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The Squaresoft and Enix merger was something of a curse for the JRPG genre – while it's nice that Dragon Quest could finally become profitable in the west, it had also effectively eliminated whatever competition Squaresoft had. Everybody else was too small and they just made games we've already played a thousand times before. Some were better than others, but the point was that by this point, the genre had grown stale and people were becoming less interested. Not everybody made a game like Shadow Hearts, unfortunately. The rising monolith that was and still is the western RPG likely wouldn't have helped matters. With that being said, they still had something left to prove; that JRPGs can kick some serious ass and have a lot of fun doing so. Not in the overly Japanese Disgaea way, but more in the feel good Leave It To Beaver way with a dash of Final Fantasy 8 and 10 to keep up appearances. Add a cup of sidequests out the wazoo courtesy of Majora's Mask, and what you get is Final Fantasy X2. It's a bit of an...
After ticking Koudelka and Shadow Hearts off my replay list of classics, it was time for the king of the series, the one, the only; Shadow Hearts 2: Covenant. I held this game in such high regard when it was released back in 2005, and I’m surprised that it took me a good decade to finally replay it. I can tell you now; this review is going to be just about all praise, because praise is exactly what Shadow Hearts: Covenant deserves. It is not only by far the best game in the Shadow Hearts series, but perhaps the best RPG on the PS2 system, and we all know there’s some beauties out there. Covenant takes place half a year after the events of the original game, where a German officer, Karin, leads an assault on a small town to slay a demon. Who is this demon, you ask? Yuri Hyuga, the protagonist of both Shadow Hearts titles (I am consciously ignoring the failure of a game that Shadow Hearts 3 is, so let’s just forget it exists, alright?). Anyway, Yuri! This guy has badass written all over him, and this is...
I’ll be honest; there haven’t been too many moments in video games that have really stuck with me. Most will agree when I say that Aeris’ death in Final Fantasy 7, battling The End in Metal Gear Solid 3, and stepping foot outside the vault for the first time in Fallout 3, are not moments easily forgotten. The introduction to Shadow Hearts is one of the forerunners in this category for me, and I can remember it like it was yesterday. This cinematic sequence features a mysterious man, in a top hat, firing demons across a train carriage at a young man, who proceeds to capture one, one handed, and brutally crush its small head in the palm of his hand, splattering blood everywhere. This sets the atmosphere perfectly for what is one hell of a dark ride. Shadow Hearts is one of the darkest, most mature RPGs I have ever played. While Final Fantasy focused on competitive water sports, cute yellow birds, and irritable laughing scenes, Shadow Hearts built its success on twisted demons, spiritual possession, and a...
Hungry Ghosts is the kind of game that could've rattled a number of cages in horror gaming. Where it was beginning to lose popularity until Doom 3 and Resident Evil Zero came out, here's a game that emphasises atmosphere in many, many different ways. Even the simple act of obtaining items was enough to give you the jitters, and then there's exploring a village full of ghosts... the possibilities were endless, so to speak. Having a first person view, a dark atmosphere full of Lovecraftian designs and a lot of little effects help to deeply immerse you into the experience, which makes you more weary of what you do, where you go and how you do anything, which is what all horror games should do. None of this bad control and bad camera angle shit Resident Evil Zero had, or any of those lame *bleep*ing jump scares Doom 3 ended up settling for; this is pure, unadulterated horror for anybody who's curious as to either how you can make a game about hungry ghosts, or what the *bleep* a hungry ghost actually is....
After the somewhat more experimental affectations of Chain Of Memories, Square-Enix had found themselves back to the drawing board in regards to how they'll really follow up the first Kingdom Hearts game. Do they dare to make things bigger and badder with more explosions, or do they simply quote themselves? Personally, I'd not bother and just try something new, but Square-Enix don't like the idea of trying something new – coming up with new ideas is hard work! So what they'd decided to do was make Kingdom Hearts bigger and better than ever, with a more involving storyline and more intense combat so that it can compete with the God Of Wars and Devil May Cries of the world. It's an admirable goal considering that they were reasonably high grossing games in 2005, plus Kingdom Hearts 1 itself was a best seller (hence this game's existence). In fact, it's a sensible move on their part and on paper, Kingdom Hearts 2 should be a fantastic followup to the fantastic Kingdom Hearts 1. In practice, however, Kingdom...
Persona 3 is something of an anomaly in the Shin Megami Tensei series. Instead of being some cult hit, it became bigger than Jesus. Okay, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration – after all, it's nowhere near as talked about as Final Fantasy and Pokemon – but compared to the rest of the series (both Shin Megami Tensei and even Persona itself), it seems like everybody who played it absolutely loves it. Not going to lie, I was one of them for a while. Being mr popular at my local high school by day and all powerful demon slayer by night was something that opened the floodgates for a huge ego boost. Feeling like a mostly powerful entity, especially at school, was something that always felt good regardless of whether you were mr popularity at school yourself, a loser or just somebody who was kind of cool (myself fitting in the latter). Plus if you like games like Pokemon but with heaps more customization, there was a wide breadth of content to breathe in. So I kept on playing and let everything sit in my mind...
Kingdom Hearts 2 is both an exciting showcase of excellence and kind of an obnoxious bore for reasons far too numerous to itemize. A lot of it is in Square-Enix's attempt to top the first Kingdom Hearts game while sort of tying Chain Of Memories' story into a sequel for the PS2. The first game was a fun, fun dive into a series of Disney worlds with the story being tied rather well into them. The problem was that it never had the best handling in the world, though it was complimented by the grounded enemies never being too fast (for the most part, at least), so it could've been worse. Chain Of Memories was a nice enough experiment, though you could tell that it was due to there only being two face buttons on the Game Boy Advance that they went with the card based battle system, plus the story became much more serious. Kingdom Hearts 2 is their idea of what would make the series even more epic, and while it certainly had its moments of excellence, it was often marred by some clumsy execution, especially the...
After their success with the first Kingdom Hearts game, Squaresoft and then eventually Square-Enix worked hard on a sequel, doing whatever they could to improve on the first game. But hold on, what's this second game doing on the Game Boy Advance? For reasons I cannot fathom, Square-Enix saw it fit to have another company – that being Jupiter – develop a game for the handheld that's one part direct sequel and one part spin off. In fact, until Kingdom Hearts 2 came out, we all assumed that it was a spin off game. It's a bit early to be doing spin off games, don't you think? However, it wasn't until plot elements from this game became a big thing in Kingdom Hearts 2 before we realized how relevant to the main plot this game really was. Oddly enough, the game itself could easily be construed as a mixed bag of jellybeans – it certainly has an interesting premise and equally interesting sounding battle system, but there's plenty of shit to wade through first. Taking place during the very final scene of the...
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