■ Platform: PlayStation 2 ■ Category: Role-Playing
■ Publisher: Midway ■ Developer: Midway
Shadow Hearts is a singularly unique and innovative game. The first thing you’ll notice about the game is the typical menu-driven turn-based combat system. The second thing you’ll notice is a fancy white circle that pops up the second you try to do anything called the Judgment Ring. The judgment ring has a hand that goes around the face just once, whenever the hand passes over a highlighted area you need to hit x to actually do anything, making you work for everything you do, from attacking to using an item. This is not a game you want to play without checking out the manual first. I should know, because that’s exactly what I did. Unfortunately for you battle isn’t the only place where the judgement ring will show up. It also follows you onto the field, and while you might think “big deal” the truth is Shadow Hearts did it years before Batman. Though unlike Batman’s “press x 3 times to leave the vent” Shadow Hearts kindly tosses you a “You’ll never look cool in front of your girl friend ever” level of difficulty; where If you get it right you can continue the game, get it wrong enough times and the girl you just saved pushes you out of the way and does it for you.
Welcome to the second installment of RETRO REVIEW! Where I review old games that everyone should play but probably haven’t.
Does the game do what it says it does?
A well crafted Gothic horror; Shadow Hearts put its money where its mouth is. Populated by disturbing monsters, tragic characters, and tales that could be mistaken as something from the Brothers Grimm or authored by the writer of The Ring; every part of the game only adds to the disquieting atmosphere, from the grotesque monsters you fight, to the demons haunting your every move. Although the graphics didn’t age well at all, the riveting story, and deep characters have kept their original shine. Set in the years leading up to World War I you meet many historical characters, and are assaulted by pre-war terror. A fog of depression and acceptance floats over the country as you explore Europe, the seeming undeniably of war hovers throughout the game, lending the characters you met an air of quiet hopelessness.
Is the game enjoyable?
Shadow Hearts can be described as nothing short of perfect. The game is perfectly balanced, everything from the battles themselves to how often you run into monsters is perfect. Despite using the same random battle system as Final Fantasy VII you never get that annoying feeling that your being bothered by an unnecessary number of monsters. It’s not just the big things either, like engaging combat, the music, or the amazing story that makes the game great, it’s the little things too. Little tweaks that aren’t even noticeable unless you have them pointed out to you. It’s that attention to detail, the way the game play never contradicts the story, every threat and every promise is fulfilled, nothing is left unsaid or undone. When the game ends there are no questions left, even if no one came right out and gave you the answer, it’s still right there in the game play.
Do you think other people will enjoy it?
Of course. For a game that seems to be the love child of Silent Hill and Final Fantasy I’d say it has a rather large audience to draw from. I’d have to say about the only group of people who wouldn’t be interested in this game would be the Call of Duty crowd. That I think we can all live with though.
Did the game make you laugh?
Yes, and quite often at that. Though the humor was more caustic, and generally aimed a the hero, Yuri, I found it to be wonderfully dark. Like any hero who’s seen to much Yuri seems to be quite jaded, and his deadpan snarking can be a real riot some times, though on the other side of the coin….
Did it make you cry?
Yes it did. While Yuri started out as a jaded young lad, as the story goes on he grows more attached to the people around him, and vice versa. Eventually loosing some of the snark he started the game with. He develops in to a true blue hero, different from the anti-hero who could care less about anyone else that he started out as. By the end of the game it becomes hard not to become genuinely attached to the characters you braved the end of the world with. Though the game is short by RPG standards, only 20 or so hours, they managed to cram an amazing amount of story and emotion into the game, making it the most heartrending game I’ve ever played. Why is it more heartrending then Mass Effect? Because it managed to achieve in 20 hours what it took Mass Effect 3 games to do.
Rude Hero: “Stay away?! I haven’t even done anything yet.”