According to the ESRB, this game contains: Blood and Gore, Violence

Parents might want to provide a little guidance in this one, or may even want to skip it altogether since the game contains large doses of demonology and eastern mysticism. While most kids who are able to read at the level of writing in Shadow Hearts should have no problems with the themes presented, very conservative parents may object to the subject matter on religious grounds. As for the other possibly taboo subjects, there was very little blood or gore anywhere in the game except for the CG scenes, and even those are quite tame by todays standards. There is some mild sexual innuendo in both hetero and homo flavors (approximately locker-room level) but no graphic sex at all.

Text accompanying audio: Partially. The game features text for everything except CG and select multimedia/hand-drawn cutscenes. Approximately 85% of necessary text is provided.

Gamers in general can expect an excellently designed, fast-moving RPG that doesnt stray too far from the expected formula. Most gamers will be able to complete the game in about 20-25 hours, with an additional 10-15 hours if you are interested in prolonging the life of the game by doing the optional sidequests.

Hardcore RPG fans will find a lot to like here, as long as they dont mind a fairly linear quest. The characters are above average for the most part, and there are plenty of secrets to uncover. The battle system is a very welcome addition and prevents the drowsiness that sets in after pressing X to confirm for the 10,000th time like most other standard RPGs. Graphically, its not as nice as Final Fantasy X but it still manages to hold its own.

Soundtrack importers will definitely want to look into the Shadow Hearts release. Its a moody, ethnic double-disc set with some real gems on it, in my opinion. The package is also very nicely produced and contains some pictures of real-life areas used for some of the games backdrops and influences.

People who are not RPG fans might want to give Shadow Hearts a try. It trims away a lot of the dull busywork that non-RPGers tend to abhor, and the Judgement Ring helps to add a level of active involvement not usually found in games of this type. Its RPG-lite for those who like characterization and story, but not the tedium that usually accompanies it.

Brad Gallaway
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