Shadow Hearts: Covenant
Shadow Hearts: Covenant, also known as Shadow Hearts II (シャドウハーツII Shadō Hātsu Tsū), is a role-playing video game developed by Nautilus and published by Aruze in Japan and Midway in other countries in 2004. It is a direct continuation of Shadow Hearts; its story starts a year and a half after Shadow Hearts in the midst of World War I. It focuses on Karin Koenig, a lieutenant in the German Army who assists in the exorcism of a man able to turn into demons, Yuri Volte Hyuga. However, after learning of Yuri's caring nature, Karin goes on a quest with him to save him from a spell inside him and they are drawn into a conflict involving demons of demonolatry.
|Shadow Hearts: Covenant|
North American box art
The game features two DVD-ROM discs instead of the usual one, which provides, according to the publisher, over forty hours of gameplay. The game received positive critical response by video game publications due to the improvements made to the game system.
The Judgment Ring from Shadow Hearts returns with many modifications and improvements. Also, battle has been greatly expanded by different types of attacks as well as combo attacks. An element of physics has been added to battles as well, which links to the types of combo attacks which can be performed.
Players can customize the Judgment Ring to their own preferences with the introduction of two new Ring items: Hit Area Expand and Strike Expand, making the game easier or more challenging. Several ring types are also introduced to cater to the different players e.g. Practice Ring for beginners, Normal Ring for amateurs, Technical Ring for veterans and lastly, Auto Ring for gamers who do not want to aim at the Judgment Ring. Players can also equip Ring Items that can have added effects to the character's physical attack e.g. Poison, Paralysis etc.
A new battle mechanism is the Crest Magic system, in which players may equip Crests to certain characters to allow them to cast different types of elemental magic. Players collect new crests and gain access to more powerful magic. The crests may also be positioned in a key item called Solomon's Key; positioning the crests correctly will unlock new spells for each crest for a certain region. Most of the crests' names are derived from demonology.
Shadow Hearts: Covenant also includes "Hit Classes" which are incorporated with the physical and magical attacks. These include: Standard, Hard Hit, High Angle and Knock Down. Depending on the "weight" of the opponent monster, you'll be able to do more damage when connecting a combo during battle. Conversely, if an attack with an inappropriate Hit Class is used to continue a combo, the end result is a missed attack, or rather, a Combo Break.
For example, a Standard hit will simply push an enemy behind while attacking. This allows for any other type of Hit Class attack to be connected to do a Combo. A High Angle and Knock Down combo attack is another similar example. However, say if a Knock Down attack is applied to an enemy who has a "Heavy" weight followed by a High Angle hit, it will most probably miss since the enemy is still Knocked Down at that moment when the combo attack is made.
Combo shortcuts are also introduced where players are able to assign physical/magical attacks onto the controller buttons. This reduces the time taken to create a Combo attack as one character can attack immediately after another with a simple press of the button. However, this makes the game more challenging as players have to decide quickly what kind of attack they should follow up next as the combo shortcut menu appears only for a short amount of time i.e. when the preceding character is in the midst of launching his/her attack.
The shop system has been improved since Shadow Hearts. The player no longer has to perform the Strike Rings from the lowest level to the required discount level. Instead points are given when a successful discount purchase is executed successfully. The points are accumulated and the player's shop discount rank is leveled up once the points reaches a certain value. As the discount rank increases, so does the percentage of discount the player can try for is also increased. This applies to raising the selling price of items the players wishes to sell as well.
The game begins with Karin Koenig, a lieutenant in the German Army during World War I, traveling to the town of Domremy with a Vatican Inquisitor, Nicolas "Nicolai" Conrad, to exorcise a demon there. When they arrive, the demon is revealed to be Yuri from the previous game. Nicolai casts a curse on Yuri; this severely weakens Yuri, but also reveals Nicolas as a member of Sapientes Gladio, a faction of dark sorcerers seeking world domination.
Yuri escapes with Karin and they build a small party of allies to thwart Nicolas' plan. Nicolai, a bastard son of Tsar Nicolas II, hopes to take over Russia with the help of Rasputin, the current leader of Sapientes Gladio. Yuri manages to recover his strength with the help of a former Sapientes Gladio sorcerer, Jovis, though his memory is still affected by Nicolai's curse. The group then finds and defeats Rasputin and Nicolai. Before Nicolai can be finished off, however, he is rescued by Kato, a Japanese Envoy and old friend of Yuri's, and taken to Japan.
In Japan, the party tracks Nicolai to a research lab, where he is possessed by a demon. After learning where he is, the party tracks him, but not before Kato's wife is killed. In despair, Kato attempts to remake the world using his own sorcery, forcing Yuri and his party to put him down
The game has two possible endings. In the "bad" ending, Yuri's personality and memories are erased by Nicolai's curse, and he spends the rest of his life under the care of Roger Bacon, his old friend. In the "good" ending, Yuri chooses to die so that he doesn't lose his memories and personality to the curse. He then finds himself at the beginning of the previous game. In both endings, Karin travels back to 1887 and is revealed to be Anne, Yuri's mother.
Yuri Volte Hyuga (Urmnaf "Uru" Bort Hyuga (ウルムナフ・ボルテ・ヒューガ Urumunafu Borute Hyūga, ウル) in the Japanese version)
- Age: 25
- Nationality: Japanese
- Special Ability: Fusion
- Weapon: Knuckle mounted Claws
- Class: Darkness/Changeable
- Special Accessory: Flare Brooch, halves SP consumption during fusion.
- Voice actor: Joey Capps
Returning from the first Shadow Hearts, Yuri settles in the town of Domremy after burying Alice Elliot in Zurich, Switzerland. He uses his Fusion form to scare invading soldiers away from the village, but runs into problems when Nicolai Conrad from the Vatican strikes him with the Holy Mistletoe, cursing him and diminishing his powers. He now travels with the party, hoping to regain his abilities and fight off the new evils infecting the world. His aloof and rude traits have been somewhat tempered by the loss of Alice, but are still there in many situations. Yuri is one of the characters able to have five hit areas alongside Joachim and Kurando. Yuri has the highest SP (Sanity Points) in the party. His numerous transformations along with each of their unique stats and abilities make him incredibly balanced, allowing him to fulfill any position of the party (i.e.: physical fighter, magic-user, healer, etc.)
Karin Koenig (Kallen Koenig (カレン・ケーニッヒ Karen Kēnihhi) in the Japanese version)
- Age: 25
- Nationality: German
- Special Ability: Sword Arts
- Weapon: Sabres
- Class: Fire
- Special Accessory: Anne's Cross, prevents Status/Ring abnormalities, restores HP.
- Voice actor: Jennifer Jean
An officer in the German army and descendant of a long line of Bavarian nobility, Karin first encounters Yuri at the church in Domremy, when he saves her from an errant grenade. After accompanying Nicolai to obtain the Mistletoe and watching the ensuing events, Karin joins Yuri's side. In one of the endings it shows her causing a Predestination paradox when she meets Yuri's father and sets in motion a series of events. Fiercely independent and well-mannered, she harbors a crush and later deep love for Yuri, and sticks by him in any situation. She uses swords, especially rapiers, in battle and obtains Sword Art power-up through the score of the Wagner opera Der Ring des Nibelungen. Karin does not really have a weakness nor strength. She is a balanced fighter between physical and magical, but is more toward the former.
Gepetto (ゼペット Zepetto)
- Age: 60+
- Nationality: French
- Special Ability: Marionette
- Weapon: Strings
- Class: Changeable
- Special Accessory: Silver Chair, allies protect Gepetto from incoming blows.
- Voice actor: Amos Nandy
Once a renowned showman and puppeteer known throughout Europe, Gepetto retired to the quiet village of Domremy only to become mixed up in the affairs of Yuri and Nicolai. He offers good advice, but also has a bit of a lecherous side. He uses his beautiful puppet Cornelia (named for his late daughter) to fight and channel his magic-based Marionette skills. Gepetto has the highest magic stat in the party in exchange for a weak physical and special defense. Cornelia can obtain new dresses which give her different elemental attributes by collecting Stud Cards.
Blanca (Blanc (ブランカ Buranka) in the Japanese version)
- Age: 2
- Nationality: French
- Special Ability: Manifestations
- Weapon: Whetstones
- Class: Wind
- Special Accessory: Colorful Comb, agility up during crisis.
A white wolf, and unofficial guardian of Domremy, he joins Yuri after his young owner Jeanne is killed by Sapientes Gladio. Loyal and wise, Blanca encounters other wolves throughout the world which he can fight in Wolf Bouts to raise the power of his Manifestation skills. Blanca's balanced between physical and magical attributes (though more toward the latter) like Karin along with a high speed potential.
Joachim Valentine (ヨアヒム・ヴァレンティーナ Yoahimu Varentīna)
- Age: 400+
- Nationality: Romanian (Transylvania)
- Special Ability: Muscle Arts, Joachythms
- Weapon: Anything he finds, be it boxes, pillars, statues, etc.
- Class: Earth
- Special Accessory: Gold/Prism/Electro Band, makes it easier for Joachim to turn in to Golden Bat/Invisible/Grand Papillon
- Voice actor: Francis C. Cole
After briefly appearing in the original game taunting his brother Keith, Joachim is found as the protector of the French village of Le Havre. Joachim is both a vampire and a trained wrestler who joins the party when he succeeds in defeating the mayor, who has been pestering Granny Lot for her store. He uses several forms to fight in battle, which change depending on his Joachythms. His regular form is most frequently seen; "Invisible" form lowers his chance of being targeted; "Golden Bat" form greatly raises his physical strength but eliminates his magic abilities and halves his hit point capacity, and his super hero form, "Grand Papillon" (which is French for "Butterfly"), is a powered-up version of his regular form. Joachim has the highest physical damage potential (even exceeding Yuri), but the trade-off is his slow speed, weak magic defense, and random transformations. He is also able to equip five hit areas.
Lucia (ルチア Ruchia)
- Age: 28
- Nationality: Italian
- Special Ability: Tarot Cards, Aroma Therapy
- Weapon: Fans
- Class: Darkness
- Special Accessory: Seven Stars, tarot results are always special.
A master fortune-teller as popular for her beauty as her abilities, Lucia is sent by her mistress, Carla, with the party to train her abilities. She is short-sighted, flighty, and tends to speak without thinking. Her Tarot Cards ability is risky, while her Aroma Therapy is an incredibly versatile supportive ability.
- Age: 14
- Nationality: Russian
- Special Ability: Snapshot, Albums
- Weapon: Mechanical Eggs
- Class: Water
- Special Accessory: Panoramic Lens, allows Snapshot to hit all enemies at once.
- Voice actor: Jennifer Sekiguchi
The fourth daughter of Tsar Nicholas II (voiced by Richard George) of Russia, Anastasia is outgoing, inquisitive and does whatever she wants (such as sneaking out from her castle at night and stealing snacks). However, Anastasia is the only one in her family who is suspicious of her father's adviser, Grigori Rasputin. When he frames Yuri and the party for controlling Anastasia and forcing her to attempt murder on her little brother Alexei, she joins forces with Yuri to stop Rasputin. Anastasia can use her Snapshot ability to get information on enemies and in some cases learn their abilities. She also possesses a magical stat that can rival Gepetto.
Kurando Inugami (犬神 蔵人 Inugami Kurando)
- Age: 17
- Nationality: Japanese
- Special Ability: Demon Morph
- Weapon: Katana
- Class: Light
- Special Accessory: Flare Brooch, halves SP consumption during fusion.
- Voice actor: Todd Hodges
The samurai bodyguard of the Kawashimas, Kurando, as suggested by his master, Naniwa Kawashima (川島 浪速 Kawashima Naniwa), decides to join with Yuri and party after rescuing Yoshiko, Naniwa's adopted daughter. It was told in the game that Kurando's mother, Saki, is the sister of Yuri's father which makes Kurando and Yuri cousins. Kurando is the only other character in the party unable to use crest magic, however, like Yuri he is capable of fusing into demons. He has a maximum of 5 hit areas. His second form grants him a competitive strength and unrivaled speed that not even Yuri or Blanca can match. Kurando has two fusion forms; Tsukiyomi and Jutendouji, with the latter being stronger.
- Nicolas "Nicolai" Conrad (ニコラス・コンラド Nikorasu Konrado, ニコル Nikoru) (voiced by Ardwight Chamberlain): A member of the secret society Sapientes Gladio, Nicolas desires to take over the throne of Russia with the help of his master, Rasputin. It is revealed at numerous points throughout the game that Nicolai harbors romantic feelings for Karin. Nicolai fuses himself with the fallen angel, Astaroth in order to have power to stop Asmodeus's genocidal plans, but thanks to the blundering and torture of the Japanese Dr. Hojo, he loses control and having his body taken over by the demon. Nicolai is killed by Kato after murdering Kato's love interest, Ouka.
- Nicolai is a playable character early in the game, and in the Director's Cut, returns as a playable character.
- Lenny Curtis (Rene Curtis (レニ・カーティス Rene Kātisu) in the Japanese version) (voiced by Todd Hodges): A high-ranking member of Sapientes Gladio under Nicolai, Lenny is strong and stubborn, but also somewhat slow and, as later revealed, soft-hearted. He causes many problems for the party early in the game, but seems to repent after the problems in Russia are settled. He appears in Shadow Hearts: From the New World as Johnny's butler.
- Lenny Curtis is a playable character in the Director's Cut.
- Grigori Rasputin (voiced by John Smallberries): The leader of Sapientes Gladio, Rasputin wishes to use the influence he has gained in Russia to eventually take over the world. He has made a pact with the demon Asmodeus to achieve these ends. After his plan to usurp the throne of Russia is foiled, he allows Asmodeus to take over his body and mind and tries to destroy the world. Rasputin is ultimately defeated by Yuri and dies, but not before informing Yuri of the true power of the Mistletoe's curse and Nicolai's plan to release Malice.
- Veronica Vera (ベロニカ・ベラ Beronika Bera) (voiced by Helen Storm): The sadistic subordinate and lover to Rasputin. She enjoys torturing her victims and will do anything in her power to help Rasputin achieve his goals.
- Veronica Vera is a playable character in the Director's Cut.
- Masaji Kato (加藤 政二 Katō Masaji) (voiced by Taylor Henry): An officer in the Japanese army, Kato seems to have been promoted following the death of his superior officer, Yoshiko Kawashima, in Shadow Hearts. He seeks to form an alliance that will allow Russia and Japan to become allies and win the war against China. He negotiates with Sapientes Gladio and receives the Emigre Manuscript in exchange for Japan's promise of support. With the help of the Japanese government and the Emigre Manuscript, he creates three special agents, the Mutant Apes, to assist him in his endeavours. After Ouka, one of the Mutant Apes, is killed by Nicolai, Kato decides to reverse time to one hundred years ago and create a whole new world, destroying the current one. To do so, he uses the Emigre Manuscript to summon the power of ancient Japanese gods and later turns into Susanoo, the final boss in the game, to battle Yuri. With his Mutant Apes being transformed into each of a giant sword, mirror and jewel, representing the primary Japanese virtues of valor, wisdom and benevolence. Yuri defeats Kato to stop his apocalyptic plans.
- Raiden (voiced by Michael Sorich): "Hear no evil" of the Mutant Apes. In life, he was a soldier in the Japanese army killed in the war with China. Given a second chance by Kato by becoming the first Mutant Ape, Raiden's size gives him great strength, and the battery on his back enables him to fight with powerful electrical charges.
- Hien (voiced by Bo Williams): "Speak no evil" of the Mutant Apes, and second to be created, Hien has amazing agility and cunning; combined with the special blades wielded to his arms, he is a formidable opponent. Like Raiden, Hien is a deceased soldier.
- Ouka (voiced by Georgette Rose): "See no evil" of the Mutant Apes, the most refined and advanced, and the most human, lacking the machinery of her older counterparts, Ouka is nonetheless as fierce and dangerous of a warrior as Raiden and Hien. Unlike Hien and Raiden, Ouka is a clone, and has no memories of the past. She is cloned from Kato's deceased love, Yoshiko Kawashima.
- Ouka, Hien, and Raiden are initially playable characters and become enemies later in the game.
- Jeanne (ジャンヌ Jannu): The owner of Blanca and friend of Yuri, Jeanne is murdered by Sapientes Gladio after witnessing Yuri being cursed with the Mistletoe. Her spirit takes up residence in Yuri's subconscious, where she attempts to guide him to happiness and fulfillment.
- Pierre Magimel (Pierre Mazymell (ピエール・マジメル Piēru Majimeru) in the Japanese version): A tailor, Pierre custom makes special costumes for Gepetto's puppet, Cornelia. However, he only takes a collectible called a Stud Card in payment, which usually feature muscular, near naked men holding strategically placed props.
- Gerard Magimel (Gerard Mazymell (ジェラール・マジメル Jerāru Majimeru) in the Japanese version): Pierre's brother, Gerard runs a traveling item shop from his truck. Eager to make a sale, the two seem to have the ability to travel literally anywhere, and appear in the most unlikely and secretive of places.
- The Great Gama (グラン・ガマ Guran Gama) (voiced by Michael Sorich): Joachim's teacher, Gama is a renowned wrestler and the world champion. He can be found in Southampton and the Imperial Capital, ready to teach Joachim his skills. He is the last thing standing between Joachim and the vampire's ultimate power, courtesy of a little event known as the Man Festival.
- Thomas Edward Lawrence (Edward Lawrence (エドワード・ロレンス Edowādo Rorensu) in the Japanese version): First encountered in Wales, Thomas is a mysterious man and an old acquaintance of Carla's who turns out to be a British spy investigating Sapientes Gladio. He offers information for the group on Sapientes Gladio's activities. It is revealed near the end of the game that he wishes to marry Lucia.
- Carla (カルラ Karura) (voiced by Jennifer Jean): The mistress of Lucia, Carla is an accomplished fortune-teller herself. She tutored both Lucia and Veronica in the magical arts. In her younger, more beautiful days she was once a member of Sapientes Gladio, but she fled when she realized just how violent the group was. She offers assistance, information, and healing to the party.
- Roger Bacon (ロジャー・ベーコン Rojā Bēkon) (voiced by Amos Nandy): A famous magician who is over seven-hundred years old. Once again, Roger is drawn into Yuri's affairs when he is kidnapped by Lenny. After he is freed, he provides information and transportation to the party, the latter in the form of the Bacon Jet.
- Edgar (エドガー Edogā): A clockmaker in Petrograd. He is like an uncle to Anastasia. Edgar gives Anastasia the camera that helps her acquire extra abilities, as well as the egg she uses in battle. He also assists the party in the latter half of the story.
- Jovis Abraham: A former archbishop of the Eastern Orthodox church and the founder of the true Sapientes Gladio, Jovis split with it when Rasputin corrupted its purpose, fleeing into seclusion. Now living in Goreme Valley, he agrees to help the party to put a stop to Rasputin's evil plans.
- Albert Simon (アルバート・サイモン Arubāto Saimon): The late Simon, residing as a spirit in Yuri's soul, reveals that the events of the last game were a misguided attempt to stop Sapientes Gladio and Rasputin. Later, Simon can be called upon to fully awaken the power of Amon, allowing Yuri to fuse into Neo Amon.
- Yoshiko Kawashima: The adopted daughter of Naniwa Kawashima and named for her older "sister", Yoshiko is actually a Chinese princess spirited into hiding. Yoshiko inadvertently causes trouble for the party when she is kidnapped from under Kurando's nose shortly after they arrive in Japan. She develops a certain affection for Blanca. She has the same name as Special Agent Kato's former love, who was killed in Japan during the previous game.
- Jinpachiro "Ben" Hyuga (voiced by Sean Roberts): Yuri's late father, who stopped a demon from destroying Japan roughly twenty years before the story. Like Simon, he is a spirit residing in Yuri's soul, and sealed the spirit of the Seraphic Radiance in order to stop Yuri from going insane. Helps Yuri unleash his full power with the Dark Seraphic Radiance.
- Saki Inugami (voiced by Lia Sargent): Mother of Kurando and sister of Jinpachiro, making her aunt to Yuri, Saki leads the Inugami clan and assists the party with her powers of divination and sound advice. Like Kurando and Yuri, Saki has the power to fuse.
- Alice Elliot (voiced by Georgette Rose): Yuri's lover, and Gepetto's late wife's niece, from the original Shadow Hearts. She died of the Four-Mask curse, six months before the events of Domremy. Like Albert Simon, Jeanne, and Jinpachiro, Alice's spirit now lives within Yuri's soul. She was brought back to life temporarily by the powers of the Émigré Manuscript, which Yuri used with the help of Roger Bacon.
The game was first hinted at by Japanese video game site "Quiter" in June 2003. For the sequel of Shadow Hearts the staff wanted to maintain the serious atmosphere from the prequel, while still containing punchlines as comic relief. Due to Yuri's popularity, the character returned for the sequel. The staff initially had the idea of bringing him back alongside Alice as a happily married couple, but ultimately believed that this did not fit the serious tone of the game. As a result, the plot begins with Alice dead, resulting in a negative response from the fans. Matsumi Machida, impressed with the fans' backlash regarding Yuri not being Karin's lover due to the fans' preference to the relationship between Yuri and Alice, he answered that "The fans should play the game." The theme of the game is "happiness" alluding how people may find happiness in many different ways, reflected mainly in Yuri's story.
The combat system of Shadow Hearts was revamped for Covenant, in response to criticism of the first game's mechanics. The Judgement Ring was redesigned, resulting in the addition multiple ring types and an auto mode. The combo system was implemented to make the game feel more rewarding for advanced players. The combo system increases damage outpoint significantly later in the game, to the point a staff member defeated the final boss in a short amount of time. Incorporating real time events into the game proved difficult for the staff, although they enjoyed the challenge it provided. Real actors were used for all the characters, excluding the wolf, Blanca, who is prominent in giving comic relief.
The localization from Japanese to English was done by Jeremy Blaustein who also assisted in the voice recording along with the director Richard Epcar. While the quality of the location was satisfactory, many lines of spoken dialogue and their accompanying subtitles do not reflect what the character is saying, or are left out entirely.
After the release of the original game, a director's cut version was released in Japan. The Director's Cut included:
- The Sea of Woods optional dungeon
- The Nahasu Temple Dungeon (played after the Neam Ruins)
- Veronica Vera and Rene (Lenny) Curtis as playable characters
- Extra scenes between Veronica and Lucia in Goreme Valley, the Curry men at the Yokohama Warehouses, and Lucia and Anastasia in Florence
- Panda/Kappa weapon for Yuri
- New "Beautiful Fool" dress for Cornelia
- "The Oath" scene between Yuri and Alice is prerendered
- Trailer for Shadow Hearts: From the New World
Changes also include some new music tracks, a slightly bigger Judgment Ring, and support for the PlayStation 2 HDD.
Yoshitaka Hirota and Yasunori Mitsuda returned to compose the music, and were joined by Kenji Ito. The original soundtrack was released by Team Entertainment in Japan on March 24, 2004 as a two-disc set under the name of Shadow Hearts II Original Soundtracks The ending theme, titled GETSURENKA ~ Ending sung by Mio Isayama, was composed by Yoshitaka Hirota and the lyrics were written by Kumiko Hasegawa. The music tracks exclusive to the Director's Cut version of the game were later released in Japan on the Shadow Hearts Special Sound CD which was included as part of the Shadow Hearts: From the New World Premium Box.
Shadow Hearts: Covenant has received positive critical response for having an innovative combat system, high-quality graphics and soundtrack, powerful storyline, and unique characters and atmosphere. IGN critic Jeremy Dunham awarded the game a 9.1 out of 10, calling it "the perfect sequel" which "deserves to be in every role-playing fan's personal library". It was named IGN's RPG Vault PS2 Game of the Year for 2004. According to an unnamed Nautilus program director, by 2005 the game had sold 120,000 units in Japan and around the same amount in the United States.
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