Shadow Hearts entwines real historic events with the supernatural elements. The story takes place between 1913 and 1914, with the game aknowledging that the World War 1 started at the end of the game. Did the war started due to events of Shadow Hearts? Maybe.
The game follows Yuri, Alice and the team saving the world from Albert Simon, who condemned the world to ‘save’ the world. A messiah complex that went through his head. Yuri guided by a voice in his head to protect Alice, started with a dark personality, which slowly changes as he falls in love with Alice.
Alice, the damsel in distress, is the key to the world’s destruction – to which journeyed with Yuri as she escapes kidnap attempts. She was captured, kinkily torutered by an old man, and ‘spent’ to summon the big bad of the arc. However, she was no longer needed after the China arc of the game but she continues on anyway – for Yuri. As, she fell in love with Yuri. To the point that she sacrifices her soul for her love.
The rest of the team? Not so important. Zhu Zhen is the most involved amongst them. His job as an exorcist, intertwined with Yuri’s father – same as Alice, once the China arc ended, he mostly journeyed due to his camaraderie with Yuri. By the way, our male heroes were ‘sexually abused’ by the acupuncturiest friend of Zhu Zhen whenever we choose to upgrade their weapons…I think. The innuendo is hard to miss.
Albert Simon summoned the Float and the team chased after him. He, with his messiah complex bursting, started to reveal his intentions for the world. He wanted to become the saviour by destruction and then he literally becomes a messiah. After the team beats the living messiah out of him, he, as per the usual shonen anime twist where the rival respects the main characters resolve – decides to use his soul to send the team of to get a fighting chance against the oncoming God he summoned.
With the God cancelled and the world saved, the team goes on their own way. Yuri and Alice goes on a train ride to meet Alice’s family. There she…slept. World War 1 starts. Setting the stages for the sequel.
GAMEPLAY AND DESIGN
The implementation of the Judgement ring was innovatice for the many standard JRPGs in the PS2 era. Every action you take in a battle is governed by the outcome of our performance on the judgment ring. The game even backed the existence of the judgement ring through an expose by Roger.
On to a more annoying aspect of gameplay is the ‘Sanity Points’. Your character literally goes insane if their SP goes to 0. The players will lose control of the character as they go on a raged automation.
The game started out to be this gore and blood narrative as blood and arm splatter across the train cabin. Our very first dungeon is a village filled with cannibalistic demons and blood soaked mist. However, as the game progress, there was not much gore to be had. It was almost as if they intentionally let gore be the primary selling point for the players at first and thats it. I thought I finally got a gore-filled standard JRPG.
The monsters however, just magnificantly unreal with a hint of realism. Killer dogs with an arm coming out of its mouth, depicting its story as an owner-killing evil dogs. Demons are actually stuff of nightmare like floating hands with eye implanted in its palm or a very accurate depiction of the Kappa. We have a white, butt-naked demon who dick slaps your characters and gets a final erection as it dies.
Shadow Hearts is a dark JRPG. Not much gore despite of how the first moments of the game tries to potray. The story creatively woven real world events with a dark fantasy that one can imagine that maybe events of Shadow Hearts happened and we were none the wiser of it happening. It is great JRPG to play if we are bored of the usual colourful fantasy RPGs and seek a deeper story than the usual “save the princess, save the world” trope.