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August 12 2007
Shadow Hearts: From the New World - PS2 Review
Release Date Distributor Developer Players Rating Difficulty
1/6/2007Red AntAruze Corp.1PGMedium
Save Size Sound Format Vibration 60Hz Mode 50Hz Border Widescreen

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We must apologise about these screens, but they were the best we could get!
Coming down from the PS3 cloud to take a look at a PS2 game isnít easy. Itís even harder when you know you have to pay enough attention to the game to put in a decent review! Most of the time lately itís been increasingly hard to resist giving Dave an email and saying "Just PS3 games for me from now on thanks!". But every so often a gem comes along that reminds you why you loved the old girl so much. Shadow Hearts: From The New World, is one such game.

The third game in the franchise, and sequel to one of the most coveted RPGs of the PS2 gaming era (that game being Shadow Hearts: Covenant), this title was under a lot of pressure to fill some very big shoes. Luckily, while the shoes don't fit perfectly, this is a very solid RPG release. Havenít convinced you yet? Read on...

If you havenít played any of the previous Shadow Hearts, you'll probably be asking yourself "Do I need to have played the previous games?". I'd love to say you are a disgrace to gaming and you have no business reading this review, but I havenít had a chance to play them either, so I can't! But hey, I still made perfect sense of the plot... at least as much as you are supposed to.

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The game really looks great!
Set in the United States of America (thatís right Ė no fantasy setting... kinda) in the 1930s, Shadow Hearts: From The New World is set to give you a completely different history to that which you learnt in school. To say it is bizarre is like saying Hitler was slightly upset with those who bore Jewish beliefs (that is to say itís a slight understatement). Believe it or not, but one group of quirky adventurers, headed by a blonde-haired, blue-eyed 16 year old boy with a very annoying haircut, were responsible for breaking Al Capone out of Alcatraz, helping the aliens from Roswell escape (in the 1930s too!) and many other historical happenings. Sound like Iím getting sidetracked from the main plot? Well, that's probably appropriate because, while these side stories are great in themselves, you will find yourself spending far too much time dealing with plot points that have little to no bearing on the overall game story.

Sure there is a storyline about some creatures, fuelled by all of humanityís hate and rage, trying to come into our world and take over, and a scientist who is researching these creatures and so on (sound familiar at all? Can someone say Kingdom Hearts?) but with the exception of the shiny CG cut scenes, you really wonít be paying too much attention to this plot most of the time. Youíll be instead trekking through the Grand Canyon trying to capture Big Foot, or on a Caribbean Island trying to escape pirates who are captained by a 12 year old girl, or investigating reports of ghosts in the local opera theatre.

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A RPG in the Wild West.
Luckily, the lack of a truly cohesive story line doesnít really matter too much in this game, because quite frankly, you will be having far too much fun actually playing it! Unlike the majority of RPGs to hit consoles in recent years, the combat system here is mindless. You canít just pick an attack then watch as you flog some guy. This IS a turn-based RPG, sure, but you have to actually be awake to fight! The game uses a combat system called the Judgement Ring. Basically you pick what attack/skill you want to use, you pick your target, and then a ring pops up with a line that progresses around the ring at a reasonable pace. On the ring will be several wedges that are highlighted in orange, with some red near the far edge of the wedge. The idea is to stop the line on these wedges by tapping the X button. Depending on where you stop the line determines how much damage you do/health you heal/etc. If you stop it on the red sections (designated 'strike areas') then you get a perfect hit.

It's a refreshing take on the stale turn-based combat system and while itís a simple difference, it really makes a big difference to the overall enjoyment. I found myself playing this game for hours and hours at a time rather than just a bit here and there as is often the case with turn-based RPGs. Outside of the awesome combat engine, you can expect the usual RPG gameplay aspect. Dungeon crawling, fetch quests, exploring, and so on.

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Expect plenty of menus.
We all know no game is perfect and this installation of Shadow Hearts is no exception. As mentioned above, the main plot is very rarely prominent due to all the tangential sidetracking. As well as this, there is no support for widescreen TVs and there are small 50hz borders. Also, while there is plenty of dungeon crawling to be done in the many locations in the game, the majority of the dungeons feel very bilinear (ie. there are a few ways to go, but thereís never any question about where to go to get to the end) and while you can explore in those areas that arenít quite that bad, thereís little to reward you with.

Finally, there is one issue that absolutely annoyed the hell out of me for the first few hours of play, and that is clipping. I honestly do not understand why some developers make the decisions they sometimes do and this is one of those decisions. In this game, you can be walking around then get stuck on something, say a rock, or table, that is not even touching you, but it will hinder your movement nonetheless. It is ridiculous and quite honestly should not be a problem like it is here in any game that has been released since the old days of the PSOne.

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Walking down the hallway.
Graphically, Shadow Hearts: From The New World looks pretty good on the PS2. Itís not the best we've seen but you could certainly do a lot worse. Not only that, but there are no framerate issues, models look delightfully quirky (as suited to their characters), and everything runs as it should. As far as looks go, Shadow Hearts: From The New World is a very solid effort.

The same can be said, for the most part, about the audio. Voice acting and effects are all superbly done as far as PS2 releases go. The one complaint is that some of the music is incessantly repetitive and annoying. In fact it almost reached the point where I was turning the music off in some locations.

If you have gotten this far through our review, it means that for some stupid reason you havenít already bought the game. Maybe you donít like having fun... or maybe you only like bad games. Hell, maybe youíre just an idiot? Whatever the case, unless you have a severe allergic reaction to good games, I suggest you head on out and get this gem of a game right now. Shadow Hearts: From The New World is a great release that belongs in collection of all RPG fans with a PS2. A few issues sure, and maybe it has a bit of a case of ADHD with its short attention span regarding plot, but this is by no means a game you want to miss.

Review By: Michael Hutchesson

Order your copy now from Gameswarehouse (PAL version).
GRAPHICSUp there with some of the better PS2 releases. No slowdown or anything.
SOUNDGreat voice acting and effects, but some very annoying music that will have you tearing your hair out in no time.
GAMEPLAYThe combat is hands down one of the best RPG combat engines going around. Itís sheer brilliance. Everything else is pretty good too!
VALUEAbout 30+ hours for a normal play through, with plenty of extra content and reasons to replay.
OVERALLA must-have for all RPG lovers and a great game for all other gamers.

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