Profile of Shadow Hearts: From the New World

The latest in an unusual Japanese RPG series is garnering positive reviews, as well as a loyal fanbase

Shadow Hearts: From the New World

PlayStation 2

Nautilus, Aruze/XSEED


Toward the late '90s, Hiroki Kikuta had both a name and a dream. His fame came from the soundtracks he'd composed for such high-profile games as The Secret of Mana and its almost-yet-never-quite localized sequel, Seiken Denetsu 3. His dream was to do something of his own, for once.

The Square he worked in was in overdrive, and was no longer the company he once knew — so Kikuta grabbed a few coworkers, jumped ship, and landed at SNK. He formed a new SNK second-party of sorts, named Sacnoth, and set to work on a couple of games for the NeoGeo Pocket, and a couple of Parasite Eve-influenced RPGs for the PlayStation. The first game, Koudelka, got so-so reviews though was praised for its CG work, music, and atmosphere. Then, around halfway through work on the pseudo-sequel, Sacnoth's parent company, SNK, went kablooey.

The details are legend at this point; suffice that pachinko manufacturer Aruze had recently bought out SNK, promising to offer financial backing. But SNK wasn't a priority for Aruze. Weirdly, through the ensuing firestorm, Aruze hung onto Sacnoth and allowed them to finish their follow-up — though by this point, Hiroki Kikuta had left again, for undisclosed reasons. Speculation suggests he doesn't like working in the midst of chaos.

Shadow Hearts was more of a traditional RPG than its predecessor, and was even stranger and darker. It was set in an alternate early twentieth century, in which magic was an established fact. The game painted a somber and rather gruesome picture of this world, then observed it with a mix of fatalism and dark humor.