|Language, Partial Nudity, Suggestive
| The Good
Change of story theme is nice
Story is pretty solid
Judgment Ring adds interactivity to battle
| The Bad
Lots and lots of Ring usage
A bit too easy and straightforward
Shadow Hearts: Covenant takes the RPG mold and fashions
it in a manner that proves to be a fresh angle on the genre.
Instead of sci-fi or fantasy themes, the game is set in a
dark environment, hinged on the early World War 1 timeline
of Europe. Set a short while after the first
game, Covenant is set at the onset of the war.
The game begins with the German officer Karin Koenig, attempting
to take over the village of Domremy only to be fended off
by a powerful demon, who is later revealed to be Yuri Hyuga.
Karin returns later with help and a curse is placed on Yuri,
removing his powers and his ability to transform into various
demon forms. This of course, leads into a far larger-scale
story involving the Sapientes Gladio, and evil secret society.
While most of the story is dark and littered with mysticism,
there are silly moments that balance the whole experience
While Shadow Hearts: Covenant uses a lot of the standard
RPG conventions in its gameplay, it does feature The Judgment
Ring, a nice gameplay aspect that includes some interactivity
to the turn-based combat. As with most RPGs, players are set
about areas, given goals to perform to forward the story and
during their travels, find themselves in random battles, where
the turn-based combat plays out. When you cast a spell, use
an item or just attack, a ring pops up that requires button
presses to land attacks or make those attacks more powerful.
Over time, players can customize the rings for each character
to include more attacks or widen the attack or critical areas.
This ring is used in other aspects of the game, but none are
more important that the effects it has in combat.
As you progress in the game, you'll gain a set of characters,
each with a different set of abilities and even a different
means by which to learn new attacks. This uniqueness makes
setting up your party more special, but fortunately, you can
swap out characters from your combat party outside of battle.
Since battles play out on an open field, you can actually
move characters near each other to perform a series of combination
attacks. Be warned, though, that your enemies can do the same
and even worse, they can attack your characters and push them
out of combos if their impact is hard enough.
From a graphics standpoint, Covenant is a rich and
beautiful game. The game world is lush and finely detailed
and the character models look pretty excellent, especially
during the cutscenes. CG rendered sequences are gorgeous,
especially the opening sequence which sets a nice tone. Since
the game is set in a real historical time, there is a certain
"old world" flair to the design, though I'm not too sure on
how accurate most of the costumes or locales are. Visual effects
add nice touches to the game. If there's any downside to the
graphics it is in the fact that some areas tend to be drab,
but that can be chalked up to the fact that most of the game
world is pulled from early 20th Century locations.
The music for Covenant is suitably effective for the
tone and mood that the story evolves. The battle theme is
actually pretty nice to hear, which is a plus considering
how much time you'll invest into it. Sound effects are dead
on but don't really do anything outstanding considering the
genre (let's not kid ourselves - RPG effects all come from
the same catalog). Since Covenant features a good bit
of dialog, it's nice to have some decent voice acting. Most
of the voice work is pretty good, and oddly appropriate for
some of the odd characters. The voicework for Joachim is pretty
damn annoying, but I figure it works for the character. If
the voicework has any oddness to it, it's largely due to some
"wonky" lines of text that should have been wordsmithed a
While the overall production of Shadow Hearts: Covenant
is pretty solid, there are a few minor issues that some gamers
may take to. The game is pretty linear (except later on when
the game opens up in the second disc) and story-heavy. For
those who found this fault with Final Fantasy
X, Covenant will offer more of the same. Also,
most of the game is pretty easy, so don't expect a Shin
Megami Tensei style challenge as you progress. Finally,
I hope you enjoy the Judgment Ring as it's application can
grow a bit tiresome after 30-40 hours of gaming. Yes, you
can turn it off, but that just makes your attacks weaker,
and no good RPGer would do that.
In a genre that's steadily being filled with topnotch titles,
it's hard for games like Shadow Hearts: Covenant to
stand out on their own. Luckily, the adventure and the Judgment
Ring aspect of combat lend themselves to a quality title that's
sure to be a nice change of pace for those who love Final