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Shadow Hearts

Developer: Sacnoth | Publisher: Midway
Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 12/11/01 | Genre: RPG

Usually when you think of great Role-Playing Games (RPGs, for you folks just getting into video games), there are a couple of gamemakers that come to mind. First, Square for the Final Fantasy Series and Sony with Wild Arms and other series. Well, forget everything you thought you knew; Midway, the company that brought you hits like NFL Blitz, Mortal Kombat, and, of course, Spy Hunter, has thrown their name in the hat with their first RPG. How will Midway fair against the incredible selection of RPGs available? There's only one way to tell!

In every game the storyline is important. This is even more true when dealing with RPG titles, because -- let's be honest -- who wants to go through all the time and trouble of saving a world that you could care less about? And so that is where we begin with the story of Shadow Hearts֠Rouen, France 1913: A traveling English priest is brutally murdered on a rainy night. His only daughter, believed to have been traveling with him, and his possessions have vanished. She has been classified as "missing."

One month later: A steam train blazes under the clear, starry sky. The train from Changchun is headed for Dairen. Inside the Japanese army's luxury car, located in the back of the train, sits the murdered priest's daughter. She has beautiful blonde hair and eyes full of sorrow. Bored, she stares outside at the scenery. An English gentleman approaches the girl. The next moment a scream rips through the train. One of the Japanese bodyguards is torn like a piece of paper and falls to the ground. The English gentleman, smiling, locks his gaze onto the girl.

"Who are you?" the girl whimpers. "I am Roger Bacon and I have come to take you away," he answers.

And so a great tragedy is about to begin.

Most of the time in any RPG all you do is hit the Fight button, and pick the attack you want, and -- boom! -- your character attacks. Well, it's still like that to a point in this game; it has a unique (and very cool) feature: after you select Fight but before your character attacks, you must use a clock-like shield and correctly hit the green sections in order to attack. Now, this does take a little getting use to at first but I really think it enhances the fighting and keeps you from being bored as with some other RPG titles. And don't worry, it isn't always exactly the same where you must hit the target; it varies with each character and with each item or spell you will use. Another great feature in this game is the amount of "random battles" that you will face. Shadow Hearts doesn't feature the constant random attacks that most RPG's do. This really helps the pace of the game. And with the opportunity NOT to fight in so many battles, it makes it more fun to take a look around and find those hidden treasures throughout the game!

The graphics in the game are its only downfall and that's just because with games like Final Fantasy, it's really hard to make an RPG that looks that good. They also cut away scenes that develop the story throughout the game, which is another issue, however, and this will be apparent when you first start the game and view the storyline I laid out above. The sound in Shadow Hearts is a great feature. The background music during fights is eerie and intense. The character voices (when they do speak) are great! The main music throughout the game is a real treat so overall the audio is top-notch!

So what's no so good about this game? With all the positive things, there are a few negatives, first being the graphics (see above.) Second, the storyline is a bit much, but when it all comes down to it, they have made the game simple enough for you to know what to do next without killing yourself trying to remember everything they said! For the first time putting together an RPG, Midway has more than succeeded! It's fun and keeps you interested while playing the entire game. Another cool thing about the game is the adult humor. I don't mean this game is in the porno class, but Shadow Hearts does let your mind slip in the gutter with a few of the comments made by your characters; especially right off the bat after you rescue the innocent Priest's daughter at the beginning of the game. And since the game is rated M for Mature for Blood, Gore, and Violence you should get a chuckle out of it while playing this game.

By Chris "Hoss" Neupert - 06/18/02
ESRB Details: Blood and Gore, Violence
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Screenshots for Shadow Hearts

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