Shadow Hearts: From the New World
PlayStation 2 – 2005
The final entry in the Shadow Hearts series takes us to the Americas. Here, a young detective is sent out to find a missing person and gets dragged into a world of demons and malice. Shadow Hearts: From the New World takes a lot of what worked in the second entry in the series and attempts to freshen it up but doesn’t always succeed. The combat is more refined, with a new “Combo” and “Double” attack system that on the face of it should be an improvement but at times feels like a downgrade. Instead of being close to someone to pull off a combo, you now must build up your “stock”. While this might seem like a good idea, I found myself rarely using it as most enemies (especially bosses) can either deplete your stock or prevent you from building it up. Enemies can also accrue “Stock” and often you’ll waste the first few turns in a boss battle just depleting it. Another new introduction is the Stellar Charts. You can slot in new Stellars and even power up these charts. Again, it feels like it’s trying to over complicate something that was simple in Covenant, and that pretty much sums up a lot of the issues with this game. The game also introduces more collectibles, from Snap Shots to Cat Coins but these feel like filler. Another issue I found was the grinding. Whereas the first two games allowed you to accrue experience and “souls” for leveling up fusions rather quickly, this one just felt slower. The graphics are improved, with the characters looking great for the system. The locales are somewhat more light-hearted than the other games, with sunny beaches in the Caribbean and idyllic Moana Village being a prime example of this. The characters are also a lot less series this time around. In Covenant, Joachim was the comedic relief but From the New World splits it out between Frank, Hilda and even Mao. The music ranges from wonderfully atmospheric to downright grating, sadly you’ll encounter more of the latter than the former. Overall, a decent JRPG but it fails to live up to the previous entries.
Shadow Hearts: Covenant
PlayStation 2 – 2004
The second entry in the Shadow Hearts series once again follows the exploits of Yuri as he attempts to stop demons and destruction. The game takes a lot of what worked in the original Shadow Hearts game and improved upon it. The Judgement Ring is back but this time it can be customized to your liking. You can adjust the amount of attacks, size of the hit areas and even equip items that can inflict status effects once you unlock them. You can also change the ring type to suit your play style, for example you can set up it to Practice Ring if you are struggling with the timings. The party has also been expanded, with four characters in your battle team and these can be changed at any time. This is a big difference as in the original you had to find someone in order to change your party. Characters not in your active party still get exp, just at a reduced rate. You can even set up to three different parties for quick access. I would often have a party for a dungeon and another for a boss. The game introduces Crests, meaning you can equip different types of magic. Each character also has their own unique abilities that you can use. The graphics are much improved on the original and there is a lot more voice acting. The music can be repetitive in places though. This entry marks a dramatic shift in tone compared to its predecessors. It embraces its goofy side and is littered with fourth wall breaking moments (looking at you, Joachim). While the first Shadow Hearts had a horror element to it, this one is more like what you’d expect from a JRPG. There is one dungeon that is a throwback, if you ever find it. Overall, a much improved sequel, even if I was a little disappointed they’ve forgone the horror.