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Retro Recap: Shadow of Rome

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We’re jumping up a generation in this week’s Retro Recap and taking a look at a slightly overlooked title from the PlayStation 2 era titled Shadow of Rome!

One of the goriest and bloodthirsty ages was naturally during the reign of Caesar and his successors, yet the number of arena combat style games seemed very lacking to me. The entire atmosphere of a game was already there in the form of the gladiatorial games, but it seemed that no one wished to delve into the deep history of Roman prominence. That is, until Capcom decided they would take the historical line of “Et tu brute” and create a wonderful, yet sadly, overlooked title such as Shadow of Rome.

The game begins not long after Julius Caesar’s assassination, and the inhabitants of Italy are in shock not simply over their faithful Emperor’s demise, but because no one knew who took that fateful swing. Our protagonist, General Agrippa, is a warrior by birth stationed at a Barbarian outpost who finds out about the murder of the Emperor and swiftly returns home. Upon arrival however, he soon learns his father has been framed for the deed. After learning that his mother has also been sentenced to death, Agrippa takes it upon himself to kill numerous guards on his path to freeing her, only to be defeated by a fellow General. As fortune would have it (and good storytelling), Agrippa was saved by a woman, who leads him into the path of the Gladiator, citing a tournament to decide the executor of his imprisoned father.

Roman Spotlight
Keeping your adoring fans happy is always a good thing

If you think that this was all there was to this game, you’d be sorely mistaken. Not only do you undertake Agrippa’s burdens of freeing his father, but also, you take control of his long-time friend, Octavianus. Deciding to find out for himself the details Caesar’s death, Octavianus takes to the streets and Roman forums in search of information. Yep, Shadow of Rome is not only a fighting game, but a fighting / action / stealth hybrid. Octavianus relies upon his small stature and quickness to navigate the legion infested streets of Rome in order to find the truth. Keeping to the shadows is paramount when you are in control of him and more of the story is revealed throughout Octavianus’s exploration.

Fighting in the area is so enjoyable. It allows you to let off some steam and generally have fun with the game before moving back to the stealth missions. As in true Roman style, you can wield a multitude of weapons, ranging from a shield and sword to the almighty Halberd, and don’t think that it doesn’t show the gory details of your vanquished foes. Beheading opponents becomes second nature to you, and nothing can bring you more joy than severing the arm of your enemy, then proceeding to beat him to death with it. Of course, the you must please the crowd in your endeavors. Satisfying your adoring fans nets you with better weapons for you to punish your foes.

Repeating the same series of strikes over and over may slowly get you through the combat stages, yet the crowd will be displeased with your poor display, and what’s more enjoyable that quenching the needs of your bloodthirsty audience. The system is based upon “Salvos”. Each technique you perform nets you a series of Salvo points. Rack up enough and taunt for the fans and you get a fat multiplier. Earn enough Salvos and you gain access to cooler armor for Agrippa. The audience like some odd things though, so be aware (apparently, throwing your weapon into the crowd is a cause for rowdy cheering from them). For a rather overlooked title, Shadow of Rome is a very well thought out game.

Slice n Dice
Of course, dismembering your enemies is a good way too…

Things you didn’t know about Shadow of Rome:

  • The final stage of the game is based upon the historical Battle of Actium
  • Kenji Inafune (Mega Man character designer, amongst other things) liked the game so much, he ordered a sequel, but was ultimately scrapped for Dead Rising due to poor sales in the US

This is the first game that I picked up on a whim. I never heard about this game before seeing it in Toys ‘R’ Us all those years ago, but I was definitely intrigued. I am glad to say that playing Shadow of Rome has been one of the most enjoyable experiences to date, perfectly combining the fast paced fighting style of the gladiatorial combat with Agrippa, to the slower, stealthier aspects with Octavianus. If you ever feel the need to pick up a PS2 title, give Shadow of Rome a go, and as for games based around the Julio-Claudian dynasty, then definitely look no further than this fantastically made game.

Did you ever play Shadow of Rome? What did you think of it? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!

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