Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Shadow Hearts Covenant a Sweet PS2 RPG

I picked up Shadow Hearts Covenant (Shadow Hearts 2) a little over a week ago. It's a PlaySTation 2 Roleplaying Game and a rather nice one at that.

A brief bit on my RPG background. I loved Final Fantasy VII for the PlayStation, the one that revived the FF series. Using a strategy guide, I spent over 70 hours on that one in college, getting all the limit breaks and ultimate weapons, etc. An amazing game. I also played through Star Ocean for the PS2, noting the differences between it and FFVII and learning of its inferior nature. I missed FF8 and didn't like the cartoon graphics of FF9. Final Fantasy X for the PS2 was my next big one. I played through that one, enjoying it, and its improved graphics, immensely. Final Fantasy X-2 was okay but I didn't like the costume aspect and never really got into it. Then came X-Men: Legends (reviewed earlier). After that, on to Shadow Hearts Covenant ("SHC").

I like SHC. The battle system is rather interesting as the success of your attacks and spells are based on your ability and skill with something called the judgment ring. Basically, take a watch face and spin the minute hand in a clockwise direction at a varying speed. The speed is individual to the characters and may be slowed down with items. You have to "hit" certain slices on the watch face for your spell to succeed or do well. Kind of neat as it adds an extra skill-based aspect to the game. Keeps me awake and paying attention, else I lose the fight.

The characters each have individual special capabilities. E.g. One can transform into powerful monsters, one can use wrestling moves, one can use special sabre moves, etc. This creates very different, well-delineated roles for them to fulfill. Works for me. The most annoying aspect is that at least 2 of the characters will have individual challenges sprinkled through the game. Needless to say, in the constraints of a 4-character party and with 6 selectable characters at the moment, it's tough keeping the lesser-preferred ones at a respectably equivalent level. That is, non-partied characters get half the exp that the competing ones do, and thus level slower if not played.

Anyways, the story seems good and interesting so far, with cut scenes liberally sprinkled throughout, showing you the developing tale. I've only got 13.5 hours in the game so far but I've really enjoyed it and plan on playing a lot more (if I can tear myself away from WoW). All in all, if you like RPGs, I suggest checking this one out. It's pretty good and I rather enjoy it!