skinny and walks like a puppet. Other characters like Jaunty (a snake with a skeleton head who speaks with an Irish accent) also look terrible, even by 1999 standards. The voice acting is also a bit amateurish. Some characters give good performances, but the same cannot be said for the vast majority, including voice actor Shadow Man.

Control is what ages the worst. The jumps feel odd, and as a game with an emphasis on platforming, that’s never a good sign. The battles have always been poorly developed, and that’s the case in this remaster as well. Finally, the camera, while not as bad as most games of the era, is still a bit annoying. Thankfully, Nightdive has implemented a simpler camera control for the game using the right analogue stick, which makes it all a little easier to digest.

Shadow Man is not the most remarkable combat system. ….

If you can ignore the fact that it’s a twenty-two year old game, you’ll have a great time with Shadow Man Remastered. There’s a lot to like about this game, namely fantastic level design, creepy customization, and a pseudo-metroid progression system. Sure, it’s a little lackluster by 2021 standards, but I’m happy with what Nightdive managed to pull off. Now, can we get the Armor and Turk 3 remaster?

Divine Night Diving’s remastering efforts have transformed the world of Shadow Man into something scarier and more beautiful than many modern horror games. Unfortunately, the character models that were horrible in the past are even more horrible now. While Night Dive has polished up the controls a bit, it certainly hasn’t aged well. The platforms are clunky and the combat is poorly designed. The frame rate improvement helps a little.
Shadow Man’s soundtrack is still current and, shockingly, consisted largely of MIDI tracks. His voice, on the other hand…. Although Shadow Man Remastered hasn’t aged as much compared to other famous Nightdive remasters, it’s still a phenomenal action-adventure game with an open world, impeccable level design and a progression system that most modern games can only dream of.
Last block : 7.5

Shadow Man Remastered is now available for PC. PS4, Xbox One and Switch versions will be available soon. The original version is also available on PS1, N64, PC and Dreamcast.

Viewed on PC.

A copy of Shadow Man was provided by the publisher.

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