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Author Topic: Shadow Hearts Covenant - VERY Impressed  (Read 6023 times)
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Kevin Grey
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« Reply #40 on: April 29, 2005, 07:07:28 AM »

Well, I think I hit the wall on Koudelka and probably won't progress any further.

I'm about halfway through (approx 7-8 hours) but the sheer number of long, drawn-out boss battles is really grating on me.  Some of these things can go on forever and be very tedious.  And it seems like almost every other room has one.  

Part of it is screw ups I made early on in developing the characters.  I failed to boost the magic protection stats on my melee characters enough and consequently they are just getting raped in battle.  Understanding the system now I would probably due much better with a restart but I'm not willing to do that.  

Plus, a lot of bosses don't have elemental weaknesses which is the key to making any sort of significant damage.  Consequently you are reduced to having one or two characters doing piddly 100 HP attacks on bosses with over 3000 HPs while the other character functions as a healer.  Not fun.

Its a shame too because I like the game just fine outside of the boss battles.  The game can be *very* creepy at times and the quality of the localization is easily among the best the PS1 ever had.  The voice acting, script, and FMV are incredibly well done.
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RamPanther
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« Reply #41 on: April 30, 2005, 01:18:08 PM »

Quote
There is one absolutely unintentionally hysterical section that features perhaps the worst voice-acting I've ever heard in a game. So bad it was almost physically painful. Those who've played it probably know what I'm talking about SCHLOOP!.



That portion of the game is burned into my memory forever! It was sooooooooo bad!  I burst out laughing at what was meant to be a very serious moment!
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« Reply #42 on: April 30, 2005, 02:07:22 PM »

Quote from: "RamPanther"
Quote
There is one absolutely unintentionally hysterical section that features perhaps the worst voice-acting I've ever heard in a game. So bad it was almost physically painful. Those who've played it probably know what I'm talking about SCHLOOP!.



That portion of the game is burned into my memory forever! It was sooooooooo bad!  I burst out laughing at what was meant to be a very serious moment!


I'm not sure the Sea Mother bit was intended to be completely serious.  There's no way they could have intentionally recorded something that ludicrous without having tounge firmly planted in cheek.

At least I hope not.  slywink
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« Reply #43 on: April 30, 2005, 02:09:13 PM »

Hey I just wanted to Chime in, My store is about 50 yards down from one of the Oldest Krispy Kreme Stores in the country, they remodeled it about 5 or 6 years ago and in the mornings when I am taking stuff off the truck or when I open the back roll up door, a huge waft of fresh, hot and ready doughnut air hits me in the face.

I am quite proud of the fact that I don't eat the doughnuts more than once every couple of months. Because when they come right off the line and they're warm as hell, they're impossible to beat in tastiness.


Oh, and I have been staring at the Shadow Hearts Convenant box forever, and I know I just have too much going on and too many games unplayed to even consider getting another one.

I do appreciate the updated Koudelka impressions because I was intially tempted to go grab that as well...
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Kevin Grey
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« Reply #44 on: May 03, 2005, 03:57:55 AM »

Finished up the first Shadow Hearts game tonight.

First off, I find it rather bizarre that they've decided to go with the bad ending from SH1 to start off with in Covenant (based on what's described in the instruction manual for Covenant, haven't started the game yet).

Anyway- total playtime was 36 hours which included 2 or 3 hours of pausetime.  It actually ended up being a longer game than I expected.  

Positives all remained from my earlier thoughs and I would say the strengths of the game were in the variety of settings, the characters, and the story.  Combat was just fine but not very deep and I didn't need to use a whole lot of strategy other than using Yuri's strongest attacks and keeping the party healed.  I don't think I ever saw the game over screen.  

I can't emphasize enough how much I liked the lack of random encounters.  SH1 is downright generous with the amount of time you can go between random encounters.

One really surprise- the sidequests portion of the game (which is predominantly right before the final area) was much easier and more enjoyable than the typical corresponding section in Final Fantasy games.  I was able to get ultimate weapons and armor for most of the characters and their associated dungeons were among the most enjoyable in the entire game.  Unfortunately they also suffered a bit from the "how in the hell would I have found out about this sidequest if I didn't look at a FAQ?" so prevalent in console RPGs.  Even there I thought Shadow Hearts was better than most since they were pretty intuitive once you had a general push in the right direction.

Negatives (not so much negative as areas that could use some improvement):

-Monster design:  they were really hampered by their graphical limitations here.  With many of the monster designs you could see they were going with something rather disturbing and almost right out of Silent Hill but the engine just wasn't up to the task and they often ended up looking pretty poor.  The idea of the monsters was much more disturbing than their execution.

-Fusion- Yuri can only have three fusion monsters equipped at a time and the amount of sanity it takes to summon one means he will likely only use one per battle.  This makes it real hard to play to elemental weaknesses, especially since its not very obvious what most of the elemental weaknesses are to each monster.  Consequently I pretty much relied on the Fire Demon for attacks and the Light Demon for healing throughout.  I would much rather have been able to switch demons in out on the fly with minimal hit to Sanity as well as have access to all demons at any given time.  

-Area design and their reuse:  not really a negative (rather clever in fact) but since each area uses 2D art assets they got pretty creative in designing areas to maximize the limited number of screens per location.  This included more backtracking puzzles and quite a few mazes.  The areas were still plenty interesting though and since it wasn't a big budget game you can tell they maximized what they had.  

Overall I had a blast and this one was definitely unjustly overlooked.   I can't wait to start on the sequel.
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EddieA
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« Reply #45 on: May 03, 2005, 06:30:40 AM »

" Yuri can only have three fusion monsters equipped at a time and the amount of sanity it takes to summon one means he will likely only use one per battle."
They changed this for the sequel.  In Covenant, there's no SP cost to fuse. You lose a few SP per round while fused, so you can switch between any fusion you have acquired (they no longer have to be equipped) and there's no cost (SP or turn-wise) to do so.  It's a very nice change, although I like the way you acquired new fusions better in the first game.

As for sidequests, there's kind of a theme to getting bonus/sidequest items.  Always return to areas you've cleared out, as you'll usually find something new there.  This is especially true of rooms in which you fight bosses.  There's usually an item in them you can't get on your first visit because you enter the cutscene/boss battle as soon as you enter the room.
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Kevin Grey
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« Reply #46 on: May 03, 2005, 07:28:30 AM »

Quote from: "EddieA"


As for sidequests, there's kind of a theme to getting bonus/sidequest items.  Always return to areas you've cleared out, as you'll usually find something new there.  This is especially true of rooms in which you fight bosses.  There's usually an item in them you can't get on your first visit because you enter the cutscene/boss battle as soon as you enter the room.


Are you referring to the first game or Covenant?  I definitely found it to be the case in the first one, but (although still early) haven't noticed it as much in Covenant.

Brief impressions on Covenant (approx 2.5 hours played):

Lots of obvious improvements of course.  Graphically very, very nice.  Voice acting is excellent so far and the locations have been much larger.  The battle system also seems much, much deeper.  

Story-wise it got off to a very strong start but I was disappointed to find that a character profile accessed in the menu at the beginning of the game gave away one of the story's first twists.  I'm glad I researched the "bad ending" from the first game because otherwise I'd be seriously having some WTF moments in the early going in this one.  

My chief (and really only) complaint is that this game has one of the worst third person camera/map systems I've encountered in an RPG.  I have no issue with well done non-user controlled camera views but I've been getting disoriented very easily in Covenant.  The map seems pretty useless too- it's so zoomed in that I get very little feel for the larger surroundings.  It wouldn't bother me if I could switch to a larger map screen in a menu but if there is an option for that, I haven't found it.  

The camera relative controls bug me too.  I prefer systems that maintain my direction when I'm holding down the stick and the camera changes, if that makes any sense.  In Covenant once the camera angle changes I find myself careening off in some new direction and bumping into walls and such.
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EddieA
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« Reply #47 on: May 03, 2005, 09:35:29 AM »

Returning to areas works in both games.  Many areas you return to in Covenant will lead to items that give your characters abilities, such as Karin's music or wolves for Blanca to fight.  There are also some fun ongoing sidequests, such as Solomon's Key, trading items, and the treasure hunt.
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Kevin Grey
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« Reply #48 on: May 03, 2005, 09:44:55 AM »

Quote from: "EddieA"
Returning to areas works in both games.  Many areas you return to in Covenant will lead to items that give your characters abilities, such as Karin's music or wolves for Blanca to fight.  There are also some fun ongoing sidequests, such as Solomon's Key, trading items, and the treasure hunt.


Cool, thanks!  Looking forward to it.
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« Reply #49 on: May 03, 2005, 07:19:23 PM »

Yep, side-quests ae incorporated very well into the main story in Covenant.  I had to do all of the wolf bouts!  Some of those wolfs are . . . a tad bit weird   biggrin
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Kevin Grey
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« Reply #50 on: May 03, 2005, 08:39:49 PM »

Question- do the various attack options (knock back, high angle, etc) servce any function outside of combos?
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Kevin Grey
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« Reply #51 on: May 04, 2005, 05:10:28 AM »

There are some things that are really starting to bug me in Covenant.

Primarily its the way the battle grid is set up.  Its interesting that Covenant forgoes the standard good guys on one side, bad guys on the other.  Position seems to matter in terms of what combos you can be performed, area effect attacks, enemy combos, etc.  All well and good and combat looks to be much deeper with a lot more variety than the first game.  But its very hard to get a good feel for the battle layout.  When the map first loads you get literally a split second shot of what your enemies are and how they are arrayed before the camera switches to the first character to take a turn.  After that the only way that seems to get be able to get a decent overview how all of the characters are situated is the Combo view.  This game desperately needs a button to press to switch to a high camera angle overlooking all of the participants at any time during a battle (maybe I am missing it?).  Otherwise it makes deciding strategy very hard.  

I also continue to hate the camera system on the field map.  Shifts way to often.  If its not going to default to behind the playable character then I would prefer smooth camera shifts like those that dominate Final Fantasy X vice the jarring cuts utilized in Covenant.  

Also, world boundaries are almost non-existant.  On most maps there is little indication that you can't go somewhere.  You'll head down what looks to be a clear path only to bump into an invisible boundary.  I prefer this stuff to be incorporated into the architecture.  If you bother to code in a road then you better damn well let me take it.  

Everything else is great in the game and I really hope these issues become less bothersome because right now they are really holding me back from really engaging with the game.
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« Reply #52 on: May 04, 2005, 05:45:45 AM »

It's been quite some time since I've played Covenant, but I don't remember the camera issue bugging me too much.  Though, I haven't been exposed to the FFX camera for an extended amount of time (only played about 3 hours or so), so I can't really compare or anything.

I kinda like the field camera, though, it's of course a very personal kind of thing to like or dislike.

And, I can't really think straight at the moment (I'm getting the combo system kind of messed up with Xenosaga II's combo system), but I do not believe the different kinds of attacks are really effective outside of combo situations.

Man, I hope the issues aren't going to deter you from playing through Covenant.  Seems like they aren't, but hopefully it doesn't get too bothersome.
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Kevin Grey
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« Reply #53 on: May 04, 2005, 06:36:42 AM »

Quote from: "depward"


Man, I hope the issues aren't going to deter you from playing through Covenant.  Seems like they aren't, but hopefully it doesn't get too bothersome.


Oh definitely not- its more of an issue from stopping me from loving it as much as I might otherwise.  There's tons of other fantastic stuff here and I really appreciate little touches like special rewards in combat for getting zero damage, defeating all of the enemies in one turn, etc.  My issues with the game are already starting to subside a bit now that I have approx six hours under my belt with it.  

I've got a pretty heavy tolerance for poor cameras when I at least have control over it- both Star Ocean 3 and Kingdom Hearts were criticized for camera issues (KH much moreso) but since I could control the camera in those, camera adjustments soon became almost unconcious.  

I have found one of the reasons for some of the spotty camera angles in Covenant- taking a trick from the first game it looks like several areas are built from much smaller building blocks.  For example the sewers under Paris are comprised of several stock tunnel areas connected together and repeated.  Consequently the environments lose some of the cohesiveness of something like Final Fantasy X where most loading areas were acutally very large allowing the camera to pull back a bit for better views.  Understandable why this isn't the case with Covenant though since they are clearly making do with a substantially smaller budget than a FF game.
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Kevin Grey
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« Reply #54 on: May 10, 2005, 01:39:22 AM »

I just have to say that this game is flat out incredible (40 hours played, just started Disk 2).  

So many areas that this game nails:

-First and foremost, dungeon design.  The game pretty much sticks to the basic dungeon, town, repeat formula so I had some worries at the beginning about how the game would keep fresh with that basic structure.  Luckily each "dungeon" is wonderfully inventive with a unique hook to separate it from previous dungeons and make me look forward every one of them.  If you're not a fan of puzzle-type dungeons you might disagree but I really enjoy that aspect.  

-Characters. Probably the most diverse set of playable characters I've ever encountered in an RPG.  Even better is that they are all fun and unique to play in combat so I constantly rotate them through not only to level their experience but just because a combat encounter against a given set of enemies will vary so much depending on who is in your party.  

-Sidequests.  Wonderfully integrated into the game.  Most of the sidequests involve discovering new special attacks for each character so not only are they fun (and relatively intuitive as far as console RPG sidequests go) but you get a longer lasting reward then the new piece of soon to be replaced equipment that so many other RPGs settle for.  

-Worldmap and towns.  Initially this was going to be a criticism.  Most of the town areas are relatively small by RPG standards and combined with the instant travel via worldmap cause the game to sacrifice a certain sense of time and distance that can really help give an epic flair to the proceedings.  

However as I've played I think the design is pretty brilliant because it feeds directly into the great sidequest design.  Since so much of the sidequests and extras are dependent on revisiting previous areas the compact city design and worldmap travel make it incredibly quick to run through an area and find out if anything has changed, etc.  Consequently each of one of the smaller town/city areas effectively forms a large diverse conventional city area from another RPG in practice.  

-Combat and Enemy AI.  Much, much improved from the original.  Much more difficult though nothing I would classify as hard (I've yet to be defeated).   Just enough to keep me on my toes.  Enemy AI, in particular, is some of the best I've seen in a turn-based RPG.  The enemy will use combos, will coordinate and gang-up on one character, and even seems to have a propensity for "revenge" attacks.  Having enemies surround you at the beginning of a fight can be absolutely brutal.  

With the added bonus of combos and the ability to tailor the magic each character uses, combat is always fun and there is plenty to experiment with.  

-Graphics and Animation.  Superb.  The animation in particular is outstanding all around.  Not only from the playable characters, which is to be expected, but every enemy has fantastic animations too.  The environments are incredibly detailed with outstanding lighting.  Only criticism here is that the environments do feel a bit constrained, maybe due to engine limitations.

-Interface.  Very comprehensive and player-friendly.  The game menus offer numerous methods for sorting and browsing the inventory.  The ability to get detailed descriptions and artwork for every single item in your inventory is a huge bonus.  Lots of great writing and factoids in these entries.  The character and monster library is another huge bonus.   I love that the shops let you buy, sell, and equip all in one interface.  

My only criticisms so far:

-The story takes a little while to get going.  Way too much of a travelogue early on.  However once the story "heated up" its been pretty non-stop and just continues to get better.

-The camera issues from my earlier posts.  I've learned to mainly put them out of my mind by this point the criticisms remain.  

-There was a bit of retconning of the motivations of the chief bad guy from the first Shadow Hearts.  I didn't care for this at all.  Didn't fit with the character for the first title, nor did the motivation make any sense.

Fantastic game.

PS- Karin with Mind's Eye equipped is absolutely devastating!
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EddieA
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« Reply #55 on: May 10, 2005, 02:02:41 AM »

"The ability to get detailed descriptions and artwork for every single item in your inventory is a huge bonus. Lots of great writing and factoids in these entries."
I love when games include things like this.  It's obvious the developers put a great deal of care and heart into the game, as did whoever did the fantastic localization.
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« Reply #56 on: May 10, 2005, 02:06:18 AM »

I have to get this.  I'm finally going to fold and do it.  To be honest, the idea of a third-person RPG doesn't thrill me in the least, but that's something I can get over.  I've played enough third-person titles, and as long as the control is tight I can deal with it.

I'm just tired of reading how great this game is and now I feel left out...  I surrender!
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« Reply #57 on: May 10, 2005, 02:15:35 AM »

Stiffler, I implore you, if at all possible, seek out a copy of the first game.  It isn't nearly as polished as Covenant but its a very good game in its own right.

And more importantly, I can't fathom how much more I'm probably getting out of Covenant having played the first game.  Covenant does a good job of filling in the background detail so you won't actually be lost, but many of the revelations will have substantially lessened impact.  

Not trying to deter you in the slightest but it really helps for "the ultimate Covenant experience."
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« Reply #58 on: May 10, 2005, 02:18:31 AM »

Quote from: "Kevin Grey"
Stiffler, I implore you, if at all possible, seek out a copy of the first game.  It isn't nearly as polished as Covenant but its a very good game in its own right.

Not trying to deter you in the slightest but it really helps for "the ultimate Covenant experience."



Fear not!  I am a bit of a completist in that regard.  I have read the previous posts and am currently seeking out both.  I wouldn't want to miss anything. :lol:

eBay, here I come!
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« Reply #59 on: May 10, 2005, 02:20:47 AM »

Awesome, hope you enjoy them as much as I am.

Also, I must say that the battle music on the second disk is BADASS!
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« Reply #60 on: May 10, 2005, 02:31:20 AM »

Done and Done!  Looking forward to it.  I have the summer off and this will be a nice change of pace from all the strategy RPG's I've got lined up.  They really make the eBay experience too easy. Tongue
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« Reply #61 on: May 29, 2005, 07:01:30 PM »

Just thought I'd ressurrect this thread to chime in . . .

You know how I played a bit of the original Shadow Hearts before moving on and loving the heck out of Covenant?  Well, since I've been home for the summer (last time I get to be "home" during summer due to school) I've been playing the original Shadow Hearts.  And I completed it yesterday.

And I thought it was great.  It plays, predictably, a lot like Covenant.  And, in a whole lot of respects it's a lot like Covenant.  In fact, the way the story is crafted is just about the same.  If you've played through both you'll know what I mean.  The story isn't the same, but the way the story went through its course was predictable and very much like Covenant.

It was a lot of fun though.  The character designs, although the graphics were kind of poor, were very good, especially some of those monster designs.  I wanted the "ring customization" like in Covenant but hitting the ring three times everytime to fight was alright.  I just really enjoy the "Ring of Judgement" concept that Shadow Hearts has - it keeps it from becoming boring for me.  The characters themselves had pretty dang good animation when running around and fighting.  Aside from that, from a graphical standpoint, pretty "meh."

So I would very much recommend the original Shadow Hearts if you happened to miss out on it before playing Covenant.  Great game.  Plus (ooh la la trivia time) they have a character named "Koudelka" in it.  Which makes me semi want to go actually pick that up now, since I didn't go that weekend about a month ago and pick it up.
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