Shadow Hearts: Covenant

Review

posted 10/13/2004 by Charlie Sinhaseni
other articles by Charlie Sinhaseni
One Page Platforms: PS2
I’ve got to hand it to the folks at Midway. Even in the face of adversity the company continues to deliver A caliber titles. It started off the year right with The Suffering and continued its strong showing with the underappreciated Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy. Content to show that it’s back to hold its place as one of the top dogs in gaming, Midway has unleashed another beast on the gaming world, this time in the form of an RPG. It might not have the words Final Fantasy in it but for our money, it’s the best RPG currently available on the market.

Shadow Hearts: Covenant is a strange departure for the predominantly American developer. As it was developed in Japan by Aruze Group, it opens up the door to the usual problems that plague Japanese titles imported to America. Luckily the writers chose a universal storyline as its plot; one devoid of strange Japanese mythos that Americans might not be so familiar with. This one takes place during World War I. The Germans are somehow looking to take advantage of some technology that they feel will give them the upper hand against the Allied Powers. This seems like strange subject matter but the storyline is woven together so well that you forget about the absurdities thrown into the game. When you meet a Vampire/SuperHero/Over the Top Pro Wrestler for the first time you might bat an eye and illicit a chuckle, but you'll eventually move on and recapture the game’s predominantly serious tone.

Why does this remind me of the putty patrol?
What’s a great plot without great storytelling? The designers realized this and took great care to ensure that the story was delivered to the gamer in a compelling and entertaining manner. It’s easy to see that the designers were thinking cinematically when they were developing the plot. Everything pans out here like it would in a movie; all of the shots are framed nicely and the camera work does an excellent job of displaying the action. Instead of this just being a video game that you play, it turns into an experience that unfurls before you; much like a movie would. Because of this the game doesn’t just invite you to play it; it grabs a hold of you and compels you to experience it. Once it digs its claws into you it’ll hold on to you for quite some time too. Midway packaged this sucker on two DVDs which add up to over 40 hours of gameplay, excluding restarts and time spent leveling up your characters. Say goodbye to the sun because you’ll be spending a ton of time indoors.

What I really like about Shadow Hearts is that it takes plenty of chances in hopes of differentiating itself from the competition. The choice to set the game in the early 1900s was an excellent one as it affords the gamer the opportunity of stepping into a time period that has seldom been recreated. There’s just something undeniably attractive about being able to see various parts of the world in their pre modern state. Everything, from the architecture to the clothing has been recreated beautifully to give you the impression that these locales were based off of their real life counterparts. When you step into the streets of Venice you really get the feeling that it was derived from blueprints of the real city. Simply stunning and the varied scenery is a gorgeous site to behold.
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