hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

Shadow Tower Abyss

It Came from Japan! Shadow Tower Abyss

4:00 PM on 10.27.2011 // Allistair Pinsof

[It Came from Japan! is a series where I seek out and review the weirdest, most original and enjoyable titles that never left the Land of the Rising Sun.]

Along with churros and KFC, dungeon crawlers are one of those random Western creations that Japan seems to like a lot more than Americans. Although the more traditional, stat-heavy brand of dungeon crawler (Wizardy, Etrian Odyssey) has had the most influence overseas, From Software (Dark Souls) carried the genre torch by bringing it into 3D with the atmospheric King's Field series.

In between King's Field entries, the Japanese developer put out an overlooked dungeon crawler by the name of Shadow Tower in 1998. It would come to the States a year later with little fanfare, which is too bad because it paved the way for its superior Japan-exclusive sequel.

Shadow Tower Abyss (PlayStation 2)
Developer: From Software
Released: October 23, 2003
Current value: $50-75 

Fan translation: No, and this guide is a must.
For fans of: Dark Souls, King's Field, Arx Fatalis

Shadow Tower Abyss was the last of its kind -- a Gothic dungeon crawler in which the player travels deeper and deeper into the darkness by every hour. Survival is based as much on skill in combat as it is on being resourceful and daring in exploration.

The original Shadow Tower felt like a spin-off of the King's Field series but with a psychological horror twist (think Silent Hill's surreal, dark world). The enemies were stranger, the plot was more obtuse, and the game placed an emphasis on exploration. Very cautious exploration -- remember, these are the guys who made Demon's Souls and Dark Souls. In fact, Shadow Tower is the bridge between King's Field and Demon's Souls in that it shares many elements of both.

Make no mistake, though, Shadow Tower Abyss is very much its own thing. Unlike Demon's Souls, the game takes place in one sprawling dungeon that becomes weirder the deeper you venture. I miss this aspect in modern games, including Demon's Souls. There is something unique about slowly traversing the layers of a mysterious dungeon, coming across traps, and discovering story details through random, discarded notes (not that I can read any of them in this particular case).

As much as I loved Demon's Souls, its divided levels didn't capture the sense of danger and mystery you expect to find in a From Software dungeon crawler. Level hubs and checkpoints take away from the atmosphere and danger that a game like Abyss embodies.

Unlike the PlayStation debut, Abyss has a decent amount of variety within its world. Through the swamp pits filled with poisonous clouds, a scenic cliff side, and the abstract neon glow of later areas, From Software provides an incentive to explore this dark, haunted world by virtue of its design and pacing.

Whenever you start to grow tired of an area, you soon find yourself facing off against a boss or discovering a key to the exit. The action at the core of the game is repetitive, but that's to be expected of the genre. Whether you take to it or not will depend on how you feel about a good, old-fashioned dungeon crawl.

Despite the similarities shared with the King's Field series, From Software decided to give these games a different name for a reason. They are pretty peculiar, mechanically speaking. For starters, the unorthodox controls may be hard to adjust to for some players. Looking up and down is restricted to the back shoulder buttons, and strafing is left to the front shoulder buttons. This is because the right stick is used for attacking. Moving the stick side to side registers as a slash attack, up as an overhead slash, back as a back slash, and inward (R3) as a forward thrust. Different weapons are optimized for different attacks, which also deal more damage to certain enemies.

The biggest difference between Abyss and other games lies in its leveling system -- rather, the lack of one. Not really. Your strength increases through exploring and collecting defeated enemies' souls (sound familiar?), but all your other stats are completely dependent on items and weapons. You'll occasionally come across an item, usually hidden away, that will let you upgrade dexterity, endurance, and all the other standard stats. For the most part, you'll be depending on weapons to give you better stats. This wouldn't be so nerve-wracking if the items weren't always on the cusp of breaking.

Like Demon's Souls, the game feels like a survival horror title during its opening hour. You creep around in the dark with very little resources, terrified of any enemy encounter. Since the enemy A.I. is pretty dumb and easy to take advantage of, you'll soon find yourself breezing through areas. Nevertheless, combat remains fun due to the variety of weapons, which range from medieval pikes to assault rifles. You can only equip two weapons at time, so choosing the right combo will go a long way toward your survival.

If you are a fan of dark, moody dungeon crawlers, Abyss is a unique game that shouldn't be missed. What it lacks in detail and polish, it makes up in atmosphere and art direction. I'd love to see another Shadow Tower sequel, but sadly, I don't think we'll ever get one. The modern crop of gamers like to have their games divided up for them and conveniently sprinkled with checkpoints. The design philosophy behind Shadow Tower, or any good traditional dungeon crawler, goes against what makes modern games popular and accessible.

It's too bad that Abyss was never brought to the West, despite being mostly localized. You can't blame publishers for not wanting to take a chance when similar From Software titles failed to find a market over here. Demon's Souls is a genius game for keeping many aspects of a dark, Gothic dungeon crawler intact while appealing to a wide audience. However, returning to Abyss shows that something was lost in that transition. There is something unique about being lost in the darkness of Abyss, searching for an ammo clip, that can't be replicated in modern titles.

Sometimes you want to explore a game's world, and sometimes you just want to get lost and let the gloomy atmosphere consume you. In other words, dungeon crawlers are the post-punk of videogames, and I love my post-punks, dammit!


What is your favorite dungeon crawler?

Do you miss the days when it was possible it get lost in a large world?

Would the addition of guns ruin the Demon's Souls series?


[Dale North's favorite beverage + videogames = ???]

Allistair Pinsof,
 Follow Blog + disclosure DtoidAllistair

This blog submitted to our editor via our Community Blogs, and then it made it to the home page! You can follow community members and vote up their blogs - support each other so we can promote a more diverse and deep content mix on our home page.

 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our community fisters, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding * to your whitelists.

 Add your impressions

Status updates from C-bloggers

nanashi avatarnanashi
Wanna ask a question for tomorrow's PStoid? You still have time! While you're at it don't forget to ask one for Riobux too!!
SkarKrow avatarSkarKrow
I caught a reflective mumbling about MGSV's open structure and how it doesn't sit well with me, to be published whenever I litter it with images.
Gamemaniac3434 avatarGamemaniac3434
Welp, an article today got me thinking about this so without further ado, whats your favorite pokemon? This is mine:
Clarence Sheridan avatarClarence Sheridan
Winter is Coming and so is the new mobile game: “Frosty The Assassin” New Mobile Game coming soon... [img][/img]
SkarKrow avatarSkarKrow
I cast my little worm in to the pond for a topic to try to make a blog about today. I fish fish fish but nothing bites bites bites.
Perro avatarPerro
I cracked and bought Final Fantasy Dimensions on Android last night. Half off sounded like just the right price, though I wish this came out on 3DS or even the Vita but at least it gives me something to do on the porcelain throne!
Jiraya avatarJiraya
Coming soon in Mortal Kombat XXX DLC - HUMILITALITY [youtube][/youtube]
Robo Panda Z avatarRobo Panda Z
Those N64-era THQ wrestling games have actually held up really well over the years. Take that, nostalgia!
Halflocke avatarHalflocke
Underhero a 2d side scrolling rpg on indie gogo
extatix avatarextatix
Heading off to Spiel in a bit. A whole lot of games there, just of the cardboard variety. I love me some board games.
absolutfreak avatarabsolutfreak
Finally finished The Witcher 3. Definitely one of the best games I've played in my 30 years or so of gaming. Now onward to Ground Zeroes/Phantom Pain.
Nathan D avatarNathan D
*playing an old ps1 game* "START and SELECT don't bring the menu up?! WELL WHAT THE FU-oh, it's Triangle..."
TheDefenestrator avatarTheDefenestrator
If anyone's playing Marvel Puzzle Quest (any platform) you should join my Alliance, RedRightHand, and help me kick some Galactus butt for their second anniversary event. (Please?)
Shinta avatarShinta
MGS Online Day 3. I have 3 character up to level 10 now, one in each class. They're all pretty handy, but I do miss the scout's mark speed the most on other classes.
RadicalYoseph avatarRadicalYoseph
The SW: Battlefront is pretty and has great sound design, but the gameplay is so shallow and has seemingly no depth! If the full game is like this I will be disappointed.
Torchman avatarTorchman
*looks at Amazon preorder* This one's for you Chib'
CJ Andriessen avatarCJ Andriessen
Dear Playboy: Love your video game coverage, but how about you start making some topless unboxing videos? Seeing someone unwrap a copy of Call of Duty is boring. Seeing a topless Playmate unwrap a copy of anything is awesome!
OverlordZetta avatarOverlordZetta
In happier news, Level-5 is already talking Yo-Kai Watch 2's Western release, and better/worse yet, they're considering amiibo support for the series! And hey, if they can't get Jibanyan into Smash, that'd be one way to get the West's attention.
gajknight avatargajknight
I drank a glass of Ovaltine for the first time in years today. It was nice. Like drinking a glass of my childhood, complete with ignorance, embarrassing angst, tears (so many tears) and night terrors. Ah, the good 'ol days.
OverlordZetta avatarOverlordZetta
[img][/img] This is just depressing. Digital classics on consoles are such a great idea, but it's like not a single company wants to really go through with it.
more quickposts


destructoid's previous coverage:
Shadow Tower Abyss

View all:powered by:  MM.Elephant

Ads on destructoid may be purchased from:

Please contact Crave Online, thanks!


Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme

Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo

Back to Top

We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -