Shadow Hearts games are great for nostalgic gamers wishing to go back to the Playstation era of RPG's. They're have some nice FMV, and are presented to you really cinematically with the real time discussions and visuals. It feels like they could be darker versions in the Final Fantasy universe to me. The original one used Pre-Rendered backgrounds, and you navigated the areas in much the same manner. But there was no overworld to speak of to navigate as you saw fit. Instead you did travel, but it was more like you would expect in a strategy RPG like Fire Emblem or any of the various games that employ the use of the word "tactics" in them.
Shadow Hearts, has a good story though. It's your run of the mil cliche'd storyline punctuated by a lot of comedy and twisted conversations. Twisted in the sexual innuendo kind of way. Your main character is a perv
. But a funny one. It's like something you would expect to see in certain anime along the lines of Goldenboy (the dialogue not the visuals). Because of that it kept me entertained the whole way through, and watching your party work together and grow was engrossing just to see what would come out of his mouth next. The story dives in and out of the main plot as you travel, going on short side quests that lead to a similar or linked evil so to speak.
It's a refreshing game because of the way it takes it's own spin on the anti-hero vibe that is so loved these days. And the mix of what is soon to be part of the old school rpg gaming come next generation
. Anyway about the combat, your main character has some unique abilities, able to transform into various creatures after going through certain trials and tribulations to earn them. They're easy at first, and the way you get them is kind of interesting (you go into your own mind, you're kinda haunted). Also enemies that you fight will get angry with you, and you have to go into your mind to destroy their gathered distaste for you or else you will find stronger enemies if you wait too long.
Gives you a reason to keep tabs on how your killing spree is going, and sort of gives you control over how difficult the game can be. I never let it get too high, as it sounded dangerous to let it do so. But you're welcome to if you want
The cahracter cast is pretty original for a game of this type as well. The time period the game takes place in is pre WWI. An odd era for an RPG at first, but it works in its favor (save for some inconsistent things like a spy with a cell
). But the cahracters work off this early 20th century late 19th century vibe. The way you upgrade items is to visit an acupuncturist...and yeah he's a little fruity if you catch my drift
. Those are some funny moments too.
The dungeons in it are so-so. I mostly just wanted them to be over and done with to see what happens next in teh story, and combat can be irritating if your'e sleepy. The judgement ring is really cool, but it's also a pain when you're reaction time isn't well. Anyway, it's a ring simlar to what you may see in the recent SaGa game, except its a lot easie to hit what you want. And combos are done by tap tap tapping at the right spots within the ring. It only circles once, but it gives you a great feeling of control over how you hit (missing no longer feels arbitrary, because its your fault if you miss, or critical hit etc...) yo ucan take the risk of hitting the smaller critcial hit area or go with the safer larger hit area. I really dug that system for a turn based RPG. Gets you in the groove easier than something like Xenosaga.
And as for Shadow Hearts 2 its even crazier, and funnier - WWI is winding up now, more wacky characters. Story is much better than the first (and funny), and it takes place within a similar time period. This would easily be my favorite RPG on the PS2 if I didn't love FFX-2 so much for it's battles and freedom of job classes (I'm a combat RPG lover first and foremost). You get a whole lote of characters. Combat's been revamped a little mroe for friendly combo's between 2 characters (think Chrono Trigger or Xenosaga style).
Both games are a sort of dark humor seriousness thats hard to explain and get across without spoiling too much (I spoiled a bit on the first but not that much). Part 2, I found myself chuckling at enemies that were supposed to be taken seriously (I thought they werer anyway). The game delves more into the world of Shadow Hearts (timeline of it), and there's a curse put on a character from the first game, and you need to discover why and how to remove it. Leads to a big conspiracy ^_^.
You can enhance the judgement ring even more in this game, adding hit zones where you wish with items. Kind of personalizing the game more. You still use the judgement ring to buy stuff too. The ring is really cool (did I say that already?). More games need something like that. But I didn't mention that you don't have to use the ring, so dont let that scare you - the game can do it by itself when you find certain items early on in the first game. And fro mteh get go in the 2nd one. Part 2 does have a better overworld but still like the first unforutnately (I like controlling my overworld travels a lot more then selecting the next city ro going to the next area automatically).
I would really suggest playing the first one just to get acquainted with the world and characters. But if you want the better of the two because you got too many games to play go for the 2nd one. Anybody who loved the RPG's on the PSX from Square & Sony needs to own at least one of these games though.