Review of Shadow Hearts
As you begin Shadow Hearts as Yuri, an agnostic little punk, the game begins with an air of mystery and bloodlust. Sneaking around on a passenger train bound for destiny Yuri sights his desire. A man, English to be sure, and a woman, as beautiful as she is sad, are about to meet.
Yuri is here to stop this from happening, but why? Something evil is in the air, and this dark and speeding train will be the start of your journey to find out why, and exactly how dark it really is.
Shadow Hearts plays wonderfully. The Judgment Ring system brings the player into an active role in an otherwise strict turn based combat system. When entering into combat, each player can choose to fight, use skills, items, etc, but all is accomplished by successfully timing the button presses on the ring. Basically a round indicator with lit “hit” zones appears. Press the required button when a sweep bar is in these “hit” zones and you will be successful. This ring is used in a lot of areas in the game, even when buying items.
Other than the ring, Shadow Hearts uses standard turn based combat tactics used in many rpg’s. However the ring gave the game a constant feel of involvement, and the perfectionist in you will strive to get “perfect” as much as possible. It can be quite challenging to hit the tiny red areas of the ring to achieve this. There is also what’s called “Sanity Points”. The more you fight in a battle the more insane you become. If you loose all your sanity points you go, well, nuts. At that point the character becomes uncontrollable, not good.
Shadow Hearts is chocked full of items, weapons and armor, and the latter two are even upgradeable if you visit a certain…ahem…fellow. Many secrets abound in the game also, and I was quite surprised and pleased to find quite a tie-in to the previous Sacnoth (PSX) rpg, Koudelka, but I won’t tell you any more than that.
The menu system is virtually flawless. Everything is laid out nicely and easily accessible. There is even a help menu that is huge, a score page that keeps track of all your stats and a library that catalogs monsters defeated. The monsters are truly disturbing, just as in Koudelka. For those who haven’t seen Koudelka, the monsters are like a cross between those in Silent Hill and Resident Evil.
The story line is well done, and as I said earlier, there are side quests, secrets and tie-ins that, if followed (found) make Shadow hearts all the more fun.
Visually the game is so-so. While the backgrounds are pre-rendered, they are rather detailed and still quite beautiful. The combat screens are fully 3D polygonal and while the characters are of medium build, the special effects, motion and sound effects fit well and add to the experience. There are many in-game cut scenes that help tell the tale of Shadow Hearts, most are with in game graphics and do a decent job, but every once in a while you will be treated to stunning CG quality scenes which I thought were far to rare.
The musical scores are perfect. This game is heavy on the dark side, and the music presents and eerie and spooky feel, but still maintains enough complexity and structure to fit like a glove. The sound effects and in game voices are fairly well done too. Surround sound kicks in every once in a while and the general feeling of despair is constantly present through the audio.
OUR PLEDGE: We promise that we have fully played 'Shadow Hearts' before writing this review. The scores given above are our honest opinion and were not influenced in any way by the manufacturer or distributor of the game.
This review was written by Robert Gibson © Absolute PlayStation
Click here to view our 8 Shadow Hearts in-game screenshot slideshow
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