Hello all! Megan Highwind here! So this week I have decided to write an article about a couple of games that I loved but that did not get the attention they deserved. With every console generation there are thousands of games that get released. While this is a good thing because it keeps a variety of titles around for players to choose from, it makes it a lot easier to pass over an amazing title without a second thought. Therefore, I wanted to bring to your attention two fantastic titles that you may have passed over and telling you that you need to play them! This time around I have chosen to highlight Shadow Hearts: Covenant and Catherine as my games that you should play but may not have.
First up is Shadow Hearts: Covenant. This insanely good title came from Midway and Nautilus back in 2004 for the PlayStation 2. When I picked this title up I had no idea what to expect. I had not played the first Shadow Hearts game and decided to try it on a whim when I was at a GameStop one day and I am glad I did. This game takes place directly after the events of the first Shadow Hearts game, at the beginning of World War I. Soldiers from Germany are trying to take the town of Domremy in France, but are not able to because it is being protected by the likes of a demon. The demon, Yuri, takes out the entire German force except for one woman named Karin who goes back to her superiors to let them know what happened. From there she is sent with a priest named Nicholai in order to take the town from the demon. When they arrive Yuri tries to stop them from taking the town and gets cursed, unable to use his powers to protect the town from Nicholai and the Germans, while Karin realizes that her superiors’ ideals may not be what she thought. Karin ends up joining up with Yuri in order to get his powers back to take the town back and stop the evil forces that are surrounding the destruction of the towns in the area. During the journey, the two meet an incredibly alluring set of characters that create many plot twists and turns and keep the game going so that it never once feels boring or stale. The story focuses on the main characters, but also focuses on the stories of the supporting characters so that you not only get to know the stories of Yuri and Karin, but the stories of the other characters that come into their lives along the way. Not to mention, the ending of the game is amazing. It is a fitting end that gripped my heart and just squeezed and I will freely admit that I cried…a lot.
The game has a level of darkness about its story and characters that is not immediately apparent, but as more is revealed about them and their lives, becomes part of the draw of the game. While keeping to this dark tone, the game also does a great job of adding bits of humor and excitement to level out the sadness. The characters themselves are so varied and their voice acting and appearance are so well done that by the end of the game it is hard not to care about what happens to every single one of them. Not one character that I encountered in this game made me want to pull my hair out, which is saying something since I will admit that I tend to hate at least one character in every single game I play. Going along with the voice acting, the music in this game is also well done. As stated earlier, since the game has a darker feel to it, the music needs to match that. The songs that Yoshitaka Hirota and Yasunori Mitsuda made for this game fit perfectly. Depending on the feel of the situation the characters are placed in, the music can immediately change from a sad organ theme to a pounding rock hit. The art direction in this game follows suit. The theme of desolation and destruction that people think of when we think of war carries into the look of the towns and cities that the crew goes through. It also appears in the characters. Their faces convey what they are feeling and the way they act and move help to draw the players in further. Just when you think you have a character completely figured out, they will do something to surprise you and that is part of what I love about this game. The final thing that makes this game amazing to me is the battle system. The judgment ring system was unlike anything I had played before. Basically, the players are given a wheel looking thing that has a section of the wheel highlighted and whenever your cursor moved through that section you press the X button. If you hit the Strike Zone, the tiny red zone at the end of a white hit zone, you cause extra damage. You can customize the judgment ring to add more sections to the wheel. This helps you get more hits, but it also makes it harder to hit. There are also status ailments that can affect how the Judgment ring spins, be it faster, slower, backwards, etc. The final thing that makes the battle system great is no two characters Judgment Rings are the same. They have different upgrades that change their attacks and power. Finally, Yuri and Kurando, the two demon type characters, can transform into their demon selves and unleash a whole new level of pain onto your foes. I love this game. Without a doubt, it is on my list as one of the best games ever. Everything about this game is awesome, so go play it!
The other title that was unexpectedly brilliant is the PS3 title, Catherine. Catherine is a weird game. That is definitely the first thing that I thought when I picked up this title. Atlus released this game in 2011 and I was extremely hesitant to pick this game up when I saw it in the store. I saw the cover and immediately thought it was some sort of Japanese porn game and that I should steer clear. But, the more videos I saw for the game the more I wanted to play it and it was way beyond what I originally thought it would be. Catherine is a title that is unlike any other, which is hard to do when there are millions upon billions of games floating around in the world. The game is about a man named Vincent who is dating a woman named Katherine. Katherine and Vincent have been dating for a while and Katherine wants Vincent to take things to the next level by proposing and starting a life together. Vincent is terrified by this idea and decides to make the brilliant decision to go drink his troubles away. As you can expect, things do not go very well for the inebriated Vincent. He ends up sleeping with a woman named Catherine. When Vincent wakes up, he loses it. He cannot decide whether he wants to be with Katherine or Catherine and is stuck with intense nightmares about what direction he should take his life in. Vincent discusses this issue with his pals at their favorite bar entitled the Stray Sheep, which is where you are allowed to talk with players around you, check emails, drink, etc. In his sleep, Vincent is changed into a sheep and finds himself stuck in a room with a bunch of other sheep and by talking to them realizes some interesting things about those surrounding him. In order for Vincent to wake up the next day, he has to answer a question and complete a puzzle. The puzzles are the main gameplay aspect that you encounter. Basically, you are stuck pulling and pushing blocks around in order to climb higher up a tower to reach the top and not die. At the bottom of the tower chasing you are different fears that Vincent has in his life. The blocks that you climb can crumble, be made of ice, shoot out spikes or cause other varying hazards that Vincent has to avoid in order to make it to the top. These puzzles are not easy. In fact, they get so exceedingly difficult that sometimes I was worried I would never complete them. However, since the puzzles were so difficult, they gave me a huge sense of relief when I did complete them, even if it took me two hours to do so. The puzzles are hard, but varying enough that they still manage to be fun. Not to mention, the supplemental gameplay elements add to the game so that you are not stuck doing puzzles constantly.
The supplemental elements of the gameplay, as well as the music and the good graphics, add to the plot. The game deals with some issues that most games would not dare touch, cheating and commitment phobia. During the course of the game, you make choices that may not seem to mean much. Who you talked to at the Stray Sheep at night, whether you emailed Katherine back, whether you checked out those dirty pictures Catherine sent you, and other things like that they seem insignificant at the time. The story is deep and compelling; Vincent is truly in a predicament and you can feel the weight that it is putting on his shoulders and how hurt the two women in his life are by his lack of decision. While dealing with these intense issues, it also manages to add humor to keep the game from becoming too serious. You are never sure whether you want to feel sorry for Vincent or if you want him to fall off the tower every time he climbs, but that is part of the draw of the game. There are no black and white answers in the game. Obviously Vincent should have never cheated, but his answers to questions afterwards fall into a gray area that keeps you guessing. A decision that you make you may think means one thing could actually cause a different outcome. You quickly come to realize that Catherine much deeper than a puzzle game on steroids. It is a game that deals with a real world issue and brings it to the forefront. This game is different, entertaining, and really fun to play. It brings together so many different elements in a really new and interesting way. Catherine is an amazing mix of different styles of gaming that you should definitely find and play.
Shadow Hearts: Covenant and Catherine are my first two choices for games that you should play but may have missed. Are there any games off the top of your head that you played that did not get the recognition they deserved? If you’ve played these titles do you agree with my choices; if not have I gotten you interested in trying them? Please let us know what you think in the comments below and as always thanks for reading. Until next time!
-Megan Highwind has left the party.