2001's Shadow Hearts was a surprisingly deep and full-featured RPG that won a lot of gamers over. A sequel, Shadow Hearts 2, was released in Japan, but US fans haven't known until recently whether they'd actually get to play an English version of the game or not. Thankfully, Midway has answered their cries, and the company will localize the game and publish it later this year.
Renamed Shadow Hearts: Covenant, the game will again cast you as Yuri, the hero from the first game. As misfortune would have it, a nasty curse has robbed Yuri of his powers, so he'll have to regain them and stop an evil group from taking over the world at the same time. Sounds like a tall order. Shadow Hearts: Covenant's development team and budget were much larger than those of the first game, so fans can expect even more of what they enjoyed previously with a lot of extra window dressing, too (there are more than six hours of FMV, for instance).
The innovative judgment ring from Shadow Hearts will get a considerable upgrade in Covenant, since you'll be able to customize it in a number of ways. The judgment ring is a timing-based system that makes you time a button press so you stop a moving marker while it's inside a hit zone on the ring. You'll be able to widen the hit areas, add more of them, and even add status effects like poison as you level up throughout the game, which should give the combat in the game even more variety.
Shadow Hearts: Covenant is looking to be a very lengthy, deep, and satisfying RPG experience for diehard fans of the genre. That the game now has a US publisher, and that Midway is devoting so much attention to the product, should make anxious fans of the original game rest easy. Shadow Hearts: Covenant is scheduled for release in the fourth quarter, so look for more information soon. In the meantime, check out our preview of the Japanese version of the game.