The Shadow Hearts games are hilarious, fun, and great RPGs. All of them. If you’ve not tried at least one of them, you’ve seriously been missing out. Funnily enough, you won’t find them on most peoples’ top RPG listings. This is because of various factors such as better RPGs being out the same year, shortsightedness, or probably not having played them, but all the same, they’re great games that you should definitely check out immediately.
Since you clicked the more button, I’m guessing you probably having checked these out yet. Also, as usual, I have embedded youtube stuffs in the pics. Alrighty, well let’s start with one that doesn’t have the title Shadow Hearts, but is linked all the same…
When I first played Koudelka, my reaction was ehhhhhh. As time went on, it slowly progressed to meh, then eventually just okay. See, here’s the thing. Koudelka is a game rife with interesting ideas and shitty execution all around…plus, obnoxiously terrible voice acting and mediocre music. It’s really not a very GOOD game, but it’s still an interesting one all the same.
I don’t even remember the story very well, but it doesn’t matter. Effectively a mystic, some generic adventurer, and a priest team up to kick some monster ass. Initially, the game plays like a survival horror game, but when you get into battle, it’s turn based strategy, complete with tiles and stuff. Honestly, I still can’t tell you why they bothered with the tile system because it really doesn’t add any true strategy to the game.
Weapons also break, but you find them constantly and randomly throughout the game, both in the field and battle. The most interesting aspect is you have proficiencies for both magic and weapons. So eventually, over time, you can rack up all kinds of amazing combos by being dedicated to certain kinds of attacks…but that’s assuming you can keep certain types of weapons in your inventory long enough to develop your proficiencies.
Honestly, certain things, like guns, should never break, but oh man do they ever. This leads to a lot of the frustration in the game because often it’s quite random what will and won’t hurt various bosses. You could give this one a pass, but then you’d be…well, I was going to say missing out, but no, you can give this one a pass. There’s really very little to it beyond the interesting proficiency engine.
The original Shadow Hearts is a GOOD game. Not great, just good. First off, we have another sarcastic jackass hero, Yuri, but this one’s actually good and likeable, unlike Koudelka. In fact, there are a lot of positive things I can say about Shadow Hearts, so let me first talk about two very negative things. Firstly, the overall production values are very low. The music is okay, the graphics are kinda meh for a PS2 title, the animations and most monsters in general are fairly bland, and overall it comes off as generic.
The one thing that comes up in this game that carries over to other Shadow Hearts games is the ring system. Basically when you go to attack, a ring comes up, complete with different spots that you must tap as the line goes around in order to perform a combo. Miss one and the ring stops and you get what you get. You can also aim for slightly smaller sections that are red for slightly harder attacks, but it’s a gamble.
There are various ring effects that can cause it to become smaller, get disoriented, not show the areas you need to hit, move faster, etc. As you defeat enemies, you also capture their souls, which can be used to acquire new forms for Yuri. The plot is hilarious, there are a few gay undertones here and there, and overall the game is very fun, just a little generic when all’s said and done.
Shadow Hearts – Covenant
Now THIS is the game to play in the Shadow Hearts series. Not only were the graphics and overall presentation increased greatly, but it brought back Yuri along with a bunch of other strange characters for an epic story across WWI Europe. It’s been a while since I played the game, so I apologize for not having much more commentary than that, but know this: if you’re looking for a fun, strange title for the PS2 that is of top notch, you needn’t look any further.
Shadow Hearts – From the New World
And then this happened. Now let me explain. I didn’t understand just how epic Covenant was because I never got a chance to play it initially. I really enjoyed and still enjoy this game…however, it doesn’t quite live up to the standard that Covenant set. Sure, it’s got a bunch of wacky characters that travel the globe in a pre-WW2 setting and has a lot of American locations, but…it’s just not of the same caliber.
I mean, think about it like this. Arc the Lad 2 was an incredible game and Arc the Lad 3 was pretty goddamn awesome, too. So naturally, when I saw Twilight of Spirits for the PS2, I was stoked. And while there are a number of good twists and it’s cool to see an Arc the Lad game with 3D graphics, it’s really not very good, especially in comparison to previous games in the series.
From the New World is a great game, but it’s not a great Shadow Hearts game. There really isn’t much that it does to innovate on the formula Covenant came about with, so even mentioning the combo system and the different planes you can attack in really aren’t that relevant. At times, it feels like just a different paint job on the same game…except that the plot and characters are better in Covenant.
I’m not saying you should skip this one, but you should either go into it knowing it’s not as good or…play it before you ever touch Covenant. Like I said, I really enjoyed this one, but purely only because I’d yet to play Covenant.
Sadly, the only thing I’ve seen Yuri in since was Chaos Wars, a pathetic attempt to cash in on a crossover anime SRPG totally misguided by the ever drunken development hand of Idea Factory. Seriously, if you see Idea Factory on ANY product, it is more than likely a big pile of shit. Don’t believe me? Here are some examples for your perusal:
Spectral Souls (PSP) – An awful Disgaea wannabe that is anything but. Once again, there are major slowdown issues and is all around very buggy.
Record of Agarest War (360/PS3) – A game that entices you by having Aksys Games (of Blazblue fame) and the creators of Thousand Arms on the cover. Oh also, alleged “naughtiness.” Yeah okay, I played the game for about 10 hours and all I got was ANOTHER SLOW AND BUGGY SRPG WITH A SHIT STORY. GODDAMMIT.
You’ll notice, too, that on all three of these boxes, they deliberately hide the fact that Idea Factory is the developer. What a bunch of horse shit. Sadly, it seems Aruze/Nautilus may not be making further Shadow Hearts entries if this is the case, but it’s still worth keeping an eye out. The Shadow Hearts series is an incredible one and well worth checking out at your earliest convenience.