A huge leap back from Shadow Hearts 2 in almost every way.
Shadow Hearts: From the New World [FTNW] is the third game in Nautilus' Shadow Hearts series. I'll start by saying how much of a fan I was of the second game (Covenant), which was a perfect completion to the fabulous story set up by the original. So, when Shadow Hearts 3 was announced, I was naturally excited to see all my favourite characters make a return. Unfortunately, this isn't what happened. Shadow Hearts: FTNW completely separates itself from the first two games, with exception to a few minor characters and concepts. Not only that, but just about every element in the game is far worse than its predecessors. Despite being somewhat enjoyable at times, Shadow Hearts: FTNW completely fails to live up to its name.
The story follows the journey of Johnny Garland, a 16 year old detective from New York who takes a case that would change his life. After witnessing his suspect completely devoured by a monster, Johnny sets out on a journey for answers. He soon discovers that a woman dubbed Lady plans to unleash havoc upon the world, and shortly later joins forces with Shania who is seeking revenge on Lady for destroying her village three years prior to these events. The story is simple, and apart from one twist in the plot, late in the game, it doesn't offer much at all. I was quite bored with everything during the middle of the game and had a two year break before deciding to finish it. I'll also have to assume that the script writers never played the first two games because not only was the story incredibly weak, but the dark atmosphere was completely destroyed. I don't know if they were going for more of a mainstream appeal, but the lack of horror themes were one of the biggest disappointments in the game.
The characters also get the big thumbs down. The protagonist (Johnny) is a joke in almost every way. He's young, immature, and horribly developed up until late in the game where certain events are actually half interesting. The same goes for most of the other main characters. Apart from the events surrounding their recruitment, we generally learn nothing more about them. At least the game is somewhat sexy. Shania’s transformation movies are definitely a highlight of the game, as well as Hildas panty shot when she's performing Floral Dance. The fact that I'm going on to talk about sexy pixels reinforce my point that the characters are dull, and there's not much more to talk about.
The battle system! Finally we have something that has improved. The Judgement Ring is back, and makes for one of the most enjoyable battle systems ever. For those new to the series, the Judgement Ring pops up every time your character makes a move. The player has to press 'X' to stop the rotating line in the appropriate zone. This is great fun, particularly with the new combo system, that allows up to four characters to string moves together. In battle, each character can attack, cast magic, use an item, or select from a list of personal moves (which I will talk about later). This allows for a load of strategy and fighting rarely gets repetitive. This is probably the only step up from the previous games. Below is a video of a typical battle in Shadow Hearts: