Shadow Hearts had good graphics, and fun battle system.
I had fun with this game for the most part, but towards the end I was just wishing it would of ended sooner. I was forced to spend to much time leveling up, so that was really getting to me. I normally wouldn't have a problem with that but since you use the Ring to fight, you can't just keep hitting X constantly and zone out. You are forced to pay attention to every battle no matter what.
I liked the storylines to Shadow Hearts, but had trouble getting into a few characters. I think I read somewhere that this was made by ex-Square Soft employees and I can totally see that with the final product. I wasn't blown away by this game, but I have hope that the sequels will be better than this.
This is almost a turn based Final Fantasy clone, you can summon, spells, fight items, defense, run. All of that is here, but the twist this game offers is the battle Ring. When you go to use a command, a Ring will pop up and it will spin clockwise, within this Ring is a shade part, when the ring starts to go around, your job is to click on each shaded part of the Ring. If done correctly, you'll pull off the move or series of moves. The shaded parts also have a weaker and powerful shades to them aswell. This is a different battle system for me, but it's one of the few that venture out of being a turn-based Final Fantasy clone and still ends up working and having a sense of personality to it. This sounds alot harder than it actually is.
You can only have 3 characters in your team for battles. You can only move forward (stronger offense/weaker defense) or back (weaker offense/stronger defense) within battle, there's no middle ground. Everyone has their own spells and can equip their own weapons and armor. Everyone can equip 3 universal accessories.
My biggest problem I had with this game is your being able to upgrade your weapons with acupuncture. This was fine at first, but it got me frustrated as I got further in the game. When you go get accupuncture, it costs a ton of cash. The money flow in this game is kinda weak, so you have to spend it wisely. I've spent hours leveling up and gathering money just to upgrade my newest weapon to only find a better weapon minutes later. I've done this countless times!
All the dugeons have their own different puzzles and sercrets, there was similarities between a few, but never the exacte same puzzle on every single one of them. This is a huge plus! All the battles (but bosses) are completely random, but they don't come to often. Since the levels are pre-rendered and short between rooms you can go a long time without a random encouter and even without that it takes a while for one to show up.
----------Characters / Story----------
The story was pretty compelling all the way through. There was plenty of good twists and you get a sense that all characters really helped Yuri and Alice out to the final goal in the game. I don't think I ever played a Horror RPG before, so I this will be my first. There was never a tense moment in the game like a Resident Evil will give you, I don't even think thats possibly for an RPG to do, but I loved the storyline with the cannibals and vampires and other worldly beings. There's a nice mix of history, fantasy, horror and relgion in Shadow Hearts that makes it a pretty unquie game overall.
Yuri is a bit of an generic 'bad ass' Japanese RPG cliched character full of action and not words with a troubled past. The ladies in the game are pretty scantly clad, which takes away from the seriousness of the game. Alice wears a school girl outfit that sometimes shows off her panties and fights with a bible, how am I suppose to get into that? Margarete wears a short skirt and fishnet stockings while doing backflips? I think these characters were trying to hard to appeal to the American audience.
The weirdest character in the game is the Acupuncturist Meiyuan. I think he's the first openly gay character I've seen in an RPG. There's nothing weird about being gay, but there is something weird about getting molested by a gay acupuncturist during sessions.
All the backgrounds are pre-rendered, similar to the later Final Fantasys or even Resident Evil. The backgrounds look really slick and every level has a unique diseign. Since the levels have a fixed camera, you don't have to fight with it. The fixed camera also keeps your characters from ever having a close up, so they usally look pretty good. In the few instances when they are shown up close, they look really pixelated and blocky. The enemies are pretty unqiue for an RPG, I never seen a dog with an arm face, standing on the arm before. Upclose the enemies don't look all that hot either, but for pure weirdness I like the design of them.
There's only about five or six pre-rendered cut-scenes in the game, the opening one being the longest one. There's a few still picture hand drawn cut scenes too, I loved these for the sheer beauty of them. There was even one cut scene featuring a live action actor aswell, it sounds stupid but it fit the situation.
The music is really good mix of dark ambience and some very rememberable melodies, almost Final Fantasy-ish. The battle music is one of my favorites to date. The game ends with a Japanese pop song, I certainly didn't expect that for this type of game, but then again the last 5 or 6 RPG's I've beat had Japanese pop songs at the end too.
The voice overs are not very good, but they're is only a few of them though. No in game dialog is voiced at all, only the cutscenes are voiced out. Out of the few cutscenes in the game, I think only 4 are voiced out too. They do have battle cries in the game, but its the same battle cry for every spell and it gets really repetitive. Yuri only speaks about two or three times in the game, but he has the worst voice in the whole game.
The map is another one of those dot to dot Final Fantasy Tactics maps, so no need for any transportation. All dots are very storyline driven, if you're at a town or dungeon, you're there for a reason. Once you leave that area, you may never go back to it, so look very carefully through it. I missed a ton of sidequests this way. I usally hate these types of maps, but since this game is set on Earth in early 1900's I'll let it pass.
----------Time to Complete Game (First run through)----------
After you beat the game you can start over with a new game Plus and keep all your fuses.