Top positive review
29 people found this helpful
At last! A decent RPG!
on 8 April 2002
Although the PS2 has had the dubious pleasure of playing host to other 'RPGs' such as Eternal Ring and Evergrace, Shadow Hearts is the one of the first to fall into the traditional turn-based mould used by such games as Suikoden and, of course, Final Fantasy.
This game is slightly darker in tone than most Japanese RPG's, filled with scheming warlocks, man-eating demons and a hero who is possibly just a little unhinged! Shadow Hearts is set in a kind of alternate 1900's setting that brings to mind Cthulhu and Lovecraft - You know the stuff; Vast and ancient evil powers, sanity eroding magic and victorian technology.
The game plunges straight into the story with the sinister Roger Bacon (he is, honest!) slaughtering guards left right and centre as he attempts to abduct a seemingly helpless priest's daughter. Luckily our 'hero', Yuri, is on the same train and not about to let some diabolical Englishman make off with heroine! Yuri does not seem particulary bothered by having his arm ripped off (it just flies up and sticks back on!) nor the horrible little demon that Bacon uses to kill people (he contemptuosly crushes its head!) but merely turns into a huge great demon and rescues the girl - And then proceeds to put his fist through the bad guy's head and leaps off the train! Of course the villain is never finished that easily...
All this in the first 5 minutes!!!
The game follows the traditional pattern of exploring very pretty pre-rendered backdrops, chatting to the locals, buying stuff from shops and being jumped by random fights. The locations are very atmospheric and varied as are the people that inhabit them. It is no suprise to learn that the team who created this game are mostly made up of ex-Squaresoft employees...
The battle system is turn-based and features several innovations, most obvious of which is the Judgement Ring. This involves selecting an action (attack, cast spell etc.) and pressing the button at the correct moment to determine how effective this action is. Depending on how skillful you are, you can regularly pull of multiple critical hits! Another feature is the addition of Sanity Points which decrease as battles go on - When they are depleted the character goes beserk!
The characters are varied and interesting; Aside from the transforming Hero with the troubled past, you get a full cast of oddballs including the afforementioned priest's daughter with her holy magic, a wandering old man who beats up demons (and hurls fire!) and a sexy secret agent (where did she get that mobile phone in the 1900's...?)
All in all, Shadow Hearts is an enjoyable RPG that should keep fans of the genre engrossed for quite a while. If this game has any fault, it is that the designers are a little to fond of using this Judgement Ring in too many situations...
(I would mention the questionable quality of the voice acting, but it is more than made up for by the excellent music!)