Shadow Hearts: From the New World PS2 Review

Whereas the sublime Shadow Hearts: Covenant was one half dark and one half crazy humour. From the New World is the third game in the series, and whilst it still has its dark moments, it brings the insane humour of the previous games right to the forefront.

As the name suggests the game is no longer set in Europe, but instead takes place in 1930’s America, with you taking on the role of not Yuri of the previous two games, but Johnny Garland a sixteen year old detective, who looks more like a six year old and has a rather manly voice for someone of such tender years. Apart from that, Johnny is relatively normal (at least for the genre) whilst his companions are certainly not.

The main female character, Shania can – like Yuri could before her – transform into demons. But even she is relatively normal when you compare her to Frank the Ninja, an OAP kitted out in a ridiculous looking costume and who talks in a fake Japanese accent. Then there’s Mao a huge talking cat, who utilizes drunken boxing, has ties to Al Capone and also works as an actor. Hilda on the other hand is a vampire, who gains different abilities and changes shape based on calorie consumption.

In regard to the plot, Covenant, got the balance just right, with plenty of serious moments as well as plenty of light hearted insanity. The third game’s emphasis on humour, whilst hard to dislike, can however be detrimental to the overall storyline. It’s almost too silly for its own good.

The Battle system is as good as it has ever been though.

The series’ trademark judgement ring has obviously made its return in this third game. For those not in the know (just about everyone then, as like many RPGS in Europe the Shadow Hearts series is sadly overlooked) the judgement ring is a brilliant mechanic that resembles a pie chart and is based on skill as opposed to just lazily tapping a button.

Every command, be it a simple physical or magical attack as well as using items brings forth the ring, hell it‘s even used when you go shopping. Choosing any of these actions, will cause a hand to sweep across the ring, stopping this within any of the coloured areas, will result in a successful command, and in the case of the red strike areas, even more positive effects. Whilst missing any, or all areas, will either produce a lesser attack, or none at all.

Each character has their own unique ring, but these can be customized with items, allowing you to extend the hit areas so as to give you a better chance of hitting opposed to missing, and for those with the reaction speed of a snail, there’s even some accessories that can dramatically slow down the speed of the ring as well as some different type of rings.

The combo system that was introduced in Covenant remains in the game, although it’s much better implemented this time around. Combos are a string of attacks, where all subsequent actions result in additional damage to your enemies and are supremely satisfying to pull off. Executing a combo no longer requires you to move characters next to each other, instead each character has their own gauge, which first must be filled up (done so by both attacking and being attacked) if you want them to participate in the combo. Care must be taken, as enemies too can use this deadly command, particularly in one of the games many boss battles, where this can spell disaster for your entire party.

Whilst Covenant offered both a compulsive story and compelling game, From the New World, has a disappointing narrative, that has too much of an emphasis on weirdo characters and not enough on an emotive storyline that many RPG fans crave. The game itself is actually better than its predecessor, but the story is not. As a result this third game is still a fantastic RPG, but not quite the stunning RPG package that Covenant was.