Aruze has announced a new role-playing game for the PlayStation 2 titled Shadow Hearts. SNK subsidiary Sacnoth, whose previous works include Koudelka on the PlayStation, is developing the game.
The game takes place in Paris during the spring of 1913, when a priest was found dead with a large portion of his body missing. An investigator discovered that the priest was visiting the city with a young girl, but she was nowhere to be found and was declared missing. A month later, inside a train travelling through the plains of China, Japanese military troops were transporting a little girl under heavy surveillance and guard. During the journey, an English nobleman attacks the guards and attempts to kidnap the girl, and that is when the main hero of the game, Urm, comes to the rescue. Urm is a half-Japanese, half-Russian 24-year-old guy who is a so-called harmonixer--he has the ability to merge with monsters through fusion. The little girl is an exorcist named Alice, and her powers are targeted by many forces. The antagonist of the game is the English nobleman Roger Bacon, who will appear in the game in several occasions in pursuit of Alice and her powers.
Much like in traditional console RPGs, the battles in Shadow Hearts are randomly generated. Additionally, the game uses a system called "judgement ring." Under this system, when the player selects the attack command, a spinning wheel with markers called the hit areas will appear on the character. Pressing the controller button when the cursor meets the hit area will successfully execute chain combos and critical hits. This is the same with magic spells as well as items. The judgement ring may also appear on the field map.
Shadow Hearts for the PS2 is scheduled for a release sometime this year in Japan. There hasn't been any word yet on a North American release.