Though most of the PlayStation2's RPG offerings thus far have been less than stellar, companies have continued to announce more and more RPGs for the system. One of the newest comes from a group of ex-Square employees. Known as Shadow Hearts, the newest offering from Sacnoth (best known for Koudelka) looks to bring PlayStation Final Fantasy-style gameplay to Sony's newest game system.
Shadow Hearts first betrays the team's Square origins with the general map design in the game, which borrow the common PlayStation tradition of three-dimensional characters overlayed on a pre-rendered two-dimensional map. The team claims, however, that the advanced power of the PlayStation 2 will show in the extreme detail in the characters, the backgrounds, and the audio in the game. The battle system borrows from the common Final Fantasy, featuring active time battle based actions. However, attacks can be timed, and up to four critical hits per turn can be made if the player's timing is good enough. Special attacks, such as monster transformations, can also be used. Rather than using magic points, however, these attacks use "Sanity Points." When these points run out, the character will go into a berserker rage attacking both enemies and allies.
The storyline has not been completely revealed yet, but it will revolve around a character known as Ur, a 24-year-old kid wandering around China in the early 20th century. Ur is able to fuse with enemy monsters and use their abilities in battle. He soon runs into a girl known as Aris Eliot, who is pursued by an Englishman who wants her for purposes unknown. Chances are it has to do with her powers of communication with spiritual forces. As usual, this is only a small part of a much larger conflict that will reveal itself to the player in time.
Shadow Hearts will be available sometime in 2001, though a more specific release date or estimated retail price are not yet available.