Tag Archives: shadow hearts

Game Spotlight: Shadow Hearts: From The New World

01

Taking a break from all the Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis era games, let’s go back to my old home of the PlayStation 2 and resume my many musings of fantastic JRPGs from that console, not that I stopped talking about JRPGs when I went retro for a little while.

So this week, I’m going to shine the spotlight on a game I’m sure not that many of you have played, Shadow Hearts: From The New World.

01

Now take a long look at this picture. You’re not seeing things. This is a JRPG. And yes, you see a JRPG game where a guy in a red ninja costume is fighting a giant Japanese horror movie-looking floating head and he’s using a swordfish with a katana hilt attached to it as a weapon. This is the beauty of Shadow Hearts. The insane, ludicrous beauty of Shadow Hearts. The game is a solid JRPG that takes the usual format and turns it inside out, upside down and in all other possible directions. It’s a mixture of horror, anime, and oddly enough, world history and geography.

The story of the game takes place in 1929, starting in good ol’ New York. It revolves around Johnny Garland, a sixteen year-old boy who runs a small detective agency in Brooklyn. When getting a case to find a missing man for another man who looks like Tim Burton’s version of the Penguin in anime form, he ends up running into a situation where the supernatural become a thing and monsters start emerging from portals. He’s saved by a Native American woman named Shania who has the ability to transform into various Native American spirits through fusions. Together, they end up going into what ended up being the most bonkers JRPG I’ve ever played.

(left to right) Frank, Lenny, Shania, Johnny, Hilda, Natan, Mao, Ricardo
(left to right) Frank, Lenny, Shania, Johnny, Hilda, Natan, Mao, Ricardo

Take a look at this picture now. Other than Lenny, the large man in suspenders, this is your party in the game. Frank, the ninja who had a swordfish…sword in the last picture is now fighting with a saw blade and in fact at some point in the game fights with a bus stop sign. Shania as I said earlier has her spirit fusions. Johnny is relatively normal, his ability is essentially a Scan ability where he uses his camera to take pictures of enemies. Hilda is a vampire who has three forms based on the monsters you have her bite and feed on, she has her pretty form, her pink bat form and a fat girl form when she eats fatty monsters. Natan is also Native American like Shania and fights a martial arts style that incorporates dual-wielding pistols. Mao is a talking cat that fights drunken master-style. And Ricardo fights with a guitar that has a gun, flamethrower and other weapons built inside. Holy fucking shit!

The game is out of its mind and yet finds a way to incorporate alternate versions of history into it. You’ll help break Al Capone out of jail while fighting demonic monsters in Alcatraz. You’ll go to various legitimate ruins in Mexico and South America and fight crazy monsters like that floating head thing. Hell, you even get captured by pirates led by a tiny adorable redhead girl. The game pulls no punches, almost like no idea was a bad idea when they put this game together. And it’s amazing.

01

The battle system is super engaging as well, unlike most JRPGs that are pick and watch. When doing anything in battle, you have to go through a “Wheel of Fortune” where you have to hit the needle on various coloured spots to land attacks, spells, even items. And most of these wheels will have a red piece on the wheel much smaller than the rest where if you hit that, it’s like a critical hit and can even apply to basic items. It’s an interesting system that like I said, keeps you involved with every turn you make in battles. And through link attacks, you can dictate the flow of the battle by keeping your party doing the attacking while your enemies cower in fear.

So if you’re looking for a good JRPG and if you’re really looking for a JRPG that’s so unlike most games out there, the entire Shadow Hearts series falls into this category, but the last game in the series, Shadow Hearts: From The New World is my personal recommendation, mostly because I’ve yet to finish either the first or second game. Hell, I’ve still gotta find a copy of the original game again, can’t believe I sold it when I had it once!

Game Spotlight: Shadow Hearts: From The New World

From_the_new_world_wallpaper_johnny_and_shania

How many games have you played over the course of your life that made you legitimately interested in history, geography, anything like that? Some games come to mind include the Carmen Sandiego games, Mario is Missing, stuff like that.

A game I’d add onto the list for myself: Shadow Hearts: From The New World. Yes, a crazy JRPG that has a giant talking cat fighting like Jackie Chan’s drunken master gimmick, a dumbass American ninja who fights with insane weapons such as a bus stop sign and a mariachi guy who fights with a guitar implanted with guns inside it. That game made me legitimately interesting in history and geography.

(left to right) Frank, Lenny, Shania, Johnny, Hilda, Natan, Mao, Ricardo
(left to right) Frank, Lenny, Shania, Johnny, Hilda, Natan, Mao, Ricardo

The game is set in the year 1929 as we follow a young 16 year-old Johnny Garland who runs a detective agency in New York alongside an old friend to Shadow Hearts fans, Lenny Curtis. Initially what was just supposed to be a search for a missing person turns into a massive journey across the Americas to save the world from a super-powered villain.

Compared to most JRPGs, the universe in this game is so much more different than most. I haven’t played much of the either two games in the series, but From The New World for me is a fantastic mixture of historical events and places while intertwined into a ridiculously over-the-top sci-fi epic fantasy. Wanna break Al Capone out of Alcatraz while his resurrected sister wreaks havoc on everyone breathing? Hell yeah you can! Want to sneak into Area 51 and along the way bump into an alien and a vampire who switches between a vampire bat, sexy goth girl and a super-obese version of herself? Yeah, that can happen to! The game takes various places, people and events you’ve probably heard of and twist/skew it as much as possible to fit it into the game’s storyline. It’s insane and I love it.

"Normal" Hilda
Slim Hilda form

The one thing that really makes this game keep itself from getting boring, is it’s battle system. Albeit sometimes frustrating, the Judgment Ring system has every action pop up with a wheel mini-game where you have to strike either the larger, main coloured area of the ring to successfully perform the action, or you can go for the much smaller red section which adds a bonus on top of it, like a critical hit. This makes every action require your attention rather than most JRPGs which is a sit and watch experience (*cough cough* FFXIII…) and offers little for the player to do. It can get frustrating when status effects add onto it, doing such things as changing the speed, changing the direction of the needle and making the zones invisible. But most battles are fair and it’s just a matter of adjusting to it.

There’s a fair amount of customization as well. The game offers Stellar Charts, which is similar to FFVII’s Materia system. You can decide who gets what abilities and what chart they use, as some offer more options than others. You can even customize each chart to your own preferences, so there’s plenty of ways to play your party members. They each have their own special abilities as well to further differentiate themselves and they level up over the course of the game through various means. The most notable is of course other main character, Shania who uses the Fusion ability to transform into various Native American spirits which have different elemental abilities and battle styles. Every character has something unique going on and it keeps the battles fresh as the game progresses.

Shania and her various Fusions
Shania and her various Fusions

In terms of the story, it’s nothing too special to look at. I personally view the game and its storyline as a sort of comedic sci-fi epic, the story is there and there are a few interesting plot points over the course of the game, but there’s nothing that will invest you to the point of sinking in hours on end to get to a conclusion.

What the game has however that makes it so irresistible and memorable is its wacky cast of characters, both playable, enemy and NPC. Other than the main cast I already went through, one of the main villains Gilbert is pretty much The Penguin from the Batman series, minus the outfit and accent. The shopkeeps you see are gay bikers, one is normal, the other is super flamboyant which may rub some people the wrong way, but if you’re familiar with Japan, this is a normal caricature you’ll see in various media. And like I said earlier, the number of real people featured in the game, from Al Capone and Eliot Ness to H.P. Lovecraft, it’s crazy how they mix these people in!

Al Capone
Al Capone

If you’re looking for a wacky JRPG, this is way up your alley. And if you have any interest in history, this will be a massive cherry on top of this already delicious cake. Check it out!