Review – Shadow Man Remastered
Shadow Man was one of the most interesting Nintendo 64 games I never got to play back in the day, as it was deemed “too violent and occultISH” for a then-six year old. Given how massive it was in terms of size and length, I remember many gaming magazines publishing walkthroughs for it scattered throughout many issues, making me feel like I was missing out on one of the best games of the time. It took me a whopping twenty-two years to finally play it and find out what the hype was all about, all thanks to Nightdive Studios and their brand new Shadow Man Remastered.
I was looking forward to playing Shadow Man Remastered not only due to my decades-long curiosity, but also because the same people behind the Turok and Doom 64 remasters were behind its development. Nightdive doesn’t simply remaster a game and releases it to the public, they pretty much transform a dated gem from the 90’s to visually and mechanically impressive modern gems that put many 2020’s games to shame. Then again, this was the first time I’d play a Nightdive remaster that wasn’t a first-person shooter. Shadow Man has always been a lot more complex in terms of gameplay and level design, and one could only wonder how complicated it would be to bring a game like this to the spotlight in 2021.
First things first, if you don’t know what Shadow Man is… well, it’s licensed game. Believe it or not, but Shadow Man is actually a comic book character created by Valiant Comics in the early 90’s. He’s a man imbued with voodoo-like powers, who can freely move between the world of the dead and the world of the living. Acclaim, the original publisher of the 1999 game who owned Valiant at the time, greenlit it after the huge success of its previous Turok games, which were also based on a Valiant comic book.
For the time, Shadow Man was revolutionary. It was dark, gritty, dealt with the occult, featured tons of voice acting, swear words, blood, and everything we take for granted in 2021. It was also a semi open-ended game, a precursor of 3D-esque metroidvania inspired titles like Metroid Prime and Dark Souls. You could freely run around each map in order to look for dark souls to collect, which acted like this game’s Mario stars. And yes, they were called Dark Souls prior to the creation of the Dark Souls franchise. Groundbreaking, innit?
These are the things that still hold up the best in Shadow Man Remastered. The level design is great, with absolutely massive stages full of areas to explore and secrets to unveil. Due to the game’s interesting progression system, which slowly grants you upgrades and new abilities the more you explore, you’re also able to go back to previous levels and unlock new areas which were previously locked behind annoying obstacles. Shadow Man can freely teleport between areas with the help of a magically-infused teddy bear (it makes sense once you pay attention to its story), allowing you to backtrack with ease. In a few ways, this game actually feels like a collectathon of sorts.
Nightdive’s god-tier remastering efforts have turned what was once a creepy, but slightly ugly and slow-performing game, into something scarier and occasionally more visually appealing than most horror games out there. New lighting effects have been introduced, showering the game with realistic shadow and particle effects. Skyboxes have been refined and the framerate is always locked at a rock-solid 60fps. The game doesn’t demand a lot from your computer, meaning that you can run it at a high setting even with a mid-tier rig.
Now, I can’t tell you that Shadow Man Remastered is as good as Nightdive’s other efforts, but I need to clarify that this isn’t Nightdive’s fault. Sadly, this game has aged quite poorly when compared to its “siblings”. Most of the issues are a consequence of it being a third-person action adventure game during the genre’s infancy, as well as its focus on storytelling in a time where Resident Evil‘s cheesy acting was considered passable.
While the environments and lighting effects look excellent, the character models don’t. Shadow Man, in particular, looks like a skeleton with a thin layer of skin covering his body. He looks excessively skinny and walks like a puppet. Other characters, like Jaunty (a snake with a skeleton head who speaks in an Irish accent) also look terrible, even for 1999 standards. The voice acting also sounds a bit amateurish. Some characters deliver good performances, but that cannot be said about the vast majority, Shadow Man’s voice actor included.
The controls are what aged the worst though. Jumping feels weird, and considering this is a game with a heavy emphasis on platforming, this is never a good sign. The combat has always felt undercooked, and that is also true in this remaster. Finally, the camera, while not as bad as most games released back in the day, is still a bit janky. Thankfully, Nightdive did include a simpler control of the game’s camera with right analog stick, making things a bit easier to digest.
If you can ignore the fact that this is a twenty-two year old game, then you’ll have a great time with Shadow Man Remastered. There’s a lot to like in this game, namely the fantastic level design, creepy setting, and pseudo-metroidvania progression system. Sure, it looks and feels a bit janky for 2021 standards, but I’m happy with what Nightdive has managed to deliver. Now, can we get a remaster of Armorines and Turok 3, pretty please?
Nightdive’s god-tier remastering efforts turned Shadow Man‘s world into something scarier and prettier than many current horror games out there. Sadly, the character models, which looked horrendous back in the day, look even more abysmal nowadays.
Even though Nightdive polished the controls a little bit, they certainly haven’t aged well. Platforming is wonky and the combat is faulty. The improved framerate helps out a bit though.
Shadow Man‘s soundtrack still holds up and it’s shocking to find out it was mostly comprised of MIDI tunes. Its voice acting, on the other hand…
Fun Factor: 8.0
Even though it has aged poorly when compared to other Acclaim remasters handled by Nightdive, Shadow Man Remastered is still a phenomenal open world action adventure with pristine level design and a progression system most modern games could only dream of.
Final Verdict: 7.5
Shadow Man Remastered is available now on PC. PS4, Xbox One, and Switch versions coming soon. Original version also available on PS1, N64, PC and Dreamcast.
Reviewed on PC.
A copy of Shadow Man Remastered was provided by the publisher.