Why did I play this?Why did I play this?

Posted on Sep 28th 2019 at 08:00:00 AM by (SirPsycho)
Posted under horror rpg, ps2, playstation 2, rpg

The Playstation 2 is an absolute monster for horror games and all kinds of variations on the genre's central themes. On top of the popular action format of survival horror, there are plenty of horror-based role playing games for the console. Shadow Hearts is one such RPG, as it melds traditional and Lovecraftian horror designs and themes in an alternate timeline setting of Earth in 1913 and 1914. And it has a rather unique, turn-based combat system. The game released in 2001, making it one of the earliest RPGs for the Playstation 2. The game was developed by Sacnoth and published by Aruze in Japan, and Midway Games in North America and Europe.

Shadow Hearts follows the story of Yuri, a young man with the ability to transform into demonic monsters. Yuri has a fateful encounter with a young woman named Alice as she's being attacked and kidnapped by a man she names Roger Bacon on a train in China. Once they're off the train, they start moving through the country and make their way to Shanghai. Through the story players meet a variety of different cast members, including an aged Chinese monk named Zhuzhen Liu, a Russian spy named Margarette, a classy vampire named Keith Valentine, and a young street urchin of London named Halley Brancket. The game's story is separated into two major halves, with one half taking place in China and the other half in Europe. Yuri is a rather interesting main character, as he's not the typical happy and optimistic protagonist. He's rude, vulgar, and quite crude at the start of the game. That part of his personality slowly changes and warms up over the course of the game, but it never completely goes away, which leads to some interesting party dynamics.

The game's main way to interact with the world is a mechanic called the Ring of Judgement. This is a rather unique rhythm styled mechanic. Its a timing based system where players must do more than simply learn which spells and attacks are useful, they must also be executed well. This rhythm system is used in much more than combat as well. The game has a lottery system where they can win prizes, or nothing, based on where the ring's pointer ends up. On top of this lottery, players have the option to get discounts at shops by finding and collecting certain cards and using the ring to get higher discounts with subsequent successful spins of the wheel. Other than the Ring, the game is rather standard for an RPG, with a random battle system and dark dungeons to explore. Even some towns are not safe from supernatural invasions, and can become quite dangerous for players.

Shadow Hearts is a pretty early game for the PS2, but it does look a bit better than a lot of other games from that era. It has quite a few visual design elements that were carried over from the previous generation, so in some ways, it feels like a super powered Playstation game. The characters are three-dimensional models that move around on pre-rendered backgrounds, much like the Final Fantasies of the first Playstation, and also its predecessor Koudelka. The art design of these backgrounds does an excellent job of fitting with the psychological horror elements of the game. The music for the game is quite moody and fits the overall darker themes the game is going for and adds some tense ambiance from time-to-time and depth to the audio design.

This game is worth a playthrough around Halloween for those curious of it. The game has a rather quick pace and is quite easy to finish within 40 hours. However, Shadow Hearts has seen no re-release of any kind. So, the only way to acquire the game is to buy a physical copy and play it on your Playstation 2. Online prices for the game rest around $60, so people have been catching on to the game's quality. Shadow Hearts belongs on the shelf of any horror fan, especially more psychologically influenced ones inspired by Lovecraftian themes and elements. The unique Ring system does a good job of keeping general RPG fans engaged as well, as every player has to work with it to master each character's rhythm.

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My favorite RPG of the newer generations. All four were special to me, the second Shadow hearts may be the best title of them all, but this one is my favorite. I love how dark it is, and the combat system was refreshing after so many years of traditional combat systems. Before this, The Legend of Dragoon was the only non-traditional combat system I had experienced.
This is one series I'd like to look into, but it's become expensive nowadays. I wonder if it sold well enough for anyone to consider a current (or next) gen HD remake? Looks like Sacnoth is no longer around, so assuming Universal Entertainment Corporation still owns the IP, who knows what the future holds.
This is one of those series I tracked down a copy of because it looked so cool, but have never gotten around to playing. Maybe this year....

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