After my initial listen, I was disappointed with Shadow Hearts From The New World. It sounded empty and vague, and the Native American overtones felt out of place. But, as is the case with every Shadow Hearts soundtrack, it has grown on me with time, and I can speak for the minority and say that I am pleased with the direction Yoshitaka Hirota, Tomoko Imoto and Ryo Fukuda have chosen to take the series.
This Shadow Hearts soundtrack is of a different flavor: whereas Shadow Hearts and Shadow Hearts: Covenant were dark and broody, FTNW is a little brighter and more ethnic. The locations of the United States and South America provided fresh new ideas for the composers to build from. I was disappointed to see that Yasunori Mitsuda and Kenji Ito did not return, but the new addition of Tomoko Imoto more than made up for the both of them combined. I’d personally like to see her play a more dominant role in the next Shadow Hearts soundtrack, because she’s very talented. Hirota and Fukuda do a great job as well.
The album starts off quite dull, but Hirota’s skills blossom as it progresses, particularly in “Heavy Density,” which features a dissonant strings, heavy percussion, and a dark chord progression. He also brings back the trademark Shadow Hearts theme, “ICARO,” in both a chant and an acoustic version. Until now, “ICARO” never struck me as anything spectacular, but these two arrangements bring out its beauty, and they are not to be missed. Hirota has also shown that he can compose from the other side of the spectrum, too; “Will” is a beautiful piano ensemble that embodies sadness and determination. This song turned me into a true believer of his talent. I had liked him before, but now I love him.
I have grown fond of Tomoko Imoto as well. She is new to the series, but she has already proven that he has what it takes to match Hirota’s talent. Her tracks tend to appeal more to the emotions, and she knows how to invoke sadness and intrigue. “Fragmentation” is a delicate piece with a piano that could bring even the strongest person to their knees. “The Wheel of Fortune” has gorgeous strings mixed together with indigenous percussion and flute that instantly reminds you of South America. Each and every one of Imoto’s compositions is unique, and it gives the album substance that I haven’t seen since the rise of Masashi Hamauzu.
Ryo Fukuda is also worth mentioning, although he only has three tracks featured. He could be considered the luckiest composer of the three, since his songs are based on two of the most beautiful and elusive ruins in the world; the Vilcabamba ruins and Chichen Itza. As a composer myself, I would have killed for the opportunity to write about these two places. Fukuda did a great job, especially with “Chichen Itza” which starts off the second disc with a folk beat and a catchy melody that really does make you think of Chichen Itza at night.
Now that I’ve finished my praise, it’s time to address one serious issues that the soundtrack faces; it gets off to a horrible start. Almost half of the first disc is boring and uneventful. The same generally goes for the second disc. If you can do yourself a favor and sit through the first few tracks, you’ll be handsomely rewarded.
All in all, Shadow Hearts From The New World is a worthy answer to its predecessor, Shadow Hearts II (or “Covenant” in the US), and it is much better. It’s still not quite as landmark as the first Shadow Hearts, but it is definitely worth your money.