Ahhhh...... Shadowgate. Or is it supposed to be Shadow Gate? Nope, it's the name of the castle.
I don't recall the first time I ever played Shadowgate. I'll just guess that it was over at Dr. Potts' place sometime around 1990. Anyway, the exact time doesn't really matter. What matters is that this game was played. Was it beaten? Hell, no. I think I was only able to solve a handful of puzzles the entire time I had it (stupid shark). I was, on the other hand, able to get myself killed in more ways than I had thought descriptively possible.
Coming across these types of descriptive deaths was uncommon, if not unheard of in Nintendo games in 1990, and could possibly be rated a high "Teen" in todays market. This kind of material was golden. It was as if the game was challenging you to find out how often and in how many ways you could die! Dying no longer was something to fear, as you had to get over it quickly because it was going to happen very often.
The music too, dear god man, the music! This was another early game that I fell in love with the music. And it didn't help that I couldn't beat the game and find out who the composer was; remember, no access to the internet in 1990. And even with the internet, it took a while to find out that the composer/programmer was Hirojuki Masuno. Just give, what I consider to be the quintessential Shadowgate theme a listen, although the track is titled "Entranceway." Even the music that was played when you were dead was as interesting to listen to as the rest of the music in the game.
So Shadowgate was a point-and-click adventure style game that was very text heavy, as you can tell from the death images above. Only two other games that I know of, Déjà Vu and Uninvited, used a similar/identical format. At the age of 10 (and even now really), it was like reading an interactive Choose Your Own Adventure book that came with it's own soundtrack. I didn't extensively play Univited, and I only dabbled around with Déjà Vu when they were out on the NES. When Shadowgate Classic came out on the Gameboy Color in 1999 (wow, only 9 years after first playing the original, it seemed a lot longer than that), I bought it and made a considered effort to beat the game, which I ended up doing, with some help from the internet to solve some of the harder puzzles, like how to stop dying.
That same year that Shadowgate Classic came out, Shadowgate 64: Trials of the Four Towers was released on the N64. I rented that game from the video rental store I worked at, at the time and had a blast playing it. It was a similar game, compared to the original, as in a point-and-click type adventure, except that since it was on the N64, the game was in a three dimensional space and played similar to an FPS minus the shotgun and automatic rifles. Like the original though, you still wandered from room to hallway to room, trying to solve puzzles without killing yourself. It was a pretty fun game, from what I remember. The music wasn't as catchy as the original, but listening to the soundtrack on it's own, the music is more atmospheric and more like a film score than a video game soundtrack.
There were also plans to release a sequel to Shadowgate 64 titled Shadowgate: Rising, but the rumors say that it was in development for the N64 as the Gamecube was coming out and production ceased. There was also an online comic that I followed for a while that was going to lead into Shadowgate: Rising
Now at the end of this article, I have to ask the obligatory question: Why aren't more indie game companies making point-and-click style adventures? In theory they don't seem too difficult to create as it's mostly just script writing and then a series of images. Yes, I understand that it's a pretty dated concept, but it falls into the whole nostalgia phase. So if anyone reading this either knows someone in any form of game company or is in one themselves, you now have a new project on your hands. I'll be looking forward to the end result.
Awaiting the Masses to Join the Call