First Impressions: The Roaring 20's, Shadow Hearts style
It's been a little over a year now since Japan first received Shadow Hearts II, which is known as Shadow Hearts: Covenant in the US. Thanks to rave reviews of Covenant, the Shadow Hearts franchise has grown in status with RPG fans, and in Japan the quirky, gothic saga has become pretty dang hot. Recently Japan received Shadow Hearts II: Director's Cut, which contains some new dungeons and other gameplay content. It also contained a surprise trailer for the latest in the franchise, Shadow Hearts: From the New World. Taking place in the ?new world' better known as America, SH3 looks to contain the same fun battle system and depth, along with a whole new story - and promises of old favorites popping up in some capacity. From the New World is set for a Japanese release in September of this year, though as of now, nobody has made any announcements on a US release. Hopefully Midway, who's done a fine job of translating the first two games, will hop on the bandwagon one more time for this hot-looking sequel.
Shadow Hearts 3 takes place in 1929, and for the first time, the series heads west for America. Also for the first time, it seems a Shadow Hearts game will not star Yuri Hyuga as the main character (for obvious reasons regardless of which ending you got in Covenant, when you think about it). Instead, you play as Johnny Garland, a 16 year old kid who doubles as a detective. Johnny isn't your normal detective though, as due to the death of his parents in some accident, his memory is completely blank. He's sent on a case to arrest a suspect, only for him to see this particular suspect is a strange monster who summons an entity known as The Window, which brings similar monsters into the world. In RPG tradition, Johnny isn't alone, with a female counterpart; this time a 21 year old Native American known as Shania, who's a huntress, looking for these same creatures that Johnny experienced. There's not a whole lot to the story so far, though Nautilus and Aruze claim there will be plenty more characters and some appearances from past SH personalities. And of course, there's the possibility of some kind of Yuri factor, since Shadow Hearts is
his story. For certain though, the equal amount of drama and trademark quirky humor will return. Regardless, Shadow Hearts: FtNW will take you across America, from Brooklyn to Chicago (where the game starts), to the Grand Canyon of all places. And who knows, a return to Europe/Asia could be in the cards as well.
As you'd expect, the trademark Judgment Ring will return, though early looks make it appear to be just like the one from Covenant. Of course, this will change most likely because the game is still fairly early in development. Hopefully they'll add to the depth of an already sound and unique battle system to make it even more fun, and maybe even bump up the difficulty a bit, considering how Shadow Hearts II was on the easy side for the most part. One could be worried that the 1 year between games seems a bit much in terms of time to innovate but we'll see how it turns out. The graphics have been given a huge upgrade, looking at both the stunning CG and in-game art that was shown in the debut trailer with SHII:DC. As the PS2 winds down it looks like the Shadow Hearts team has got a nice grip on the hardware even though some will assuredly be wishing they had waited to make this a PS3 game.