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Review Shadow Hearts (ps2)

genre: JRPG

Shadow Hearts had the bad luck to come out the same time when Final Fantasy X was released. Of course it was an impossible task to compete with such an established game series off epic proportions. Naturally it got snowed under and demolished. But Shadow Hearts is an RPG that is grand in it's own right.

What it lacks in visuals more than compensates it with gameplay. The Judgement Ring is one of the most simple but creative ways to make turn based role playing more fun and proactive. This is how you add intensity and diversity without upsetting fans. This addition is much needed since the story isn't the most intriguing or complicated at first. It took me a while to get into the story. Although there is some depth added at certain key events by introducing some nasty villains and some colourful team members. Who along the way will be the cause of some surprises. One huge event comes to mind of such epic proportions that could be seen as a game changer. Sadly the events after don't really reach that level shock wise but by that time it doesn't matter much since you will be hooked in. The gameplay accordingly increases when new options open up when Yuri (main character) is able to evolve his abilities. Other team members also have their own unique skill set. I am a sucker for these fantastic CGI scenes when they display these awesome abilities. In that aspect it is similar to those stronger magic spells you see in Final Fantasy 7 and higher. It's one of those elements I never get tired off since it adds to the experience. And it makes the battles more exhilarating.

What about grinding? For the most part it's not necessary to do. Shadow Hearts is a relatively easy game especially for experienced gamers. Still doesn't mean there is no challenge to be found. Some bosses acquire you to need have certain equipment on you need since they can dish out some nasty spells. You also have to keep an eye on Sanity Points (SP) next to the usual HP and MP. When you deplete these Sanity Points you go bezerk and lose control over the character. Which in most cases is bad since often it will result in death. A lot of these predicaments can be avoided if you take the time to explore and find new items. One method of acquiring valuable items is by equipping a pedometer that will count your steps in dangerous areas. The number of steps then can be exchanged. (So you are encouraged to do a little grinding). Another method is the lottery. Spread out through the game are these lottery members where you can play a mini game for some very useful items and equipment. You can engage them once you have found a lottery ticket also scattered throughout the game. Since they are rare it is advised to save the game before doing the lottery otherwise you will miss out. For a real challenge their are these pit fights where you have to fight a series of monsters one on one without saving or being able to heal up or use items before the battles commence.

It is very well possible that you might have overlooked certain optional key items on your first playthrough which could have consequences for some of the side quests. (Some locactions won't be available after having visited them.) But not to an extent that it will prevent you from finishing the game. You do have to keep in mind that some boss battles will take longer to finish if you aren't leveled up properly or lacking items or weapons that make things easier. To get most out of the gameplay I recommend to do the side missions especially when you want to get ultimate weapons and armor. Side quest bosses are much harder than the main quest ones. And by doing these side missions you get a little more back story on the characters which is always nice. Personally I always try to do every possible quest that will aid me or deepen the experience since I rarely replay RPG games once I finished them. And in this case it is worth do so. One example getting the Final Fusion Seraphic Radiance for our main character Yuri. A mouth full but so much fun to use. What do you mean overpowered?  

Shadow Hearts wasn't the first game in the franchise I played. It was Shadow Hearts From The New World which introduced me to this wonderful series and am glad that it did since I am now itching to play Shadow Hearts Covenant regarded as the best in the series .For people who love JRPG's this is a game that deserves as much attention as the more popular ones. Story wise it might be a bit underwhelming but gameplay wise it is top notch. Definitely worth your time! 

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