Publisher: Xseed Games
Release Date: March 7, 2006
Alicia Ashby: Anyone who played Midway's releases of the two Shadow Hearts games quickly realized they were playing the best RPGs ever released for the PS2 - yes, even better than juggernauts like Final Fantasy and Star Ocean. Newcomer XSEED is showing off their localization skills with the release of the third game, From the New World, and it's shaping up to be everything fans could possibly want. The third game in the series follows a new protagonist and an adventure set in America, with a Chicago detective teaming up with a Native American to quash evil in the snarkiest way possible. Good stuff.
Joe Keiser: The Shadow Hearts series of RPGs has never really gotten the appreciation it deserves. Between the unique, early 20th century European settings, the judicious use of the action-oriented "judgment ring" mini-game in everything from combat to obtaining store discounts, and loads of anachronistic whimsy, the earlier titles in the series were doing things with the RPG genre that its competition simply couldn't touch (and probably couldn't understand). The third game in the series takes place in America – that means searching Ivy League universities for treasure chests, and teaming with Native Americans to save Al Capone from Alcatraz at the order of a giant cat. You probably don't remember that part of Prohibition.
Gordy "XyzzySqrl" Wheeler: It's rare to see a Japanese RPG series that takes a lot of storyline risks and has characterization that stands up to close scrutiny the way that Shadow Hearts has. The last two installments of the series have been full of engaging comedy, memorable moments, villains with motivations deeper than "Well, he's EVIL," and heroes with intelligent reasons to be out and about in the world besides "Well, he's the GOOD GUY who has to SAVE THE WORLD, duh." With a change of setting to America in the early '20s, To the New World promises to take the traditional Shadow Hearts' skewed take on actual historical events to a whole new new level of weird. Toss in some characters with links to prior games to engage longtime fans of the series, not to mention the return and refinement of the Judgement Ring battle system, and this game will probably take quite a few months away from my day-to-day life before I'm done with it. Here's hoping the enemy designers stay off their medication; there's nothing like fighting wolves with human arms where their heads ought to be for a dose of sheer surreality in your day.
Thomas Wilde: On the PSOne, the Suikoden series had the coveted job of being the Great RPG Series that got steamrolled by Final Fantasy. On the PS2, that job now belongs to Shadow Hearts, the best RPG series you've never played; each game that's been released in the series to date has cleverly been released at the worst possible time, giving it a small manic fanbase that's prepared to kill in its name, but no widespread appeal. From the New World, the third (technically fourth, but I won't mention Koudelka if you don't) game in the series brings its trademark wonky storylines and timing-based gameplay to North America. A brand-new quest with a brand-new cast will lead you through a skewed version of the U.S. in 1925, with a full cast of both original and historic characters.