The Shadow Hearts series is a real alternative type of RPG that makes itself stands out from other RPGs in the market. The first one got the unfortunate fate with a close launch with Final Fantasy X, so it got sunk to the bottom. Nonetheless, this doesn't discouraged Midway and Azure to roll out the second instalment of the Shadow Hearts.
Covenant's event happened 6 months after the first game when Yuri the ill fated hero decided to move into a peaceful life in a small country village. Nonetheless, with the outbreak of World War I, no place is safe and peaceful. Thus he was forced into fight to protect this small village from German invasion, which eventually led him back into arms.
The character designs are much better this time round with each of the character having their own personality that actually shows up in the story. An old puppeteer whose puppet is a mirror image of his late daughter, a German official, a gay vampire wrestler, a spoiled and adventurous Russian princess, a single hearted samurai, a tarot card reader and a white wolf. They together formed a very unique party one had ever seen in a RPG. Their abilities also hovered around their nature. Abilities like Marionette, Tarot Cards, Aromatherapy, Muscle skills etc. are very well thought of and designed. They also exhibit different types of attribute that makes the formation of your favourite team a very enjoyable experience.
The judgement ring system is back but much better. The judgement ring is a dial that appears with every single command that you use, no matter it is attack, ability, magic or item. You have to hit certain required areas to make the move successful. The last game has the flaw of being too difficult to use a lack of customisation. But in this game you can customise the ring with a lot of flexibility, be it enlarging strike (critical hit) or hit areas, increasing the number of hit areas, slowing down the indicator or add on more status effects with attacks. This makes the game more enjoyable for a lot of people. You also have the choice of auto ring, although it trades of the damage you can do to you enemies.
The side quests are interesting and they actually enriched the story of each character. The downside is most side quests are not available until the end of the game. However, that makes up with the difficulty of the bosses associated with these quests. The game also makes fun of the game itself and thus put more personality inside the game itself. The story of the Ring Soul is one of them. Nonetheless, the game has a lot of homosexual elements in it, which further takes the game out of normal RPG conventions. So probably might not be suitable for under age kids to play it and at least teenage about 15 would be recommended to venture into this game.
The story is engrossing though still quite fall into most RPG story conventions. The cut scenes are very well done and could rival every single Final Fantasy game in the market. The best part is when you finished the game once, you are rewarded with the theatre mode where you can watch all the movies and semi-movies again without going through the whole game again.
Shadow Hearts: Covenant really stands out as an outstanding RPG and for gamers who are eagerly waiting for FF XII to come out. Covenant could well quench your thirst with a lot of joy.