Shadow Hearts: From the New World: ah, the complaints I've heard.
The foremost complaint is that there's no Yuri and that Killer looked enough like Yuri that people started screaming bloody murder and theorizing that it was him instead of just a recycle of the character model. So I'd like to take a moment to discuss what Shadow Hearts is about.
Most people came to Shadow Hearts with Covenant, only belatedly realizing that there was a game before it, which also starred Yuri. But if we take into account that Shadow Hearts (the original) is a sequel to Koudelka, we start to have an accurate picture of what the series is about: the Emigre Document. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that the entire line up is really about everyone else in the world dealing with Roger Bacon's mistake of even writing the Document in the first place. (Didn't know that, did you? You should have played Koudelka.) From the New World is not the third game in the series, but the forth in an increasingly light hearted franchise.
I'm surprised that so many people are angry about this, that, and the other thing, instead of what they should be angry about: Koudelka and Shadow Hearts were two of the creepiest games I've ever played and that includes Silent Hill. We're talking about a future franchise going from great plots and psychological imagery coupled with fantastic music to mediocre shininess with some nice graphics. In the original Shadow Hearts, any comedy to be had highlighted how dire and frightening the situation was: Yuri's attempt to bond with the Radiance, the loss of Alice's soul to Atman, the Four Masks and Fox Face haunting every step, Koudelka's imprisonment and torture, the orphan's being used in experiments with the Emigre Document, the Doll's House. Covenant had some of the same feel, but not quite. From the New World left it behind completely. That's not to say that FtNW didn't have its moments. The steam tunnels under Arkham University and the basement of Garland Mansion were very true to the creepiness of the originals, but I can't point to much else.
I have to say that I am happy to see new incarnations of the Doll's House, which has been a suitably creepy sidequest in all of the games. If you finished the Doll's House in FtNW, go back and look at the dolls for some extra creepiness.
Anyway, back to the complaints:
The biggest is about Johnny. I've heard everything from Johnny being too young, boring, useless, pointless, and a drag on the game. My God, Johnny, interests me more than any of the other characters! I have a long list of games where the leads bore me to tears, but one of the back up characters makes up for it(like Albel and Cliff in Star Ocean 3). Johnny is well thought out: he's normal down to his sneakers and comments constantly about how weird everyone and everything else around him is. He even goes so far as to ask if he's the strange one. And he's the zombie!
It's really sad. Here's a character that's worth the graphics they put into him and people hate him. Of course, opinions tend to change when you get half way through the game and realize exactly who and what Johnny is and can become. On another note, I find it absolutely hilarious that people are trying to nix Johnny from the game when he's the second best fighter and stellar magic wielder behind Frank and Hilda. If you give Johnny the Saggitarius stellar and max the chart out, his magic is pretty unstoppable. Awaker's second attack, Ether Purge, makes the final boss fight really quick, especially when you double it with the stock draining Dual React.
I've seen a few girl gamers rant about Shania's gravity defying tits. Yes, I know that they can't stay up like that, I'm a girl too, but I'm not going to start with Shania. I'm starting with Frank.
Poor Frank, you say? Why would I pick on him, you ask? Because he hasn't used a single pronoun once in the entire freaking game. Now I could pick on the Americans learning the Brazilian ninja arts. Or, if you did this side quest, the Russians learning the German ninja arts. But honestly, I don't think I could comment on how screwed up all that is without touching on Red Ninja(who, by the way, had enormous gravity defying boobs). Frank speaks about himself in the third person. Constantly. If you showed Frank a pronoun, I don't think he'd know what it was and would try to eat it. And his 'flying squirrel' sidequest to fight a crazy old man was absurd.
Riccardo, to pick on somebody else, would not have been such a useless character if you knew what his root items did before you used them the first time. Stuff that would have been great to know about when I got him for the party went on the back burner. I didn't even find out what some of his stuff was until I was forced to use his character in the sidequests.
Mao: the talking cat. Why are there talking animals in Shadow Hearts? And if someone mentions Tiny, I'm slapping them. Possessed animals do not count. Blanca was cool, but could only talk to other animals and have internal monologue. It was comic relief. At no point could he tell Yuri that he was full of shit, though I'm sure he wanted to on several occasions.
Mao was a bad addition to the game. If Frank's comic relief inspired entrance wasn't bad enough, Mao was worse. Oh, she's great with the magic and the Cat Touch ability does incredible damage, but the fact that no one seems to think its weird that she's a talking cat except Johnny makes me wonder if the whole game is some hallucination that Roger's having. To make it worse, the scene at the end of Mao's Game of Death where she meets her 'lover' is very localized humor and doesn't make much sense to an audience that isn't familiar with Korean soap operas.
Natan. Poor guy. Gun-Fu? Here's this big, strong warrior and they give him a pair of colts. The story behind why he uses guns is cool, but his movements just look silly. His sidequest, on the other hand, is my favorite. Hunting the UMA was great fun. Even with that, I can't say much about him, other than the only joke he made in the entire game was actually funny. (If you missed it, it was about Johnny and pr0n.)
The last of the Valentine siblings: Hilda. Hilda, a character who also blossomed with un-needed comic relief, comes in as my second favorite character. Of course, it wasn't very hard to get that position. The calorie thing sucked(no pun intended) and you kind of ended up with one of her forms and staying there. It would have been cooller if she switched between her forms like Joachim did. Poor Hilda though, here sidequests were mishmashed out of her brothers' sidequests. I thanked God when Keith said that he would make it up to everyone someday about his family. I'm hoping that means an appearance in the next game.
Killer? His name is Killer? The guy was actually interesting and you gave him a crappy name. Way to go.
Lady? Her name is Lady? Thank God you find out that she does have a name, that it's Grace, and that it's all really ironic that the villain's name is Grace.
And finally, Shania. Her fusions were cool and prone to make her go insane a la Yuri if only in the player's imagination, but they weren't interesting enough or powerful enough to make me use her in the game. I actually left her out of the game until I went through her side quest for Tirawa. Tirawa, besides looking awesome, did the one thing I look for in any game: she could hurt the enemy and heal herself at the same time.
General complaints: The graphics were good, but not creepy. Everything was bright and cheery rather than dark and forboding. The music drove me nuts. Only a few pieces had the appropriate edge for different scenes and locals. The pit fights were good, but ultimately boring or failed in execution. The original pit fights, which were one on one and gained you experience, are still the best. The combo system sucked. I much prefer the system from Covenant. The characters recycled previous models and wore outrageous clothing. Honestly, what father would dress his children as Graham dressed Johnny and Grace to resurrect them? The only person dressed in something I didn't have a need to claw my eyes out looking at was Johnny.
All in all, its an okay game. It definitely wasn't good enough to have the Shadow Hearts label on it. Though Johnny's character lends a lot of the feel, talking animals, bright scenery, and up beat music that had nothing to do with the vending machine really destroyed what could have been an excellent game. I know that somewhere, the original developers from Sacnoth are sitting around wondering what the hell has happened to their game and why it seems to be going the direction of crap instead of Koudelka. So I'm going to make a suggestion for the next game:
Yuri from the bad ending with the memory wipe, is wandering around trying to get his memory back. Halley (because he'd be a powerful psychic at this point), someone related to Alice who isn't Geppeto, and Keith as the Valentine sibling appearance with a reforged Tyrving(because Joachim bent it in a wrestling match) are your basic starting team. Throw in a few new characters for flavor: no talking animals or comic relief characters please. Everyone is trying to help Yuri get his memory back until Johnny shows up (maybe looking for Hilda for help), because Shania has turned into a Malice filled abomination. Keep the graphics but mute the colors down to browns, reds, and dusty looks. Creatures being fought in the game should be creepy, not funny in a bad way. Remember: No Outrageous Clothing and No Localized Humor; and we're set. Good luck with that.