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Review - Shadow Hearts: Covenant (PS2)

Started by Nightcrawler, October 13, 2010, 03:01:36 PM

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Continuing on in the series (started with Koudelka), I've now completed Shadow Hearts: Covenant. This tale was another refreshingly original one. However, the tone changed to more light hearted, quirky humorous one, rather than the more serious horror-like tone of the first two games. This wasn't necessarily a bad thing. It was enjoyable, just different. I can think of no other games that I've played that are quite like this one.

It was a few notches better than the last game. It was definitely enjoyable, but it still suffered from some of the same problems. Once again, the game started off awesome. The first several hours of the game were fantastic and and seemed like it could be epic. However, that quick pace and exhilaration just wasn't kept up. I think many modern games suffer a bit from that problem. They go all out to 'lure' you into playing, but cannot maintain that level throughout. Emphasis was put on the events of the game happening during a world war, however several hours later, you really forgot the world was even at war as there were no other gripping battle scenes like in the first town.

The first half of the game culminated with an incredible and exciting conclusion. And like the first game, it was separated into two distinct halves with two different antagonists.  Unfortunately, I didn't enjoy the second half of the game nearly as much. The tone of the adventure changed and the characters, including the new antagonist, were not as good as the first half. Rasputin was a much stronger bad guy. He nailed the insane-bad-ass to be feared profile. The game would have been cooler to keep him in it throughout.

On to the specifics:


Another crazy mix of some truly odd characters. An old man, a gay vampire, a little girl, samurai, German soldier, a wolf, a ditzy fortune teller, and a refreshing hero. Roger Bacon is back and just as kooky as ever. I think the character creators for this series may have some serious mental issues! I don't how you can put together a bunch like that, but it did make for some very humorous scenes!

That's where the characterization of this game shined. Humor. Each character had a quirky personality that could make you laugh at any time. Whether it is Yuri not paying attention dancing with Blanca (the wolf) or the hilarious park bench scene with Joachim and Anastasia making up what was happening, most scenes involved a good chuckle.

The relationship between the characters was much better explored in this game compared to the first, but still lacking for several characters. By the end of the game, you had 8 characters, but probably only 4 or 5 got worthwhile development. Unlike the last game, the side quests in game did very little in most cases to flesh the characters out and were mostly forgettable rather than great enhancements to the characters. The man quest side quest was also one of the strangest things I've ever seen in a video game.


Sound was just average. There were a lack of haunting melodies that were in the first game. There were a few themes such as the battle themes that used some nice vocals, but otherwise, most of the tunes were background music that didn't aid nor detract from the game. Maybe that's what they were going for, however. I like it best when the music really speaks out and conveys the emotion, setting, or atmosphere of the scene.

The voice acting was very good for this game. No complaints there.


Graphics were good. Full 3D this time, however no camera control which was really annoying sometimes. CGI cut scenes were excellent as well as the in-game ones. Adequate detail too. No complaints in the graphics department aside from that camera issue. It just doesn't seem right to have a forced non-flowing angle like that for each abrupt transition.


The story was solid in this game. As mentioned, it was divided into two very different halves. The story was not very predictable at all and I found myself always interested in what was going to happen next. The storytelling pace was pretty good. A bit slow sometimes, but otherwise, flowing along.

I did enjoy the first half of the game and Rasputin more. There were more suspenseful action scenes as well. The scene at the Russian palace was a memorable one. The second half of the game just wasn't as interesting to me. The odd friend turned enemy, but still helping you sometimes thing just felt a bit awkward. There also didn't see to be enough motivation or necessity for the party to do some of the things they did in the second half.

Much of the game also focused on Yuri and his personal issues. These were the struggle with the mistletoe curse as well as discovering a new purpose to life and living with the help of Karen. Yuri was a solid hero with varying display of emotion without falling into that 'emo-teen' niche that many RPG heroes do. He rode the line between hero and sarcastic bad-ass nicely.

The ending left me wondering exactly what happened. It didn't do justice for most of the characters and I didn't understand why Karen ended up where she did nor how Yuri ended up where he did after the graveyard scene prior to that. A bit mind boggling to me.


Gameplay was much the same as the first game with several additions. I wasn't a big fan of them as they were flawed. Crest magic was added. So, anyone other than Yuro and Kurando has a customizable magic list. That was nice, but there were too many crests. Other than healing and arc status spells, I went with "recommended" command because it was too annoying to scroll through so many crests. I couldn't even remember all the spells to pick which I wanted. So, good in concept, but too many to choose from. I never even understood the whole Solomon's crest puzzle. I ended up cheating.

Combos were added. I think it was too involved. The effects of your combo depended upon the characters, the mix of individual attacks, and other things I probably don't understand. I was able to do them, but I never discovered many that were that effective. It was certainly annoying when the enemy surrounded you and got to do them though! I'd probably leave them out.

I focused on the negative, but there was many minor improvements such as the shop discount being for total shopping checkout instead of individual items, reduction of judgment ring being needed for so many non battle tasks. There's probably a bunch more I forgot about.

Overall it was similar to the first game with some improvements and some new stuff that didn't really do much for me. Average.


Overall, the game was enjoyable and fun to play. However it had many downright annoying moments. Some of the dungeons were way too long and too maze-like for me.

Dungeons shouldn't take more than an hour or so in my opinion, but I found several that took many. That dungeon with the blue, red, and yellow crystals that went different places at each door was ridiculous!! The subway maze and Neam Ruins were a pain too.

Some parts of the game had me wondering how anyone could find them fun.  However those parts were the minority. The solid story and uniqueness of the game kept me interested and I walked away with a positive impression and interest in playing the next game in the series! - The central hub of the ROM hacking community.


Love this review, it hits home on nearly every aspect of one of my favorite games. The game's flawed, but fun, and I really did think the second disk, particularly your new character and the antagonist were weak. Let me stop you there, From the New World sucks, big time, I bought it and never beat it! It's just not the same with a 15 year old protagonist, but if you play it, let me know what you think. How is Koudelka? I never got the chance to play it, as a matter of fact I think I first heard about it from you, and wasn't even aware of the SH connection.
Sleep is like cocaine, for the brain.


I keep meaning to try Koudelka, but I've never gotten around to it. =\


You can see my review of Koudelka here. It had a great story and voice acting, but the game play really wasn't that good due to the painfully slow and clunky battling. I'm one of those people that sometimes suffers through bad game play for a good story and other redeeming qualities. If you're not, I'd probably suggest staying away from Koudelka and maybe try and watch all the cut scenes on youtube or something and move on to Shadow Hearts. If you have access to the game, maybe try a battle or two and see what you think.

Koudelka does take place in the Shadow Hearts time line and universe. So it is a direct connection. In fact, Koudelka actually appears in Shadow Hearts as an important character revealed toward to the end. The relevant events in Koudelka are touched on in Shadow Hearts and it's not necessary to know of any of them. But, I think it does enhance the experience and help you pick up on many other references dropped.

From the New World:
I actually did start playing From the New World this past weekend. Johnny Garland, the young kid likely won't be up to Yuri's standards, but I've played many RPGs with seemingly too young characters that end up acting much older or at least growing up during the adventure. You just kind of disregard their age, if the game lets you, and move on. I have yet to see if this game will allow me to do so or keep throwing it in my face. - The central hub of the ROM hacking community.


I sat through 90% of From the New World, before I just couldn't take it anymore. A few of the characters are interesting, and they really did a good job of making side quest tied to the characters. The story was actually interesting, but in the end I just couldn't make it through, maybe someday I will give it another shot.

I read your review of Koudelka, and it's been years since I played Shadow Hearts, I'm actually quite interested in it, if I get around to playing it I will tell you what I think.

p.s. Frank, the Brazeelian (his spelling) ninja is actually a wonderfully comical character, but the game is seriously lacking in dark undertones (save some scenes). Also I demand more Roger Bacon!
Sleep is like cocaine, for the brain.


After quite a long absence from me here, I notice this post about one of the nice games I've been playing in the past. I really liked this game. Did buy the next game of this serie to. Though didn't play that one as seriously as this one (Finished this one). Probably will play it again once I have a bit more time again. Oh and the mental issues are visible in the next installment to... Few games can keep people focused on it for long times. I think shadow hearts: covenant definately was great on that part.

Although I do have koudelka, that's one of the games I never really started playing. Game just didn't have the same spark as shadow hearts had for me.
Started playing an Rpg. I just never stopped...


I'm still playing From the New World. I didn't get time to finish it yet. I only get to play on weekends anymore it seems. I'm between half and three quarters of the way through. It's been up and down. Sometimes it captures the goodness of Covenant. It is similar in many ways. However, it seems the characters are weaker, they continued some of the most annoying parts of Covenant (Pit Fights, To much work to build skills such as Mao's movie, and the card trading.) I will end up writing a review for it here when I am done, so I don't want to get ahead of myself. :)

You can see my Koudelka review here:

Great story, but had some tremendous flaws. It's up to you if the story is good enough to slug through the game play issues. Maybe watch all the cut scenes on Youtube? - The central hub of the ROM hacking community.


I'm currently in the last dungeon in From the New World. I will end up finishing this game, but only because I had already invested so much time. The second half, while really picking up in the story department, has some of the worst gameplay and annoyances I've ever suffered through! Had it been this bad in the first half, I surely would have quit!! - The central hub of the ROM hacking community.