Shadow Hearts Covenant
= First off congratulations to Yuri, who went from looking like a bad cosplay CG'd character in the first game to someone reasonable looking.
= I really, really wanna talk about Yuri Hyuga, the "rude hero" (since this game loves assigning adjectives).
I *love* him. His progression from the first to the second game feels natural even if it's not always well-written. The first game has him start off as a real foul-mouthed wannabe badass. Alice, our lovely and tragic heroine of Shadow Hearts, manages to cool him down with her combination of good looks, kindness, and general innocence. Cute enough, I guess. The ending (provided you got the good one) has the two of them on a trip together. Aww <3
Then, Shadow Hearts II starts up with sound and fury as Yuri's returns, punching and kicking his way through new enemies like he did the first game, and winds up travelling with a new motley crew of weirdos and do-gooders (once again). He's still a smart-ass, but with a bit more experience and certainly more reflective than before. Alice is missing though; and the game has no problem citing events from the first game, but Alice isn't seen or heard from. Hell, she's barely mentioned at all for the first half of SHII. Indeed, Alice isn't mention because she died in the "bad ending" of the first game and SHII treats that
as canon. I think the decision to continue from the bad ending of the first game as a stroke of genius to create a compelling scenario for the sequel.
I think what I like most about this is that Yuri seems pretty much himself for most of Shadow Hearts II. He's rude, he makes fun of people, he's concerned for the people around him, he butts heads, and despite a 'darker side' he always does the right thing. He's never an exaggeration of any sort set of emotion (so he's not blurting platitudes like all too many young JRPG heroes do and he's never really based around one emotive trait). He's pretty relatable. The plot sort of meanders a bit, you have a new goal to stop a new set of villains which is hardly from what we've ever seen before and really standard. However the last and final arc of the game, the title remembers to bring back Alice and start building up for its "grand finale". Yuri never forgot about her; in fact he's been hurting about it for over a year. He never showed it, but his speech gets chocked up the rare
time it IS brought up, and I love that the big drama about it never distracts from the main plot or the main character until it's actually needed
. THIS IS GREAT and avoids a brooding hero in favour of some surprises. And in a great and rare moment, you actually see the boy cry about it.
I love that he hides a lot of this, that the world feels really grey to him because she's gone. No, I don't mean that it's sweet in a romantic way (it's actually quite sad), but just that his drive feels so much different than a lot of other heroes who are simply "doing good for the sake of good". Yuri wants to save the day, but in the end his mortality is less of a concern (contrast this against FF9's Kuja who can't handle it and goes insane trying to cope). I love that Yuri and the central antagonist (a returning and minor character from SHI no less) share the same problem of grief and despair for women they both lost in the first game -- they're actually a comparable and contrastable hero and villain and with the first game we see how this new situation builds up into the actions of the second game
. And for a series that uses macabre, spirits, souls, and magic, this felt very appropriate thematically while still ushering in a 'splash' of history and a touch of JRPG "save the world" goodness. I really didn't think much of SHII's story till the second disc where it really comes together beeautifully~.
= On that note, I love the ending. A game with a memorable ending feels rare sometimes, doesn't it? It was not just the standard "everyone lived happily ever after"; at least it is for the supporting cast, but for Yuri and Karen.... they're in a happy ending that means a lot of trouble down the road, as strange and wonderful as it is.
Karen's may just be destined to die later on unless history has in fact been completely altered; but Yuri starts off again at the beginning of Shadow Hearts 1 in order to "do it right" this time (and, I assume, get his and the actual "good ending" to the game).
This is absolutely perfect; it avoids the all too abrupt "final boss is dead and peace came forevermore" type of ending, it avoids downer endings, and it avoids the sugary-sweet and wonderful endings. This is just a cool way to finish things and a great was to please fans.
= Despite the love for Yuri, I got very little for Karen. She's that unfortunate attack/mage hybrid that does neither well; her unique skills are "okay", but everyone else is capable of the same or better (Blanca being much more diverse). I like her colour palette and the design comes together nicely, but dear god she's a little cleavage shy of looking like a prostitute
(and if this is early 20th c., then she's pretty out of the norm, but this is a "fictional earth" so we'll just wave the magical-fiction wand
on that). She's pretty at least and probably has one of the better voice actors in this game.... but then personality sucks too. If she's not the "supportive voice" to what Yuri is thinking, she's trying to wedge herself into his life because she's crazy
for him. Not even the good wedge, this is more like "you musta really loved that girl that died" responses which is kind of awkward and mean to an unfulfilling love. The dude is grieving, leave him alone.... =/
I DO love the big spoiler about her being Yuri's mother after some space/time anomaly at the game's end. Yeah, it's a little weird and gross... But I like it for that; it was a risky plot to tell and they totally went for it (way to go "Marty McFly"). I like that Yuri never really seems to return her advances. Shame that despite her many level ups, she couldn't protect her son from a lame monster invasion. Ah well, hindsight amirite?
= I *adore* the stupid tradition with the Valentine family of vampires. In SHI you get Keith in your party and find out he has a brother (under the cover his Golden Bat transformation and you never in the [human] flesh). In SHII you get that Golden Bat, Joachim, in your party and meet a Pink Sister Bat (whom again you never see in human for), instead she joins you in the third game. Silly? Yeah. But I admire the consistency and dedication and that touch of "mystery" to their human appearances.
= I used Gepetto the least. Funny. The game plays him as an old creepy, but his character's story is very sympathetic. Indeed, I'm not keen on getting cutesy and sometimes revealing outfits for a little doll (one of them is full on leather strappings based off the game's sexy villain), but you find out the man's daughter is dead and the doll is meant to look like her and it's hard not to kinda sympathize for a man who has kinda 'cracked' about the loss of his daughter by using magic to make her move. This fits with the game's look into love and loss, and it's played up in an elegant way for his character sidequest (where he was willing to end his journey with the party and be with her --- ie; he's willing to die right then and there).
= Blanca is adorable as hell (it's a wolf-doggy dammit), Lucia is a silly and miscast sexy character, Anatasia's sidequest is good for a chuckle (otherwise she's a standard "kid character"), Joachim is another goofball, and Kurando is absolutely gorgeous but lacking in battle (when he actually shouldn't; he's strong and fast, but almost completely lacks customization).
= Mind's Eye (2x damage, can't see the attack wheel) and the introduction of Ring Customization (larger hit areas) and Practice Rings (you can't "miss", but no criticals) made the end-game a breeze; as well as the multitude of broken spells and attacks.... but in that "you earned it" way because you got all the bullshit hidden items, secrets, sidequests, and so on. Literally, to do be over-powered by the end you have to go "wrong ways" in the many maze-like dungeons, you have to return to old locations, you have to search invisible treasure points, you have to go that extra mile to super-complete every puzzle...
Yeah. I'm not ashamed to say I followed a guide; I don't really have the time/patience otherwise. =/
= VOICE: "We can do it if we really try
SUBTITLE: "We can do it if we just concentrate
This game is hilarious in the wrong ways sometimes.
= THIS GAME AND SIDEQUESTS...YES, THER'S SO MANY, and they're all quite good. I love the Instant Game Over you can get in the Black Forest since it's played up for clever laughs. I love the Doll House for being yet another creepy mansion in the series and a great bland of the series' use of horror elements within a simultaneous real-world and early 20th century setting. I always love that side quest "leaders" are swapped with Yuri as the on-screen character. A small detail, but noticed nonetheless.
= While SHI felt like it had slightly more..."generalized" real-world settings (nothing in London makes you think it's London, for example), the greater attention to furniture, city design, decor, etc. is definitely much more appreciated in this game (I do think the 'Assassin's Creed' series wins for their ability to duplicate real centuries old settings, but clearly that was a priority there while this is more "fictionalized PS2-style Earth")
= By the way, I really can't say ENOUGH for how much I love the game's setting. I'm an "olde soul"
, so the wartime era setting, on Earth, making "real" of all the myths, monsters, and lore that us Earthlings have is just so fucking cool I get giddy thinking about it. I want more! I love that it wasn't just Europe either, we see 20th century Asia as well, and they look quite fantastic. I really hope this is a setting another developer can revisit at some point some other time cuz I'd buy that without a second thought.
It also makes me sad in a way that I've avoided this title for over a decade!! DICE, YOU BIG ASS SILLY GIRL. Anyways...
I still don't know if I wanna take on the 3rd title right away. The cast of characters actually look stupid[er?], and I've heard it just 'aint the same'. I think I'll get around to it... quite frankly, I'd rather replay the first game.