A trilogy of role-playing games set in an alternate history of the early 20th century, mixing gritty realism with fantastic elements and heavy Lovecraftian elements. The first two games take place in Asia and Europe shortly before and during World War I, while the third game puts the player smack-dab in mid-to-late 1920s America... sort of. The original Shadow Hearts had the misfortune of being released just one week before the insanely popular Final Fantasy X, but the series has still enjoyed its share of fans over the years and has developed into something of a Cult Classic.Koudelka, while not a Shadow Hearts game in name, was the first to be released and exists in the same continuity as the Shadow Hearts games. It was originally developed as the Magnum Opus of Hiroki Kikuta (who previously worked as the composer for Secret of Mana) and a radical new take on the stagnant RPG genre, but Executive Meddling forced him to change the game from Resident Evil style action-horror to Final Fantasy style traditional Turn-Based Combat. The result was a mess (teaching us, among other things, why Survival Horror games should not have Random Encounters) with Kikuta resigning in protest after the game's completion.Set in Wales in 1898, the game tells the story of Koudelka, a young gypsy girl with supernatural powers who is drawn to the mysterious Nemeton Monastery after experiencing a series of troubling visions. Along with adventurer/thief Edward Plunkett and bishop James O'Flaherty, they must delve into the dark history of Nemeton Monastery and stop the malevolent force that permeates its halls.After original developer Sacnoth was taken over by Aruze Entertainment, the Sacnoth team (sans Kikuta) created Shadow Hearts as a Spiritual Successor to Koudelka, set in the same universe but shifting the genre to pure Eastern RPG.The first two games star Yuri Volte Hyuga, part Genre SavvyBadassIneffectual Loner and part goofyIdiot HeroButt Monkey who just can't get a break. He also happens to be a Harmonixer, which means that he can fuse with the souls of the Cosmic Horrors that he defeats and turn into various superpowered monsters. He would rather just coast through life beating up anyone stupid enough to give him lip, except in Shadow Heartsthere's a voice in his head that tells him to do stuff and isn't too appreciative if Yuri fails to fall in line. This leads him to rescue a young cleric named Alice Elliot, who the Big Bad needs to power his Doomsday Device, and the plot leads on from there.The sequel, Shadow Hearts: Covenant, sees Yuri's former powers sealed away by the new bad guys in town and introduces Karin Koenig as his new companion. They seek to find a cure for the Mistletoe Curse that Yuri has been afflicted with while struggling against the Illuminati-like cult Sapientes Gladio, who naturally want to Take Over the World. Covenant later got an Updated Re-release under the name Shadow Hearts II: Director's Cut which was unfortunately never released outside of Japan. Curiously, with a little bit of hackwork you can unlock some of the English-translated Director's Cut content in PAL versions of Covenant.The third game, Shadow Hearts: From The New World, could almost be seen as a Gaiden Game (despite the fact it stays within continuity) in that it replaces Yuri with intrepid Kid Detective Johnny Garland, moves the setting to America (refreshingly, notEagleland) and gives the fusion powers to a scantily cladMagical Native American woman named Shania. She's searching for "Lady", the StoicCyber Punk woman who wiped out her entire tribe, and Johnny signs up for the ride after developing the ability to create a Laser Blade out of a powerful (but evil) force known as Malice.For a very long time, the games in the series were notoriously hard to find. Recently, however, the first two were reprinted, making them rather easy to find at any good EB Games or Gamestop. From The New World is hard to find in stores but simplicity itself to order off the Internet. Good luck finding Koudelka, though.Not to be confused with the Kingdom Hearts games which, while featuring shadows, are not related to this series.
The series provides examples of:
Action Commands: The Judgment Ring. Hit the target areas, your attack succeeds. Hit the even smaller Critical area, and the attack is stronger. Hit outside of the areas, and you just wasted a turn.
Affably Evil: Albert Simon the Big Bad of the first game, is quite a cordial fellow aside from his motives. He harbors no malice toward the heroes, even after they defeat him — he sees the whole conflict as nothing more than an honest difference of opinion.
The villain of part 2, Kato, is also like this. He and Yuri fight to the death, but even then, he considers Yuri his friend.
All Men Are Perverts: Edward traveled to Nemeton Monastery because he heard the owner had hookers there. Seriously. Also, Yuri briefly contemplates "taking advantage of" Alice while she's passed out after he meets her.
He would have attempted it if she hadn't started talking in her sleep.
He's still at it, peeking up Karin's shirt after her costume switch, getting distracted by Lucia's dance - oddly, he's repulsed by Veronica
All There in the Manual: Each game has an in-game reference library on every single character, item and monster in the game. You get to keep it in the New Game+, making bosses slightly easier as you know now thier weaknesses.
You actually need to look in the library and look at certain key items to do some side quests. Quizzes, anyone?
Always Check Behind the Chair: used surprisingly often. On the plus side, you'll get a little ? over your head when there's an item hidden nearby. Plot-important items have a ! instead.
Except for a certain special item to be found in Dehuai's tower, which gives Yuri a little heart over his head.
Check behind the tree in the Graveyard in the first game after defeating Yuri's dad to get his ultimate armor.
Arbitrary Headcount Limit: You can only ever have three party members at one time in Shadow Hearts and four in Covenant and New World. In the original game, you can only switch out characters if you visit them or talk to a certain character. It's not required, Yuri can't leave the party, and you only need Alice to do one sidequest. The others are optional.
The Atoner: Lenny in From The New World, perhaps best shown by his solemn look as Shania describes how Nicolai unleashed the world's Malice from Apoina Tower in Covenant.
Awesome, but Impractical: If you use the New Game+ in Covenant, you have access to the Seraphic Fusion at the very start - and Anastasia comes with all of her abilities. This should include Power Cannon and Euthanasia. However; using the powerful fusions at the first boss fight will drain your SP quickly, and using many of these ultra-powerful abilities normally restricted to the end of the game will drain your MP.
The first game subverts this, only giving you Yuri's fusions and the library. Until you have enough SP, you can't use higher-level fusions.
Johnny's awaker/malice form carries over to New Game+, but since his SP pool is extremely low, he won't be able to use it for a long time. Also, both of the awaker's special moves (one of which is earned only after a LONG sidequest) both have high MP costs.
Also, Lucia and Ricardo both have a skill that give all party members save for them the Third Key effect AKA allowing three spins of the Attack Judgment Ring. But you only get the skill late in the game, after completing their side quests. You can do it first, but the MP cost is HIGH. How much? 750 MP. According to Ricardo's leveling chart, he needs to be at least Level 65 to pull this off. By that point, the Bonus Boss should be a cakewalk! Oh, wait, both him and the Final Boss have a skill where they remove all buffs and get a extra turn! (There is a item that reduces MP cost, but it's still too high to actually use in battle.)
Back from the Dead: In all four games, someone attempts to resurrect someone else using the Emigre Manuscript. How deeply this affects the plot varies from game to game.
Badass Normal: Margarete from the original game is the only playable character in the entire series to have no magical abilities whatsoever, all she has is conventional weapons.
Bad Powers, Good People: Heavily implied in the game world. Characters have made pact(s) with demons or use the powers of Malice, but aren't always bad people. Lenny has made a pact with a demon. However, you learn that he is not a bad person at all!
Battle Butler: Lenny. In Covenant, he's part of the Terrible Trio, but in From the New World he serves as Johnny's butler. With one phone call, he races to his master's side- even halfway around the world- to deliver a Megaton Punch to his enemies. Now that's dedication.
Well, technically he doesn't actually turn up and punch the enemy, he just fires an energy bomb from his fist. Halfway around the world. The reason he can do this is because he signed a contract with a demon called Godhand.
Belated Happy Ending: Very belated. Shadow Hearts has two possible endings, one where Alice lives, and one where Alice dies. Unfortunately the sequel Covenant confirms that the second ending is canon. However Word of God says that the 'good' ending of Covenant (where Yuri dies and is reunited with Alice back at the very start of their adventure) is also canon, and means that Yuri can now save Alice. Put simply; bad ending SH 1 > good ending SH 2 > good ending of SH 1 is the cannonical order. So Yuri and Alice do finally get their happy ending.
BFS: Frank's homemade ninja swords. Kurando's final Demon Morph (the Ogre Spirit Jutendouji) also wields one.
Bishōnen: Covenant's Kurando a thousand fold. To hammer home the point, his first Demon Morph is Tsukiyomi, a goddess.
Which is even funnier, considering the actual mythological diety is male.
Also Nicolai, though to a slightly lesser extent.
Bishonen Line: Yuri's most powerful transformation is basically a glowing version of his original form. Subverted somewhat in that his weakest Light and Dark transformations in the second game are also basically him with a different skin color.
Bittersweet Ending: Canon ending of Shadow Hearts (Yuri saves the world but loses the one he loved. There is an apocryphal Good Ending where she lives, but Covenant relies on Alice dying.), Covenant (Yuri commits suicide to save his soul from being wiped clean, and creates a time paradox that takes him back to the start of the first game.) and the bad ending of From The New World (Shania is overtaken by the power of Malice.)
There are some hints, at least, that the first two games are supposed to canonically add up to a happy ending: While most believe Yuri died at the end of Covenant's good ending (and assumed canon ending due to the poor quality of the bad ending) and the scene following was merely Yuri living out his fond memories in his soul as he promised Alice earlier, some argue he used the Asuka Stone Platform to travel time like the rest of the group for a second shot at his life. This interpretation is further supported by a line from Roger Bacon in From The New World claiming he has never seen an Emigre ritual. While the bittersweet ending is more commonly believed, neither interpretation should be discounted, as there is ample evidence for both.
Body Horror: So, so very much with the enemies in Koudelka. All of them are shambling abominations comprised of bits and pieces of some 200 people and countless animals sacrificed in a botched resurrection ritual from the Emigre Manuscript and placed in an unholy cauldron from Welsh myth that could reanimate the dead.
The enemies of the entire series generally end up being this instead of the usual RPG fare. Instead of generic mooks, you fight disembodied souls and finger legged spieders.
Boring, but Practical: Yuri's fire fusions in Covenant. He learns the ability 'Energy Charge' which triples physical damage for the next turn. Yuri can switch to a stronger or a elemental-superior fusion and deal some major damage, making a good number of bosses jokes. From The New World subverts this, due to the Stock System. Using Energy Charge and the magic equivalent 'Gathering' on bosses will potentially wipe your party out when they get to act.
Boobs of Steel: Karin in Covenant is the strongest physical fighter among the three playable female characters (the other two are casters), and the bustiest. Though honestly it's easier to list female characters in Covenant who aren't rocking large breasts. Shania in From The New World even more so, being both well endowed and the Action Girl shapeshifter of that game.
Played for laughs when Johnny first meets Shania. Follow the arrow.
Book Ends: Shadow Hearts begins and ends with a train ride; The first half of Covenant begins and ends at Apoina Tower; From The New World begins and ends with Shania standing atop a skyscraper (if you got the bad ending).
Koudelka begins and ends in the same place.
Bonus Boss: Every game has quite a few Bonus Dungeon(s) and pretty much every one has a boss to kill, which usually grants a character his/her Infinity+1 Sword, unique accessory, a final skill, or even open new quests.
Boss Rush: Some of the Pit Fight missions revolve around this, often with certain restrictions. The first game has you fight them normally...but with only one character. The latter two games will give you a random limit of party members, but with certain conditions.
Brainwashed and Crazy: Yuri falls victim to this in the first game after the Malice consumes him. The rest of the party have to fight him to snap him out of it.
Also happens in battle, as a character loses all of his/her's SP. They do random stuff (Blanca evens pees on someone for 1 damage.), and they don't receive EXP at battle's end if the battle ends with the character still berserk. SP is refilled all the way at the end of the battle, so the SP restoration items (Pure Leaf, Pure Seed, etc.) can only be used in battle. Also, ( To learn the third skill of the most powerful fusions of the first game, Yuri must go Berserk.)
Anyone kissed by Lady falls to this if they don't find a way to purge the Malice.
Broke Your Arm Punching Out Cthulhu: Gameplay-wise, almost any enemy can do this to your party if you neglect the Sanity Meter. For every member that ends up in Berserk mode at the end of the battle, your experience is stolen away in a drunken haze of trippy music and loss of character control. Sure, you regain your mental health at the end, but give a couple important battles missing from their record, and your berserking party members Can't Catch Up.
But Not Too Foreign: Yuri Hyuga has a Russian mother and a Japanese father, which makes his first name (at leas the Woolseyfied version) into a Gender Blender; "Yuri" is a popular masculine Russian name, but also a popular feminine Japanese name. (He's actually half German, not half Russian, but his mother was carrying falsified papers identifying her as a Russian envoy. Long story.)
Canon Discontinuity: The Koudelka manga was written as a direct sequel of the game, and gave a lot of extra detail on the backstory of Roger Bacon and the Emigre Manuscript... but events in Shadow Hearts proceeded to make various events in the manga impossible (specifically, Koudelka would have been very pregnant with Halley and may even have miscarried from some of the stuff she went through, or should have been carrying him around), meaning any contribution it has to canon is rather suspect.
Casual Danger Dialog: The party, Yuri even more so, have a habit of deadpanning villainous monologues: the more hammy or ridiculous, the better.
Cat Folk: The first village in Shadow Hearts is filled with demonic versions of these. However they can appear human to lure unsuspecting visitors in.
From The New World has them as well, but they're fairly normal and even live in Hollywood.
Chain of Deals: Covenant has a long trading quest inspired by an old Japanese legend about a man who started with a single piece of straw and traded it until he was rich. The quest starts with the main character being told this story and then being given a piece of straw. Depending on how you trade, you can get useless stuff, a squidload of money, or you manage to save the world from a horrible plague (oh, and you get Lucia's Infinity+1 Sword and the Dating Outifit as well). Good job!
Character Magnetic Team: To Yuri's and Johnny's annoyance, they has a talent for attracting the most bizarre of characters.
Chekhov's Gun: Koudelka's amulet that she loses while scaling the monestary's roof. Find it or else.
Cherry Tapping: Polishing off enemies with Mao's "Cat Touch" wins you special coins that can be used to advance her sidequest.
Chess Motifs: Koudelka's "Formation" screen opts to depict the three main characters as chess pieces. Koudelka is a Queen, Edward is a Knight, and James is (of course) a Bishop.
The Queen's Garden in Covenant has a puzzle around using Chess pieces. The keys to doors are even chess pieces!
Clap Your Hands If You Believe: During the ending of Covenant, the party is stuck in the Field of Takamagahara, a realm beyond time and space. Just before he dies, Kato tells the party that if they want to escape, they must pray fervently to return to the world that their hearts wish for. The only catch is that they cannot return to the immediate present. And so, the party prays together for one last time, and Yuri watches his True Companions fade away. Yuri's fate depends on what choice you made before the last two battles of the game.
Cool Old Guy: Zhuzhen from the first game, and Gepetto from the second. Frank could also count. (He's 50)
Combination Attack: Introduced in Covenant. The player must issue the "combo" command to have a party member join up with another. All four members can link attacks together, to rack up an insane amount of hits and damage to the enemy. The fourth character, if he or she has enough MP, gets to use a sort of finishing move called Combo Magic, based upon the elemental alignments of the characters participating in battle.
Further expanded in From the New World, however instead of moving characters next to each other, they must build up an energy meter (Stock) and characters can launch two attacks before the next character continues the combo. Combo Magic is still available, but it now needs both the MP cost and the character's Stock at Level 2.
Comically Missing the Point: When Garan attempts to scare the party in Covenant, they're actually more interested on how he's levitating, rather than what he's saying - or that he's trapped them in purgatory and hell. Yuri really wanted that pillow of his...
Itself a reference within a reference, since Sacnoth (the company) is named after Sacnoth, a sword in a short story by real-life author Edward Plunkett, Lord Dunsany ("The Fortress Unvanquishable, Save for Sacnoth"). This same author shows up as one of the main characters of the game and and even fathers a character for the next game.
Also Joachim's The Dark Tower, which has the staff of Azure causing a ruckus. The logo of the same company pops up during the Man Festival.
Cute Monster Girl: Every one of Shania's transformations. Especially the earth one. Hilda could count as well, if she's not trying to force it.
Cynicism Catalyst: Both Yuri Hyuga and Masaji Kato lose someone they love in Shadow Hearts. Covenant focuses on how they both deal with this tragedy in different ways: Yuri eventually learns to overcome his grief and regains his will to live, while Kato begins as the stronger of the two but eventually descends into nihilism.
Dark Is Not Evil: The series rather loves this trope. Yuri, the main character of both 1 and 2, is, at worst, a Type 2 Anti-Hero with tendencies towards full-blown heroism. At best, he's just The Hero. He's Dark element and happy to be that way. Shania, the main heroine of 3, is a Proud Warrior Race Girl, Magical Native American, and ranges across the same moral spectrum as Yuri, going from Type 2 Antihero to simply The Hero. She's Dark aligned. For side characters, Lucia, from Covenant, is a gorgeous Italian woman, a bellydancing fortune teller, cheerful and loving, and a Dumb Blonde without being, well, blonde. She's Dark aligned. Also, while the Dark abilities constantly receive names like "Evil Edge", they are used by both heroes and villains with no comment. You even use a pack of freaking demons as spell sources in Covenant, and they never betray your trust at all!
The series also averts this trope as well- many of the villains, like Rasputin and Gilbert are Dark aligned. However, while their powers may be Dark aligned, this has no affect by itself on their evil- they're evil and Dark, not evil because they're Dark. So Dark Is Not Affecting Your Morality would be the best way to state the use of this trope in Covenant.
Deal with the Devil: The Soul Pact. Albert Simon controls Amon, Rasputin gains the power of Asmodeus and Nicolai claims Astaroth for his own use. A strong level of willpower is required to control the power without succumbing to Demonic Possession: Rasputin gets possessed after his Villainous Breakdown, Nicolai's will is broken through torture, while Yuri kicks Amon's ass and claims its power for his own, subjugating the demon through sheer Badassitude.
Demonic Dummy: Each Shadow Hearts game has at least one sidequest revolving around one of these, always taking place in an abandoned, haunted mansion called the Doll House.
Which leads the character involved with said quest to obtain their ultimate weapons. Alice and Gepetto's are gained at the end, but Ricardo can get his early if Johnny takes enough photos of a cockroach enemy.
Not really: real life Rasputin was more of a misblamed scapegoat than a devil, although he did look creepy, and he was working his way into the Tsar's inner circle. (Chances are, though, even if he wasn't assassinated the rebellions would have still happened.)
Did Not Get The Guy: Poor Karin doesn't ever get to really be with Yuri. Then again given that she's actually his time travelling mother, then that's probably a good thing. Doesn't make it any less heartbreaking to watch.
And Dehuai in the first game. He constantly comments on Alice's beauty, practically drools over her during a torture session, and you find a naughty magazine in his tower. Make of it what you will.
In addition to the hint of both of Roger and Dehuai's pervertedness, Said magazine was needed for an extra sidequest by giving it to Roger. And there was this conversation. God knows what actually made that happen...
Roger: (While flipping through the magazine) "This page can't be opened!"
Yuri: "Wasn't me!! It was like that when I got it!"
Not to mention creepy accupuncturist Meiyuan from the first game, who more than takes advantage of his position when it comes to the male characters. Even underage Halley is not safe from his not-so-carefully concealed perversions.
Dirty Old Woman: Kurando's mother in Covenant makes incest jokes about him to the girl with a crush on him, then gives her a very revealing kimono...
And she tells Karin that Yuri is like her brother Ben "inside and out" - part of her thinly-veiled plot to hook her up with him, no doubt.
Distressed Damsel: Alice in Shadow Hearts is this throughout parts of the game, Somewhat justified because she is physically very weak and of quite a delicate nature. She gets stronger halfway through and even solos The Dragon!
Early-Installment Weirdness: Koudelka and Shadow Hearts. Shadow Hearts makes the Genre Shift towards full on RPG but it's far far darker than Covenant and From the New World. While Shadow Hearts always keeps its rather grotesque artstyle full of fridge horror, it's far more defined in Shadow Hearts than in Covenant and From the New World, which focus more on the humour.
Earn Your Happy Ending: Both a meta and in-universe example when it comes to the first game. The basic ending without doing an optional sidequest is the bad ending which Shadow Hearts Covenant treats as canon. At the end of Covenant, Yuri is transported back in time to the beginning of the first game with full knowledge of all that transpired and according to Shadow Hearts 3, succeeded in earning his happy ending, the good ending of 1.
Enemy Without: Fox Face, a Nigh Invulnerable assassin the Four Masks (manifestations of the demons Yuri absorbs who are extremely pissed off about it) summon if you don't check your Malice buildup. And dear God will he make you regret it.
Eldritch Abomination: Meta-God in the first game. Amon, Asmodeus, and Astaroth, the "three gods of destruction" in Covenant, arguably. LOTS of them in From the New World.
Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors: In every game, your party will eventually consist of one character of each element, plus one non-elemental. The "hurts more" pairings are Fire/Water, Earth/Wind, and Dark/Light. There are spells that change your physical attacks to one of the specifics, as well.
Empty Shell: Get the bad ending in Covenant and Yuri becomes this.
Evil Counterpart: Between a henchman and a non-core party member for a change. Veronica is this to Lucia.
Evil Feels Good: Professor Gilbert. And he's wants to share it with the world...
Executive Meddling: Hiroki Kikuta, director of Koudelka, wanted to make the game much more Survival Horror in nature; the rest of Sacnoth (ex-Square employees) wanted to make something closer to Final Fantasy. The resulting game was an unhappy compromise between the two clashing gameplay styles.
Killer and Lady of From The New World bear more than a passing resemblance to Yuri and Alice from the first two games.
And Gilbert, the third member of From the New Worlds villainous trio could pass for The Penguin's twin brother.
Ricardo looks more than a little similar to the protagonist of Robert Rodriguez's Mexico trilogy.
Fanservice: All the female party members tend to wear either close fitting or revealing clothes, even Alice who bears very little flesh happens to wear a skirt that's so short it barely covers her backside. Said females also get panty shots during battle, and you can even equip them with items that change the colour of them. Averted with Anastasia, who is clearly underage.
Feather Motif: Many characters in the first game have feather motifs on their official artwork.
Fight Woosh: A swirly-thing in Koudelka and the original; Covenant and From the New World have a glass screen-shatter fight woosh for the normal battles, and a exploding ball of energy for bosses.
First Person Snapshooter: Anastasia in Covenant. Johnny Garland in From The New World actually inherits the camera she used.
Also Meiyuan in Shadow Hearts. Not AS flamboyant, but still loud and proud to the point of making all the men - save Keith - go berserk during Acupuncture. Not to mention abrupt with the ladies.
Fortune Teller: Lucia from Covenant. She can even use the Tarot to assist in battle!
Funny Background Event: Sorta hard to focus on Shania and Natan's serious, dramatic conversation in the Grand Canyon when Johnny and the others are acting like morons in the background.
In Covenant, when Anastasia is telling the group about her troubles concerning her family, you can see Yuri dancing with Blanca in the background.
After Johnny reads a newspaper that describes Mao and Hilda, the two start to argue.
The Generic Guy: Kurando joins late and has no motivation other than Anastasia having a crush on him. Natan in From the New World has no motivation at all besides "Protect Shania" You chose to save him last in the Purgatory, didn't you?
Genre Shift: Kouldelka was described as a Survival Horror-RPG mix. Shadow Hearts was an RPG with a horror-inspired setting. Covenant begins like something that wouldn't be out of place in a horror game...but then shifts to a more light-hearted setting. From the New world still keeps true to its macrabe roots; but could probably be officially called a comedy.
Averted as a trope, though. There's plenty of build-up, foreshadowing, and it serves as a thematic climax.
On the other hand, the final battles of the other two games do have Giant Space Flea from Nowhere. Kato summons Susano'O and the other four relics to aid in the fight. Malice Unbreal is the actual final boss, and he comes as soon as the battle begins.
Give Me Your Inventory Item: From The New World has an extremely demanding Sidequest where you trade photos of your enemies for other photos or items. Harder than it sounds as some enemies only appear once and some trades require multiple copies of the same photo.
Global Currency Exception: Pierre Magimel's dressmaking business in Covenant. You can only pay him to make Cornelia's dresses by giving him "Stud Cards", basically trading cards depicting hot male models.
Combine this with the above entry, and you get this
Cat Coins in From The New World. Apparently, cats accepting human money is not "right".
The Grim Reaper: In Shadow Hearts, the Grim Reaper appears in random battles when your stored Malice reaches the maximum level. It manifests as the thing that Yuri fears the most: his father wearing a kitsune mask. He's nearly impossible to beat, given his ability to lower Yuri's health down to one point, and he's the only one fighting.Later, the mask comes off to reveal Yuri's own face.
Guest Star Party Member: Nicolai in Covenant, mainly to try and fool you into thinking that he would be a main character. Which, he actually was going to be during the early developmental stages of the game.
Guide Dang It: Getting the Good Ending in just about any game. Unless you explore every millimeter of each area. And even then, knowing just what the requirements are for some sidequests is still Guide Dang It. Averted in Covenant where you're presented with a question right before the final boss. Choose one answer, you get the bad ending. Chose the other, get the good ending. Yup, it's actually that simple.
In Koudelka, unless you remember to fish a key item out of a fountain three discs after it fell in, the only ending you can get (without abusing Randomly Drops in the last dungeon until your brains dribble out your ears) is the one where the final boss ambushes your heroes with an acid mist, their faces melt off and everybody dies. Oh, and yes, if you get that far without grabbing the item, it's been Lost Forever.
For those who have suffered from the "Lost Forever", not exactly. You go to a certain place to fight a certain cat that will grant you the key item. But yes, that place is hard to find for people who aren't aware of this.
And then there's the Secret Items. There's NO indication of this, but in Koudelka, if you have a certain amount of items in your inventory, and a you save the game at PRECISELY a certain time, you get a special item. For example, 10 items in your inventory and saving precisely at 22 hours, 22 minutes, and 22 seconds gives you Roger's Staff/Cane, the most powerful weapon in the game. NO indication of all at this.
It's also important to note that it's actually the fans who declared the good ending the "Good Ending" and the other the "Bad ending". Mostly because in the "good" ending, Yuri dies...but is reunited with Alice. And in the bad ending, he doesn't die but loses all his memories.
There's also a part in Covenant and From the New World in which one of your characters is either tortured by a dominatrix named Veronica or interrogated by a pint-sized pirate. If you answer their questions "incorrectly", they'll repeatedly shock or stab your character. Picked the options that result in your character getting stabbed until they jump out of the barrel or shocked into unconsciousness? You sick bastard Wait, you mean you get a good weapon for them if you do that?!
Historical-Domain Character: The series loves this one. Notable characters include Edward Plunkett, Roger Bacon, Margarete Zelle, Princess Anastasia, Rasputin, Naniwa Kawashima (and his adopted daughter Yoshiko), and Al Capone. That's not even getting into cameo appearances.
I Am Who?: Johnny in the third game is the first human revived by the Emigre Manuscript who hasn't become a mindless abomination in the process...but there are some side-effects.
Idiot Hero: Yuri, though his boundless supply of Genre Savvy and wit counteract it very well. His ignorance is also quite justified, as due to losing both parents at an early age and being forced to fend for himself he never got a normal education.
Johnny, on the other hand, is a detective who did have a rich background and education. No wonder he only gets chosen to find lost cats.
Improbable Weapon User: Several characters, notably Geppetto (A Puppet. He equips strings that you don't see.), Joachim (anything he can find) and Frank (anything he can find and mount on a hilt).
Frank takes this to absurd extremes. He uproots the last living cactus in the Grand Canyon and puts a hilt on it. He puts a hilt on a giant marlin. He puts a hilt on a firework, absolving himself of any lingering guilt over his failure to take over his father's fireworks company. Finally he puts a hilt on a sword that already has one.
His Infinity+1 Sword is a giant kebab, which the two most serious party members are amazed by the practically of it!
Anastasia attacks with Fabergé eggs. With her just tossing those around, no wonder the peasants revolted.
They're actually small machines in the form of Fabergé eggs.
Also Alice in the first game, who whacks enemies with a book. Then again, compared to the others, that's normal. (The game has a bit of a Darker and Edgier feel to it; the silly weapon users are a sign that this isn't a Darker and Edgier game.)
And consider that one of her books is made with the flesh of a saint. EW.
Halley also attacks with a Slingshot - Not that improbable, especially since it's actually something that a kid his age would have.
Blanca is justified. He equips items that he can use to sharpen and refine his teeth and claws.
Incoming Ham: Covenant was actually a fairly serious game for the first good portion. Then you hear this, hear a brief speech, and there's no turning back.
Instrument of Murder: Ricardo's guitar in From The New World. It has at least a shotgun, flamethrower and a rocket launcher. And it still plays!
Interface Spoiler: Go to Nicolai's character page while he's in your party at the very beginning, and you're told then and there he's not who he says he is and is a bad guy!
Most of the decoy final bosses are spoiled by lacking a unique boss theme. Sorry, Messiah, you're not fooling anyone.
The Score system ranks you by the names of enemies and bossess. That means that if you're doing very well, you'll learn of upcoming bosses well in advance, which will spoil future villains before they're introduced. If you're doing exceptionally well (Wow, how do you keep getting Ring Perfect Victories like that?) you'll learn the name of the Climax Boss, the Final Boss, and the Bonus Boss in that order.
Actually averted. If you DO get to Rank One, you're already have fought the boss.
Intimate Healing: Practiced by Lady in From the New World. Exactly why kissing people heals them (and infects them with Malice to boot) is never explained.
Keep Circulating the Tapes: The first game went out of print fairly quickly, and had a relatively low print run to begin with. This led fans to have to resort to scouring eBay to obtain a copy. The sequel seemed doomed to the same fate, but the trope was averted when the publisher recognized it had a cult hit on its hands and re-released both titles.
Kill 'em All: Not many secondary characters from the first game survive. Basically if they have a portrait and they don't join your party, they will probably get offed.
Knife Nut: Killer in From the New World. To quote:
Killer: There, see? (circles arm around to create a bunch of knives.) Go get them! (Points at target. Target becomes swiss cheese.)
Laser Blade: Johnny has one in From The New World. It's a blade of malice, which he focuses into a knife.
Late-Arrival Spoiler: Roger Bacon is a recurring character throughout the series, but it's impossible to talk about him without spoiling a few things about the first Shadow Hearts. Namely the fact that the person going by his name is actually Albert Simon and the real Roger Bacon is someone you meet near the end.
Let's Split Up, Gang: In Covenant, the party has to explore a battleship in order to find a certain girl. The party splits with one group being led by Yuri and the other being led by Kurando and Blanca. Both groups have to work apart to get through the ship together, pushing switches to open doors on the other part of the ship. You're...not going to enjoy it.
Lighter and Softer: The later two games compared to the first two. From The New World is especiallyLighter and Softer compared to the first two. Covenant is rather dark for the first couple hours and then starts to embrace its sense of humour.
Part of the reason the series has a Fanbase of course is that even the lighter and softer games retain their dark parts - In one scene of From the New World, you see Frank ham it up and attack with some of the most improbable weapons ever, and then in the next, witness malice take over an unwilling woman alive and are forced to fight her.
To sum things up: in the first game, the silliest thing around was probably Margarete and her gadgets, unless you poke around. By the third game, one of your party members is a Polish immigrant ninja who learned his ninjutsu in the jungles of South America, works for the CIA and is constantly berated by his master, a giant talking cat movie star who serves as Al Capone's second-in-command, and a mexican singer with firearms inside his guitar.
Light Is Not Good: The series also loves this trope. One of the worst villains in the series is Light aligned: Nicolai. Also, a hierarchy of three demon lords Amon, Astaroth, and Asmodeus is mentioned in the second game. The Light-elemental demon Astaroth is not only much more powerful than the Darkness-elemental demon Asmodeus, but also about a thousand times more sinister and evil. Thankfully, Neutral-elemental Amon is both more morally upstanding and tougher than both the preceding guys.
Further used in the third game, where Lady's main attacks consist of shooting waves of red light that annihilate nearly everyone, and even the main characters take serious damage from it. Lady herself may be Non-element, but her attacks and design evoke light imagery.
Even more used: Light-elemental spells, despite being named things like "Holy Edge", are used by both heroes and villains with no comment from either side on the morality of the magic involved.
Also used in a Fridge Brilliance manner. Due to the fact that some of your best party members are Dark aligned- Yuri and Shania being the class examples- Light will fuck you up in battle, since they're weak to it. Since those same characters are strong against Darkness, however, Dark elemental enemies are easier to kill and less of a threat. Thus, a player always regards Light with more fear than Dark, exactly the way the main characters do.
Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards: Inverted; it's the mages who are linear and the warriors who are quadratic. It's possible to beat the game using only melees and just giving crests to whoever can use them since anyone can be a mage. However; mages are still useful because they can buff, and unlike melee attacks, can actually hit multiple enemies at once.
In From the New World, abilities can get ridiculous with how powerful they are, though. Especially if you set up a combo with them and rack up the bonus damage - and finish it off with a Melt Crest.
Stock applies to enemies too. Either you kill it, or the boss combos you to death.
The first game, however, zig-zags it - Alice will possibly never leave your party unless you want her to. Depending on the situation, Yuri's fusions will possibly make him into an effective spellcaster. Zhuzhen, the game's only pure "mage" character, will probably be tossed the first chance you get.
Loads And Loads Of Sidequests: Covenant has a truly obscene number of side quests and subplots, though most of the time they do offer worthwhile things (like powers to the party members or new weapons). A lot of them are under the pretense of being a club or society the party is randomly asked to join, varying from dog fighting to step counting. Yuri lampshades it:
"What, another club? We don't have time for this!"
Lost Forever: A few one-time-only dungeons have rare and valuable items, and they can be easily missed (even with the ? indicator).
You can't go back to China in the first game. Mind you, YOU NEED TO GET SOME ITEMS THERE TO DO THE SIDE-QUESTS IN EUROPE. Also, Amon can be missed if you don't get the certain item before the battle. Which locks you out of getting the ultimate fusion.
Love at First Sight: Anastasia upon meeting Kurando. He doesn't reciprocate, but is far too polite to let her down gently. However, he seems to have warmed up to her by the ending.
Lovecraft Country: Part of From the New World takes place here. Lovecraft himself shows up as a professor at Arkham University and will allow you to fight monsters for bonus items. Several of the monsters are inspired by Lovecraft - at least in name - but it can be difficult to tell due to the occasional, unfortunate marriage of phonetic translation and sloppy research. (Among others, Shub Niggurath is translated as "Jeb Niglas.")
Lovecraft Lite: Sure the world is filled with horrible otherworldy abominations, but at the end of the day said monsters can get their asses handed to them by a luchador vampire and a giant talking cat.
Low Fantasy: Shadow Hearts is unique from most JRPG titles in that it takes place in the real world, even getting involved with real-life people and events.
Made of Evil: Yuri's accumulated Malice can actually form into monsters, which he must fight. In the first game, this was a way of performing maintenance on himself. In the second game, you don't have to d it regularly, but an early boss fight is against one such Malice Monster, a spider with giant human fingers for legs.
Mad Scientist: Gillbert in From The New World. All doctor in Royal Medical Association in the manga.
Dr. Hojo from Covenant
Magic Music: Ricardo's speciality in From The New World: his songs bestow positive effects on every party member but himself.
Mask Power: Joachim becomes The Grand Papillon when he dons his butterfly mask, with an accompanying power boost. He can later upgrade to "The Great Question" as a Bragging Rights Reward. In From The New World, if Hilda's calories meter is maxed on either end, she can go into her mask form. Hilda can inherent the mask and title of Great Question.
McNinja: Frank Goldfinger, a Polish immigrant who learned ninjutsu in the jungles of South America instead of taking over his father's fireworks company in New York.
Meaningful Name: "Koudelka" is a Czech name (originally a nickname) meaning "tow-headed," or blonde. It's not unreasonable for it to have migrated west among her Roma forebears.
In game Koudelka tells Edward that her nickname as a gypsy was Szlato which according to her means treasure.
Mega Neko: Mao from From The New World and Andre, Lucia's pet from Covenant.
Merchandise-Driven: Hilda's rationale for changing the name of her ultimate weapon from "Magic Key Divine Angel Version 2, the Legendary" to "Magic Key Hilding". Namely, because that's easier to market.
Mercy Kill: If you think about it, Lady's final defeat in From The New World counts.
Whoever got resurrected by the Emigre Menuscript is better off killed, except Johnny.
To explain, the first game is 10 battles, back to back, with one character against old and remixed enemies. (Even bosses, and you gain EXP.) There's two, with the last one having different prizes for the characters who finish. The last two games have 'trials', where you take a party and kill enemies to what the trial giver wants. There's only one, and you unlock trials the further you go into the game. (Doing some of the sidequests will yield you more trials.) Completing all the trials unlocks a character's ultimate armor and if you found all the crests, the ultimate spell.
Moral Dissonance: Yuri beats the living hell out of a mortally ill villain whose plans he has just completely and irrevocably ruined, while the villain's grandson looks on helplessly, having already been shoved to the ground.
The reasoning is that the Foreign Minister is the man responsible for the attempted invasion of China, making him indirectly responsible for the deaths of Yuri's parents, since Dehuai specifically targeted Ben Hyuga's family as revenge for him thwarting the first Demon's Gate Invocation as an agent of the Japanese government. More importantly, the Minster's pleading to spare his grandson mirrors the actions of Yuri's mother shortly before she was killed trying to protect her son. This explains why the Minister is the only villain in the series who actually manages to get to Yuri, causing him to go crazy and then break down in tears.
Unfortunately, if you didn't play the first Shadow Hearts game, this is one of those moments that would have you conused as hell.
From the New World ends in willful fratricide. Which the party angsts about for all of 10 minutes. Which leads to the cutscene where mass murderer Killer says, in a moment full of irony, "You're not a very good brother, are you?" Though by that point Lady/Grace was a soulless monster intent on destroying the world, and it was clear that killing her was their only option. Hell, one could even consider it a Mercy Kill.
Ms Fan Service: Lucia in Covenant, Shania in From the New World. Her transformation sequence involves her explicitely stripping nearly naked.
Multiple Endings: And thanks to Stable Time Loops, both the good and bad endings to the first game are canon. It was confirmed by Word of God that the Bad Ending (Alice dies) of Shadow Hearts leads to the events of Covenant, which ends with Yuri being sent back in time to repeat the events of Shadow Hearts, only this time he gets the Good Ending (Alice lives).
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: The fight against Albert/Amon in the first game ends up generating enough energy to cause Neameeto to rise, in Covenant it is revealed that Albert's defeat allowed Sapientes Gladio to grow stronger and in From The New World defeating Killer generates enough Malice to finally open The Gate, although it's implied that The Gate would have opened anyway, although it would have taken a while.
In the questionably-canonical Koudelka manga, Roger Bacon is revealed to have translated the original Emigre Manuscript for the Vatican, and that he sabotaged the job to keep the true resurrection ritual out of people's hands because it destroyed all life in the surrounding area to work. Oh, yes, so instead he sabotages it so it sort of half-works and leads to hideous abominations and demons loosed upon the land. Good work, Roger. Even canonically, he's still kind of a dick for using the immortality rite in the Emigre and then excising it from the final translation so nobody else could ever have it.
Nietzsche Wannabe: Special Agent Kato, after the death of his "girlfriend", Ouka. Hell, Susano-O, the Final Boss of Covenant, is listed in the Library as "summoned by Kato's nihilistic spirit".
Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Oh god, so many. The best is probably Joachim, however; He's a Shapeshifting Toku Superhero Vampire Professional Wrestler.
Trumped only by Mao in From the New World. She's a giant cat movie star who serves as a martial arts mentor (to a McNinja, no less) and Al Capone's bodyguard and second-in-command.
Non-Elemental: The Neutral Element. Johnny is the only character to naturally be this, with Yuri, Kurando, and Gepetto getting forms to become neutral.
Nonstandard Game Over: Taking the wrong path in the optional dungeon Black Forest hits you with a "Surprise! You're dead!" ending. If you listen to the flowers at the beginning, they tell you what each colored flower does. The White Flower wants you to go further into the forest, and the Black Flower wants you to leave. You put the rest together.
Obviously Evil: Rasputin, who's sallow, has a long beard, and is blue. Then comes the professor in From the New World, who looks like Igor's older cousin...
One-Winged Angel: Practically 85% of the bosses in the whole series are One Winged Angels. A good portion are never fought except in their One Winged Angel form.
Or Was It a Dream?: After finishing the side-quest Purgatory, Johnny 'wakes up' at the place from where he entered the dungeon. Nobody else remembers any of the events from it, but he has gained Awaker's Ether Purge ability.
Poke the Poodle: Compared to other role-playing games wherein the Big Bad tries to conquer or destroy the world, Masaji Kato's plan to turn back time a mere 100 years could seem, to some, very reasonable by comparison.
Pop Quiz: Covenant and From the New World, with two guys on the side doing 'O's for correct answers, and 'X's for wrong answers. Oh, and you're given only 10 seconds to answer a question.
Shadow Hearts: A man who can fuse his soul with demons, a cute exorcist, a Taoist mage, Mata Hari (yes, that one), a fencing vampire, and an ESPer who is the son of the prequel's heroine.
Shadow Hearts 2: A man who can fuse his soul with demons, a female German officer/fencer, a perverted old man puppeteer, a wolf, a vampire masked wrestler, an air-headed tarot reader/dancer, Anastasia fucking Romanov, and a samurai.
Recurring Traveller: The Magimel brothers in Covenant are a classic example. They're ALWAYS ahead of you.
Redemption Equals Death: Lady and Killer. Killer from what you first know is a psychotic serial killer, but by the end of the game, turns his tendencies towards defending Lady, a Humanoid Abomination resulting from the Emigre Manuscript ritual. Lady herself, by that point of the game, can be seen as putting her out of her misery.
Replacement Goldfish: Ouka in Covenant (She is a clone of Yoshiko Kawashima, Kato's dead love-interest.)
Also, the Hard Gay / Camp Gay shopkeepers being ahead of you. In every area. Even if you literally travel from one area to one you've visited before. They're always ahead of you. Even in places no human has set foot in forever. (Also see Lampshade Hanging.)
Roger Bacon has two. Naming him, and getting him perverted magazines.
Sanity Meter: You have Sanity Points (SP) which deplete by one each combat round, and when they run out, the character becomes The Berserker, attacking nonstop and negating any EXP due to not remembering what happened. Harmonixers always have huge SP counts due to the inherent trauma of learning to endure fusion and channeling of spirits. Johnny never learned this, so his points are as low as a typical person's.
Schizo Tech: Scads of it. The nuclear-powered "Bacon Jet," and Margarete's cell phone, robots and computer banks in 1928 Roswell, and much more.
Sequence Breaking: Once you can return to Europe on Disc 2 of Covenant, you can talk to a man in Florence and do the Castle Tiffagues sidequest early. The enemies are much stronger (As they're supposed to fought at the end of the game), but if you force your way through, you can get Neo Amon before fighting Neo Astaroth. Heck, you can even finish up the Wolf Bout, getting Blanca's ultimate weapon and ultimate skills if you know where to go!
Shooting Gallery: Covenant. Doesn't effect anything, save for a different message depending on how well you did.
Shoot the Medic First: The final battle in Covenant has four targets. Defeating one actually ends the battle, but the other three make the battle much longer if you ignore them. One of which heals. If you don't take down any of them? Well, let this troper just say that the game gives you a chance to kill the big boss with all four characters getting a turn each. After that, it's better to restart the Playstation.
Shout-Out: In Covenant one of the wolfs Blanca faces for his powerup sidequest is called "the Lonely Wolf" and wears a RED BASEBALL CAP.
Skippable Boss: Hilariously subverted. When Johnny arrives to the altar in the Aito cave, he founds out what looks like a colossal statue of a winged minotaur/centaur hybrid wielding a blood-stained sledgehammer. He tries to sneak around it...only to get caught in the middle:
Split Personality: Hilda of From The New World changes her shape and personality depending on how many Calories she has absorbed. The "curvy" Hilda is sweet and kind, the "slim" Hilda is more of an Alpha Bitch. Each personality is needed to obtain new skills.
Sprite/Polygon Mix: Koudelka and the first SH, of the "polygonal characters on bitmap backgrounds" type.
Stable Time Loop - Covenantcreates two at the end of the game: After his death, Yuri is sent back to the moment he first met Alice (at the start of Shadow Hearts), turning his life into an ontological paradox. At the same time, Karin is sent back in time to meet Yuri's father, becoming Yuri's mother and creating a predestination paradox.
Depending on how you interpret it, the former could instead be an example of Set Right What Once Went Wrong. Since the second game follows on from the bad ending of the first, you could see it as Yuri getting another chance to save Alice and get the good ending.
Standard Status Effects: Aside from the RPG staples of poisoning and other debuffs, the Judgment Ring's presence ensures that there are a lot of meta-examples which screw with the Ring and its components. Going backwards, speeding up the bar, adding fake Hit Areas, having the Hit Areas vanish...unless you're good at the Judgment Ring, these effects will screw you up.
Two items, The Mind's Eye and Extreme, will double and triple attack power respectively, but will make the Hit Areas disappear and Extreme will make the hit bar disappear.
Even more so with Johhny who is the only one pointing out how bizarre the various things they come across are. He seems to be the only one to have a problem with the giant talking drunken kung-fu mob boss bodyguard cat following them around. And then the party visits a newspaper office...
Johnny: Lauded UFO Legend Lands in Roswell...Giant Cat Commands Crime Crown in Chicago Mafia'? Yeah, nobody with half a brain would believe this..."
Stripperiffic: Veronica in the second game and Shania in the third. Just look at which part of her body Johnny looks at in their first meeting. And the there is Lucia's Bride's Dress
Technically, Yuri's fusions all count as well. Particularly Amon.
Surprisingly Easy Mini-Quest: In Shadow Hearts, you have to constantly go to the Graveyard to clear out your accumulated Malice, which comes in the form of a monster whose strength is proportional to the level of Malice, and only with Yuri. Even at maximum Malice, these battles are surprisingly easy. Not emptying it is another story. If you want the non-canon good ending, you need to max it out during the second half and kill the bosses that appear.
Specifically, all of Lucia's special effects have a random chance of being "reversed". That means that the fantastic ability to kill all enemies in one hit may instead hit your own party and cause instant game over. Cards with yellow sparks double the effect, but can also be reversed. Lucia's special accessory gives the effect to give the cards the double effect, but you can still draw a reverse card...
The Dev Team Thinks of Everything: In Shadow Hearts you end up fighting Dehuai twice. In the spoils for the first battle, you end up getting his staff that you can equip on Zhuzhen. In the second battle, Dehuai is depicted without his staff.
There are two others, one that allows the user to channel the power of the demons of hell or can be inverted, to channel the power of the gods themselves, and one that summons a space alien powerful enough to be called a god to come and destroy the earth. These two books play a major role in Shadow Hearts and Koudelka, but never appear again in the series.
Too Awesome to Use: The various Keys, which grant extra revolutions on the Judgment Ring (and therefore, more attacks).
Infinity Key + Gamble Ring. It's not Game Breaker because there is only one such key, and you only get it after beating the game. (Also, it's still very hard to hit the small activation area.) Still, the combination allows a character to pummel an enemy with physical attacks until it dies.
You can actually buy Third Keys from a secret shop at the end of the game. It makes Duel Bosses easier.
A secret room in Koudelka reveals a monster who is still sane but suicidal, He often laments ow sad his situation is as well as advising the heroes, trouble is the game wont let you kill him.
Transformation Trauma: Yuri in the first two games, which makes sense considering that his Fusion technique has him forcefully merging his body with the souls of the various vengeful monsters that he's defeated. But after defeating Fox Face for the last time, Yuri will master his Fusion power and will no longer feel pain when he transforms. The same applies in Covenant after he comes to terms with the Mistletoe Curse.
On the other hand, Shania doesn't seem so hurt by Fusion. That's because her Fusion powers are gained from a mutual pact with otherworldly spirits.
Translation Convention: Especially in Covenant. We've got Japanese-Russianactually German Yuri, who was raised in China, talking with German Karin, French Geppetto, and Russian Anastasia. Add to this the puzzle in the Russian underground involving Cyrillic letters that, in the English version at least, Yuri mistakes for Roman letters.
The pre-battle banter for the Wolf Bout fights are the only times Blanca's voice is heard. At all other times only the standard barks and growls are heard, though occasionally the player is shown his thoughts.
Also in From The New World, "In the white man's words..."
Tsundere: Shania. Karin could also apply, although nowhere near as much.
Unusually Uninteresting Sight: In the Shadow Hearts universe, monsters are treated as an normal part of the world. However, the average person apparently doesn't handle them too well, as the Sanity Points mechanic seems to reflect with its constant ticking down to berserk status.
Not to mention the usual case - nobody ever bats an eye at your party members. Obviously one expects people to notice Joachim, Frank, Lucia, Shania, or Mao to be a tad conspicuous. But this gets a different kind of weird when you have part-Japanese Yuri walking around China not too long after this, or German Karin and Russian Anastasia prancing right across faction lines in the middle of World War One
Anastasia actually mentions this and Gives Karin a fake identity, Anne.
Useless Useful Spell: Altered; you're not using MP on them, they're junctioned effects to your attacks. And you'd be surprised how nice Instant Death is against late-game Demonic Spiders. And you get to keep them for the New Game+.
Video Game Cruelty Potential: The Interrogation scenes - Have your characters chose all the wrong options... and as they get zapped or stabbed, you'll hear them scream in pain. Unlike other examples? You get rewarded for this...
Villain Has a Point: Cardinal Albert Simon, the Big Bad of the first game, wants to wipe out humanity and restart civilisation because of the brutal repression of human elites. The party doesn't even disagree with him about the repression, but still fights him because of the loss of innocent lives. The sequel reveals that his actions in the first game were a misguided attempt to stop Rasputin.
Albert Simon Only an illusion of peace exists in the superficial calm of our lives. In fact, the blood and tears of the poor are sacrificed daily by a handful of elite power-mongers. No matter how far science and technology advance, repression will never cease. We’re only human. Whenever the calls for revolution turn into concrete action, instigators are met by the full resistance of the elite, who stop at nothing to keep their power.
Violation of Common Sense: Want to get Yuri the most powerful spells of his level three fusions? He needs to go berserk. This is something you typically want to avoid.
Hey, torture scenes. Want to get a weapon for them? Pick all of the options that involve your character getting hurt. The closest the first Shadow Hearts game has to a torture scene is the option for Alice to hit on Dehuai instead. This unlocks an optional dungeon. Thankfully this isn't as much of a Violation of Common Sense given that no harm really comes to Alice if she hits on Dehuai and a mischievious player can see what'd happen if they hit all those options and find a dungeon opened up, but picking an option where the character is zapped or poked with a sword? Yeah.
The Virus: Malice. Portrayed in the first game as the lingering (and quite vengeful) hatred of the Cosmic Horrors that Yuri has defeated and absorbed, portrayed in the second game as a Hate Plague formed from the accumulation of all negative emotions, and portrayed in the third game as a malevolent, living force that can actively infect people, granting them powers such as resuscitation from death and transformation into a convenient Boss Form, with a dose of Brainwashed and Crazy thrown in for free.
The Voice: Yuri is guided throughout the events of the first game by a voice in his head. Later, it is revealed to be the imprisoned Koudelka, who also happens to be the mother of one of your party, the psychic London street urchin Halley.
Although both Rasputin and Gilbert both seem like generic power-hungry villains at first, one of Rasputin's motives for trying to Take Over the World was that he believed that Europe's current government was incapable, and if Gilbert succeeded, nobody would have to be powerless.
Kato in Covenant is the ultimate well-intentioned extremist.
Wham Shot: From The New World's bad ending only differs in one detail from the good ending - Shania isn't there when Johnny leaves the agency. Then the camera leads us to her, on top of a skyscraper as a storm brews, and she opens her Malice-red eyes.
What Could Have Been: Early trailers of Shadow Hearts Covenant actually showed a beta... in which Yuri was actually nowhere to be seen in the party. But the harmonixer was still there... who was this Harmonixer? Nicolai - Kind of odd considering what his role in the final version was.
Widget Series: Far less subdued than other examples, but what series will have characters wielding whatever they can find against the forces of evil... or where your party includes gun-based martial arts characters, Ninjas in red, egg-throwing princesses...
With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Sanity Points, a staple of the series. Each character starts battle with a number of Sanity Points that gradually trickle away with each turn. When they hit zero, your character goes temporarily insane and you lose control of them. A character who ends the battle in this state doesn't gain any experience points. Those with Fusion powers start with significantly more Sanity than anyone else, but the use of their powers drains their SP much faster. Interestingly, the trio of playable vampires in the series all have exceptionally high sanity, which makes sense since they'd be much less alarmed by monsters and supernatural elements.
And this actually makes a bit of sense, since Anastasia, Alice, and Johnny have the least amount of SP - Alice is quite delicate, Anastasia is a little girl, and Johnny got his start watching a man being eaten. Even Halley, who's younger than Alice, has some SP to spare - and this makes sense when you consider that he's probably been quite jaded and toughened after what he's gone through.Shadow Hearts Spoilers Let's see, he's Koudelka's son and inherited her psychic powers - when he was young, he watched his own mother get taken away to a mental "hospital" and left on the streets, with almost no training of his own psychic powers.
World War One: Shadow Hearts ends with the message about the assassination of the Archduke. Covenant takes place in Europe, 1915.