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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Video Game Connoisseur

The Video Game Connoisseur

Shadow Hearts: From the New WorldPublisher: XSEED Games/ PS2/ $39.99

My friend who plays almost, but not quite, as many RPGs (role playing games) as me really gets annoyed when he can’t name the characters. I find this a little ironic because all he does is name the main character after himself and give the rest names such as ‘whore’, ‘dumbass’, and anything in ‘leet speak’ (AKA: L33T SP34K). I prefer to use the default name, unless there is no default name, and then I get creative. He doesn’t seem to understand the reason why a designer would chose not to give you control over the character’s name. The game is a movie, and you’re just moving the action along at your own pace. Conformity is important for voice acting. Voice acting is more enjoyable if the characters can call one another by name. The fact that RPGs are becoming more movie-like legitimizes RPGs as a genre, and that’s awesome.

Shadow Hearts: From The New World, also known as Shadow Hearts III, is more of a spin off than a true sequel. The game is the third in a series of what I think is best described as, “historical RPG’s.” The previous installment took place during World War I and the one before that took place a few years earlier. Whereas the previous games had you running all over Europe and Asia trying to stop religious leaders from using forbidden texts to summon ancient gods, Shadow Hearts III starts you off in New York’s upper east side. The main character is Johnny Garland, a 16-year-old private detective with memory loss who lost his family in an accident. The other main character is Shania, a 21-year-old Native American bounty hunter who can call upon the power of the spirits. There’s also Shania’s protector, the dual pistol-wielding Natan, an American ninja named Frank, a giant anthropomorphic alcoholic cat named Mao, a European Vampire named Hildegard, and a mariachi named Ricardo. This is the first RPG to include not one, but two Native American characters.

You run into some well-known individuals: Al Capone, Elliot Ness, H.P. Lovecraft, and Roger Bacon (Wikipedia Roger Bacon sometime, he’s pretty cool). In fact, within the first few hours of playing I had to help Mao (the anthropomorphic drunken cat) bust Al Capone out of Alcatraz then follow him to Vegas to help him take out a rival mob boss. I felt slightly wrong for breaking him out of jail. The game makes him out to be a very sympathetic character – he is a friend with Ness. Seeing the heretofore-unreported ‘soft side’ of Al Capone threw me for a loop, but it was only a minor part of the game.

The story is a bit complex, but bear with me for a minute, I’ll try to keep it simple. After the Great War, and keeping in line with events from the previous game, the world is filled with malice. Apparently a few South American ruins contained some sort of device, which kept the aforementioned malice in check. When a work assignment goes mad and a giant monster eats the guy Johnny was paid to find, he gets caught up in a scheme to release the malice and destroy the world. I won’t go into any more detail because that would give too much away, but you can always corner me in my office and ask for more info.

The voice acting in the game is pretty good, but some of the characters who appeared in the original game now have different voices-that’s kind of a turn off. The battle system is a slightly modified version of the original. Shadow Hearts: From the New World still uses a roulette system to determine your attack damage. To its credit, From the New World uses few of the monsters and character models from the last game. After all, it is supposed to be a new game with new people, in a new setting a few years later. It’s nice to finally play a game that takes place somewhere real, (the Americas) during a historical period (1929) with very few anachronisms (somebody take that cell phone away from Johnny, I’m not kidding, I’ll hurt him). You don’t even have to play any of the previous games for this one to make sense (you’ll just miss out on some of the inside jokes). I recommend this game for anyone who’s into the roaring 20’s and doesn’t mind a little inaccuracy, or anyone who likes a good RPG that doesn’t rehash the same clichés over and over again.