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Video Game / Shadow Hearts

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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 back in 1999, and exists in the same continuity as the Shadow Hearts games. Hiroki Kikuta originally developed it as a radical new take on the RPG genre, but Executive Meddling forced him to change the gameplay 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 from his CEO position in protest after the game's completion.

After original developer Sacnoth was taken over by Aruze Entertainment, the Sacnoth team (sans Kikuta) created Shadow Hearts in 2001, as a Spiritual Successor to Koudelka, set in the same universe but shifting the genre to pure Eastern RPG.

Common elements to the games are the use of a Judgement Ring system, where players had to hit X right as a marker passed by yellow or red areas in order to attack, a Sanity Meter which lowers by one each turn (More while transformed) and makes you run berserk once it reaches zero, and unique character quests. Each character has a their own personal quest chain over the course of the story, which grants the character new special attacks as they complete it.

The series consists of:

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    Main Games 
    Supplementary Material 
  • There is a novelization and a drama CD retelling of Koudelka's story.
  • Koudelka was followed by a manga, originally set as a direct sequel, but now considered to be an Alternate Continuity to the Shadow Hearts trilogy. The manga numbered 15 chapters, released in three volumes in 1999-2000.
  • Chaos Wars (Playstation 2, 2006): A Massive Multiplayer Crossover Tactical RPG, that features several characters from the series, primarily from Covenant, despite New World being released over a year prior.

In August 2022 some of the former developers of Shadow Hearts and Wild ARMs have collectively announced Spiritual Successors to their respective series, and launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund them. The Shadow Hearts side of the deal is called Penny Blood, which is to be released sometime in 2025.

Not to be confused with the Kingdom Hearts games which, while featuring shadows, are not related to this series.

The series provides examples of:

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    A - C 
  • 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.
    • Covenant intronduces three new types of the Ring for the melee attacks. Practice Ring doesn't stop the Ring after a miss, but removes Critical Hit areas. Technical Ring makes attacks more powerful, but any miss negates the attack completely. Finally, Gamble Ring leaves only one very narrow Hit Area and makes the bar spin faster, but hitting the target has the same effect as hitting all areas on the normal Ring.
  • Action Girl: Many of them, but Koudelka beats them all in the manga by taking control of a Cosmic Horror by hypnotizing herself. It Is Awesome.
  • Aerith and Bob: Meet the Valentine family — Hildegard, Joachim, and... Keith.
  • All Men Are Perverts:
    • Edward, Yuri, Gepetto, Johnny, and Elliot Ness all have perverted tendencies. Finding ultra rare porn magazines and giving them to Roger Bacon is needed for getting an ultimate weapon.
    • Even Dehuai has a porn magazine in his tower.
    • Joachim, the Great Gama, and the item vendors from Covenant are gay examples.
  • All There in the Manual: Each Shadow Hearts 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 Plus, making bosses slightly easier as you now know their 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.
    • A certain special item to be found in Dehuai's tower instead gives Yuri a little heart over his head.
    • Check behind the tree in the Graveyard after defeating Yuri's dad to get his ultimate armor.
  • Ancient Keeper: Roger Bacon, when he's not globe-trotting alongside the heroes. He's 700 years old, so he qualifies simply by having a preferred place of study that rarely sees visitors.
  • And Now for Someone Completely Different:
    • The first Shadow Hearts allows you to play as Yuri's father, Ben Hyuga, for one battle. After the timeskip, you use Alice as the lead character.
    • Happens quite a few times in Covenant. You control Nicolai and then Karin during the prologue, before Yuri reclaims his main character badge. Anastasia becomes the playable character at the outset of her arc, Kurando becomes the playable character during his own, and you play as Joachim for a little while in Japan. There's also a section of the game where you control the Mutant Apes during a training exercise. And in the Director's Cut there's a bit starring Nicolai, Lenny, and Veronica. You also got to control Blanca on two occasions.
    • Covenant and From the New World change the lead character during specific sidequests.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: Missed the Judgement Ring completely? Don't worry, your MP or item will be intact. Makes Gamble Ring so much more useful for using rare items.
  • Arbitrary Headcount Limit: You can only ever have three party members at one time in the first Shadow Hearts, and four in Covenant and From the New World.
    • In the first Shadow Hearts, you can only switch out characters if you visit them or talk to a certain character. Yuri can't leave the party, and it's not until you're almost halfway through the game that you get to pick your own party. Even after that point, there are still moments where a certain character will insist on being in the main party.
  • Artistic License – History: Part of the series' charm. Keep in mind that these games are set during the time of World War I, or in the case of From the New World The Roaring '20s. Among the player characters alone, we have Mata Hari as a superspy, Princess Anastasia as a cameraman, a samurai in Taishō Japan who becomes Anastasia's fiancé, and a talking cat movie star who is revealed to be working with Al Capone.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: If you use the New Game Plus in Covenant, you have access to the Seraphic Fusion from the outset and Anastasia comes with all of her abilities. This should include Power Cannon and Euthanasia. However, using the powerful fusions in 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 Shadow Hearts 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 Plus, 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) have high MP costs.
    • Also, Lucia and Ricardo both have a skill that give all party members save for themselves 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 Optional Boss should be a cakewalk! Oh, wait, both him and the Final Boss have a skill where they remove all buffs and get an extra turn... (There is an item that reduces MP costs, but still not enough to make the skill viable.)
    • In Koudelka, getting the strongest weapon in the game, Roger Bacon's Cane, requires you to save the game exactly at 22 hours, 22 minutes, and 22 seconds. That's more than enough time to beat the game twice over.
  • Back from the Dead: In all four games, someone attempts to resurrect someone else using the Émigré Manuscript. How deeply this affects the plot varies from game to game.
  • Bad Powers, Good People: Heavily implied in the game world. Characters have made one or more pacts 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!
  • Belated Happy Ending: Very belated.
    • The first Shadow Hearts has two possible endings: one where Alice lives, and one where Alice dies. Unfortunately, the sequel Covenant confirms the second ending as canon. However, it is implied 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, which means that Yuri can now save Alice. Put simply: SH1 bad ending > SH2 good ending > SH1 good ending is the canonical order. So Yuri and Alice do finally get their happy ending.
    • Another for Koudelka and Halley. Koudelka appears in the first Shadow Hearts after being committed to an insane asylum. After the events of the game, she and her son Halley go to America presumably to find Edward, Halley's implied father and one of the Koudelka trio.
  • Big Boo's Haunt:
    • Koudelka takes place in a monastery loaded with abominations.
    • Every Shadow Hearts game has a Doll House sidequest. It takes place in a Haunted House infested with Creepy Dolls and other abominations that are trying to kill you.
  • BFG: In Koudelka, bow guns (crossbows) function as this. The weakest of these is almost the same size as the three main characters, and they do the most damage in a single shot for a missile weapon.
  • BFS: Frank's homemade ninja swords. Kurando's final Demon Morph (the Ogre Spirit Jutendouji) also wields one. Koudelka has the Sacnoth, a massive sword guarded by a ridiculously strong gargoyle.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The canon endings of Koudelka (James loses his life purifying Elaine's body), the first Shadow Hearts (Yuri saves the world, but loses Alice, the woman he's grown to lovenote ), and 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 Shadow Hearts), plus 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 Shadow Hearts and Covenant 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 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 through 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 Émigré ritual. While the bittersweet ending is more commonly believed, neither interpretation should be discounted, as there is ample evidence for both.
    • The official Japanese Covenant guidebook confirms that the two games indeed link up this way.
  • 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 Émigré 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 spiders.
  • 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 an elemental-superior fusion and deal some major damage, making a good number of bosses jokes.
      • A similar ability is gained from one of the first Crests you get. Put it onto Gepetto or Blanca for decent MP levels, start with Yuri's Dark or Earth fusions for high strength, and cast it on Yuri to start this strategy even sooner.
    • From The New World subverts this, due to the Stock System. Using Energy Charge or the magic-equivalent Gathering on bosses will potentially wipe your party out when they get to act.
  • Book Ends: The first 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 in Johnny's detective office (technically, if you got the good ending) or Shania standing atop a skyscraper (if you got the bad ending).
    • Koudelka begins and ends in the spot where Koudelka left her horse.
  • Boss in Mook's Clothing: If one of your characters goes Berserk, they suddenly turn into this. Berserk characters don't just leave player control; they'll often start pulling out spells two or three times above what they know. If they use one of those on you before you have a chance to use a Pure Leaf, they can easily thrash one of your other party members in one go.
  • Boss Rush: Some of the Pit Fight missions revolve around this, often with certain restrictions. The first Shadow Hearts 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:
    • Happens in battle if a character runs out of Sanity Points. They do random stuff (Blanca evens pees on someone for 1 damage), and they don't receive EXP at battle's end if the character was still Berserk. SP is fully refilled 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 in the first Shadow Hearts, Yuri must go Berserk.
    • Yuri falls victim to this in the first Shadow Hearts after the Malice consumes him. The rest of the party have to fight him to snap him out of it.
    • 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 if a couple important battles go missing from their record, your Berserking party members Can't Catch Up.
  • Brutal Bonus Level:
    • The Neam Ruins sidequest from Covenant. The level is long and has annoying puzzles that often requires you to move to very specific areas that are hard to describe.
    • The Purgatory from From the New World. Unlocking it is hard on its own, as it requires completing a game-spanning sidequest taking possibly mutliple photos of enemies, including bosses, which are missable. The dungeon itself is a maze in which you start with Johnny only, so if something ambushes you, you might as well reset. The maze gets progressively harder as do enemies and you have to fight six Bonus Bosses, after which a party member gets freed, and the last of whom is the only boss harder than the Final Boss. The shop located here is the only shop giving you the possibility of buying Third Keys, and completing it nets you the Eternal Key and Awaker's final ability.
  • Cain and Abel / Luke, I Am Your Father: Nicholas and Anastasia in Covenant, Johnny and Lady/Grace in From The New World.
  • Call-Back:
    • When the characters in Covenant go after the Émigré Manuscript, Yuri mentions some events of Koudelka and the first Shadow Hearts.
    • Shania also mentions that Malice was released before From the New World was set.
  • Call-Forward: Hands up if you feel slightly uncomfortable when the sugary sweet Princess Anastasia Romanov starts talking about how she's worried that if her parents don't improve their lot with the people, then a revolution might be on their hands…
    • A fat man in the third game mentions how rich he is… in 1929. Ouch.
  • Came Back Wrong: A recurring theme in all four games: anyone brought Back from the Dead by the forbidden Émigré Manuscript returns as a hideous Cosmic Horror. Only one person (Johnny) has ever returned with both mind and body intact, and it took a Heroic Sacrifice from his sister to do it — even then, he still developed a Superpowered Evil Side as a result of his resurrection.
  • 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 the first 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 Outfit as well). Good job!
  • Character-Magnetic Team: To Yuri's and Johnny's annoyance, they have a talent for attracting the most bizarre of characters.
  • 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. Even the keys to doors are chess pieces!
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Despite Edward Plunkett, Koudelka Iasant, and Halley Brancket being stated to live in America at the end of the first Shadow Hearts game, they do not appear or are even mentioned in From the New World, which is explicitly set in the Americas.
  • 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 them that if they want to escape, they must pray fervently to go 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 he told Jeanne before the last two battles of the game.
  • Cool Old Guy: Zhuzhen from the first Shadow Hearts, and Gepetto from the second. Frank from the third could also count, since he's 50 years old.
  • 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, but 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...
  • Cosmic Horror Story: The world of Shadow Hearts is smack dab in a cosmic horror universe.
  • Crapsack World/Crapsaccharine World: The first two games definitely make the world out to be like this. It becomes especially crapsaccharine around Covenant.
  • Creator Cameo:
    • The Sacnoth Sword in Koudelka itself a reference within a reference; 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 game's main characters and even fathers a character for the next game.
    • Also Joachim's The Dark Tower, which has the tiny staff of Aruze causing a ruckus. The logo of the same company pops up during the Man Festival. His ultimate weapon, Nautilus, is also the name Sacnoth is known by after it was taken over by Aruze. The fact that the weapon itself is a minimized submarine is also a reference to the fictional submarine captained by Nemo in two of Jules Verne's novels.
  • Critical Hit: See that red area on the Judgement Ring? Hit it for massive damage.
  • Cultured Badass/Badass Bookworm: According to the manual, Edward enjoys reading poetry, which includes Lord Byron and Shakespeare. He is also capable of dealing the highest physical damage of the main cast.
    • James may also count since they both recite passages together.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Early in the first Shadow Hearts, players control Yuri's dad when he saves Zhuzhen from Dehuai's lackey during a flashback of their first meeting. To put it into perspective, Ben Hyuga hits like a goddamn truck and effortlessly kills Wugui's lackeys (but considering they were regular mooks it was more or less overkill) with one or two hits. Wugui himself can only survive four or five rounds of full-on hits. Oh, and Ben only has one Fusion: Czernobog, the strongest Dark Element fusion in the whole game! You would have to be a colossal idiot to die while playing as Ben Hyuga.
  • 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.

    D - F 
  • Dark Is Not Evil: The series rather loves this trope. Yuri, the main character of both the first Shadow Hearts and Covenant, 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 of Covenant is a gorgeous, cheerful, and loving Italian woman, a bellydancing fortune teller, 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, those powers have no role on their moralities; they're evil and Dark, not evil because they're Dark. So "Dark Is Not Morality Altering" would be the best way to state the use of this trope in Covenant.
  • Dead All Along: When you find and battle Patrick Heyworth's corpse it's obvious he's been dead for many years before the game starts.
    • Johnny and Lady as well. It turns out Johnny Came Back Wrong, but Lady gave him her will so that he may live.
  • 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 those powers without succumbing to Demonic Possession. Rasputin can't handle it after Yuri smashes through his shield, and gets taken over. Nicolai manages to keep Amon in check until Dr. Hojo literally destroys his will through Electric Torture, with Astaroth remarking it was the only thing keeping him in check. Meanwhile, Yuri manages to retain his will and keeps Amon subjugated after taking Amon's soul from Albert.
  • 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.
  • Devil in Plain Sight: Rasputin, though this is an example of Truth in Television. Also Gilbert in From the New World.
    • 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.)
  • Developer's Foresight:
    • Every battle track has a "Desperation" theme that plays when a character SP reaches 0 and they go berserk — even the special battle themes that play only a few times in the game. By the time you get to them you won't likely let your SP get anywhere near zero.
      • Special mention goes to the Spirits battle themes in From the New World — with the exception of one, all of them are a Duel Boss with Shania, who has the highest SP in the game (meaning it's highly unlikely she will ever go berserk). There actually is a theme in the event that this happens.
    • 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.
  • Did They or Didn't They?: In the canon normal ending of Koudelka, Edward steps out of a tent while Koudelka is tying her hair, with her jacket conspicuously absent. Since Halley in Shadow Hearts is Koudelka's son and shares Edward's last name of Plunkett, this heavily implies that Koudelka and Edward had sex at some point (if not in that tent, then definitely two years later if Halley's age of 12 is accurate as per the Japanese Shadow Hearts website).
  • Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: These heroes are not impressed by abominations from beyond the veil, and aren't shy about sharing this.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Much of the premise of the games involve finding Cosmic Horror entities from beyond the stars and kicking their asses, even gaining their spells in the process.
  • Dirty Old Man: The real Roger Bacon, who sends the heroes out to find porn for him in sidequests in Covenant and From The New World.
    • Also Gepetto, who reveals a worrying preference for dominatrix-slash-villain Veronica.
    • And Dehuai in the first Shadow Hearts. 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 pervertness, said magazine was needed for an extra sidequest by giving it to Roger. And there was the conversation below. 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!"
    • Creepy acupuncturist Meiyuan from the first Shadow Hearts 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...
    • She also 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.
  • Disc-One Final Dungeon: Kuihuai Tower in the first Shadow Hearts, Idar Flamme and Apoina Tower in the second, and either Las Vegas or Chichen Itza in the third.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: A particular group of enemies in the first Shadow Hearts (Happy Creeper, Mournful Demon, etc.) have an attack sequence where the unfortunate receiving party member is slapped across the face repeatedly by a VERY suspicious-looking appendage.
  • The Dragon: Wugai (to Dehuai), Arcane Olga (to Bacon), Nicolai (to Rasputin), and Killer (to Lady).
  • Driven to Suicide: Bessy commits suicide after killing Ogden to save Koudelka.
  • Dual Boss: There are a few of them:
    • Raijin and Fujin, the penultimate bosses of Covenant.
    • From the New World:
      • One of the boss fights against Killer involves him teaming up with a summoned monster who can halt all Stock regeneration on your party.
      • The Final Boss, Lady and Malice Umbral, are a downplayed example. They attack as a duo, but you only need to kill one target as the other is invulnerable and will automatically be killed upon the main target's death.
  • Duel Boss: Many. Really ramps up the difficulty and frustration when this turns out to be the case with Optional Boss Col. Hyuga/the Seraphic Radiance in the first Shadow Hearts.
    • Koudelka gets a few of these when she gets separated from Edward and James.
    • The Valentine vampire family has a duel Optional Boss fight between two of its members in each game in the series. The first one has Keith vs. Joachim, and the other two feature Hilda fighting Joachim.
    • From the New World also forces Shania to fight Duel Bosses to obtain fusions, but all of them except Tirawa (which isn't a Duel Boss anyway, as Johnny gets permission from the Chief's spirit to help Shania out) are mandatory.
  • Dungeon Town: A given in this series, given its Urban Fantasy leanings. A very notable example is the Disc-One Final Dungeon in From The New World, which is a Chicago alleyway and a hotel filled with gangsters and monsters.
    • Yuri and Alice walk right into one... on purpose.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Koudelka and Shadow Hearts. The latter makes the Genre Shift towards full-on RPG, but it's 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 there than in Covenant and From the New World, both of which focus more on the humor.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Both a meta and in-universe example when it comes to the first Shadow Hearts. The basic ending without doing an optional sidequest is the bad ending which Covenant treats as canon. At the end of Covenant, Yuri is transported back in time to the beginning of the first Shadow Hearts with full knowledge of all that transpired, and according to From the New World he succeeded in earning his happy ending, the good ending of 1.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Meta-God in the first Shadow Hearts. Amon, Asmodeus, and Astaroth, the "three gods of destruction" in Covenant, arguably. LOTS of them in From the New World.
  • Elegant Gothic Lolita: Cornelia's "Dark Beauty" dress in Covenant, Hilda in From The New World.
  • Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors: In the three Shadow Hearts games, 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.
  • Empowered by Negativity: Malice is an energy from human negativity that can create monsters, corrupt people, and drive them mad. It can also cast magic or channel it to power a weapon.
  • Empty Shell: Yuri becomes this in the bad ending of Covenant.
  • Enemy Scan:
    • Johnny and Anastasia do this by taking photos of the enemies. Anastasia gains attacks from certain enemies, but needs to be in battle to see the enemy's stats. All Johnny gets is a tradable card, but doesn't need to be in battle to see the enemy's stats.
    • Margarete gets this ability, even using some silly glasses. It's not as effective, and you need to do it again to look at the stats.
  • Even the Dog Is Ashamed: Blanca in Covenant. Coupled with Only Sane Man.
  • Fake Nationality: invoked An in-universe example: Yuri's mother Anne, who is supposedly Russian, turns out to be Karin Koenig, a German.
  • Fanservice: All the female party members tend to wear either close-fitting or revealing clothes; even Alice, who's dressed relatively modestly, 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 color of those panties. Averted with Anastasia, who is clearly underage.
  • Feather Motif: Many characters in the first Shadow Hearts have feather (or wing) motifs in their official artwork: Yuri (Ravens), Alice (Butterflies), Zhuzhen (Hawks), Margarete (Peacocks), Keith (Bats), Halley (Sparrows), Albert (Doves), Dehuai (Fireflies), Wugui (Squirrels), Kawashima (Dragonflies), Roger (Owls), and Koudelka (Bluebirds).
  • Fight Woosh: A swirly-thing in Koudelka and Shadow Hearts; Covenant and From the New World have a glass screen-shatter fight woosh for the normal battles and an 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.
  • Flamboyant Gay: Gerard and Pierre Magimel, the Recurring Traveller twin salesmen from Covenant. In From The New World, one of the twins disappears, and the other picks up an extremely Camp Gay boyfriend.
    • 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.
  • Flunky Boss: Covenant's Final Boss, Susano-o, summons three flunkies (the Yasakani Gem, the Kusanagi Sword, and the Yata Mirror) to help him in battle, and can perform combos together. They do not come back when you kill them.
  • 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.

    G - L 
  • Genre Shift: Koudelka 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 lighthearted setting. From the New World still keeps true to its macabre roots, but could probably be officially called a comedy.
  • Giant Space Flea from Nowhere:
    • For the final battle in Covenant, Kato summons Susano'O and the other four relics to aid in the fight.
    • In the third game, Malice Umbral 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. However, the trials have monsters from the past, even the ones you couldn't get in the first place! Even the ones that are lost forever can be obtained by trading other cards... though you need to take multiple shots of other one-time enemies.
  • Glad-to-Be-Alive Sex: Koudelda and Edward very implicitly have some in the ending after James' Heroic Sacrifice. Shadow Hearts straight up says they did because one of the characters is their son.
  • 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 Give Me Your Inventory Item above, 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.
  • God and Satan Are Both Jerks: All the Lords of Hell are different aspects of Satan explored by the Key of Solomon. Even the nicest of them, Orobas, would destroy the world just because. As for God, He is so far above humanity He considers us germs at best.
  • Guide Dang It!:
    • Torture scenes. In all three Shadow Hearts games, at one point, one of your characters is tortured by an antagonist. To gain the most out of it (optional dungeon in Shadow Hearts or a weapon in both sequels), you need to choose defiant responses, and get your character tortured more. Overlaps with Violation of Common Sense.
    • The Seals in the three Shadow Hearts games are standard permanent stat boosters... but getting their maximum possible boosts requires using those Seals in battle and getting Perfects on the Judgment Ring (in a genre where said items are normally out-of-battle consumables). Better be ready to save scum.
  • Hello, [Insert Name Here]: Lampshaded in all three Shadow Hearts games by Roger Bacon, who tricks you into thinking that you can rename him, then mocks you when you try.
    • Unfortunately, the developers did not think of everything in this case; there is no joke if you do name him Roger Bacon in the naming screen. Boo!
    • Bacon aside, played straight in the first Shadow Hearts. Characters will still be called by their real names in voice-acted cutscenes, but those are pretty rare.
    • You can also name your teams in Covenant. Cue people naming their teams stuff like "Team Fortress" and "Girl Squad".
  • High-Dive Escape: The Big Bad attempts this during the end of the first act of the first Shadow Hearts, but his grand exit gets marred by a quite undignified piece of debris to the back of his head.
  • 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. In particular, Edward, Mata Hari, and Anastasia are all playable characters. That's not even getting into cameo appearances.
  • HP to One: The first Shadow Hearts features a spell called "!!!", which reduces your HP to 1. The game's final boss possesses "Nine Springs", which does the exact same thing.
  • I Am Who?: Johnny in From the New World is the first human revived by the Émigré 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 wit counteracts it very well. His ignorance is also quite justified; 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 Gepetto (a puppet; his equips are 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.
      • Said sword is also a Sword in the Stone with the stone still attached.
      • His Infinity +1 Sword is a giant kebab, and the two most serious party members are amazed by the practicality 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.
    • Alice in the first Shadow Hearts 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.)
      • 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 and hear a brief speech, and there's no turning back.
  • Inconsistent Dub:
    • Edward and Halley's surnames are rendered as "Plunkett" (after Lord Dunsany) in Koudelka and "Brancket" in Shadow Hearts. They qualify as this trope because they're supposed to have the same surname, which is rendered in the original Japanese as プランケット (Puranketto) since they're father and son.
    • The Big Bad of Covenant is named 加藤政二. The last two characters represent his given name, which is read as "Seiji" in the first Shadow Hearts and "Masaji" in Covenant.
  • Interface Spoiler:
    • In the first Shadow Hearts, after Alice goes to Ruen by herself, the main villain updated entry on the NPC List will also spoil that he is the disciple of the real Roger Bacon, whom the party has yet to meet.
    • Something similar happens in Covenant, where Nicolai's character page (available from the very beginning of the game) reveals that he isn't who he claims to be and is a bad guy.
    • Most of the decoy final bosses are spoiled by the absence of a unique boss theme. Sorry, Messiah, you're not fooling anyone.
      • The Score system ranks you by the names of enemies and bosses. 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 Optional Boss in that order.
      • Actually averted. If you DO get to Rank One, you already have fought the boss.
  • In the Past, Everyone Will Be Famous: The heroes frequently run into fictional versions of real historical figures, such as Roger Bacon, Al Capone, and the Great Gama.
  • Knight of Cerebus: Patrick Heyworth, and by extension anything that involves the Émigré Manuscript. Yuri, Koudelka, and even Roger all stop joking when they hear his name or find out the book is involved.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Tons of it.
  • Large Ham:
    • Joachim and his mentor. This seems to be a requirement for being a pro wrestler in the world of Shadow Hearts.
    • Albert Simon in the first Shadow Hearts has his moments. "Now is the END OF THE WORLD!"
    • Frank the Highly-Visible Ninja is the Large Ham of the party in From The New World.
  • 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.
  • Lighter and Softer: The later two games compared to the first two. From The New World is especially Lighter 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 Shadow Hearts, 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. While they are all powerful, the Darkness-aligned Asmodeus is only after mindless destruction, and is seen as inferior to Astaroth, who prefers to let people slaughter each other, and is light-aligned.
    • 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.
    • 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 Shadow Hearts, 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!"
  • Long Song, Short Scene: "Holy Body", which plays whenever you run out of SP during a Spirit fight in From the New World. Given the circumstances, it's highly unlikely you will ever hear it.
  • The Lost Woods: The Black Forest in Covenant.
  • 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. And by Covenant, every character is almost required to throw shade at these monsters at least once by the time things are over.
  • 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.

    M - R 
  • Macho Camp: The trading cards collected throughout the second game.
  • Made of Evil: Yuri's accumulated Malice can actually form into monsters, which he must fight. In the first Shadow Hearts, this was a way of performing maintenance on himself. In the second game, you don't have to do it regularly, but an early boss fight is against one such Malice Monster, a spider with giant human fingers for legs.
  • Mad Scientist: One per game: Patrick Heyworth from Koudelka, Jack from Shadow Hearts, Dr. Hojo from Covenant and Professor Gillbert in From The New World. The Koudelka manga also has the doctors from the Royal Medical Society.
  • 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.
  • 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:
    • Anyone who gets resurrected by the Émigré Manuscript is better off being killed, except Johnny.
    • Lady's final defeat in From The New World counts as well due to her being corrupted by Malice for quite a while; any traces of her once being Grace Garland, the protagonist Johnny's sister had already been obliterated before the game even begins.
  • Monster Arena: The "Pit Fight" side-quests. You are pitted against monsters and some bosses that you defeated before for a reward. Some battles from Covenant and from the New World have special conditions as well.
  • Morality Pet: Alice to Yuri. And Kosuke to Ishimura.
  • Ms Fan Service: Margarete in the first Shadow Hearts, Lucia in Covenant and Shania in From the New World. The latter transformation sequences involves her explicitly stripping nearly naked.
  • Multiple Endings: Koudelka has three endings. Every Shadow Hearts has two of them, each time with one ending involving a main character (Alice in Shadow Hearts, Yuri in Covenant, and Shania in the From the New World) succumbing to some curse, and the other ending involving that character not succumbing.
  • Mythology Gag: There is a girl named Jeanne in the French town of Domremy...Does This Remind You of Anything?? Hint: Jeanne d'Arc...aka Joan of Arc. Who also was from Domremy.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: "Émigré Manuscript". Yuri may not fear God, but even mentioning that book scares the crap out of him, Koudelka is right there with him, and even Roger starts freaking out whenever he hears it is in play, and he is the one who wrote it!
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
    • The fight against Albert/Amon in the first Shadow Hearts 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 Émigré 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 Émigré and then excising it from the final translation so nobody else could ever have it.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot:
    • Oh god, so many. The best is probably Joachim, however; he's a Shapeshifting Toku Superhero Vampire Professional Wrestler.
    • Mao in From the New World is 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 and Lady are the characters to naturally be this, with Yuri, Kurando, and Gepetto getting forms to become neutral.
    • Melt Crest, the strongest spell from the third game, also deals Non-Elemental damage.
  • 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.
  • No Such Thing as Space Jesus: It's hard to say if Meta-God is the only real version of God who ever existed or God was just credited for creating the planet and all life on it when it was Meta-God who set it up.
  • Not Quite Dead: From the New World has Killer attacking the party in Uyuni Salt Lake. The party gives him a beating, and afterwards the party believes that they killed him. Of course, Killer gets up again and stabs Johnny unconscious.
    Killer: That's what you get for not killing me before, when you still had the chance!
  • 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...
  • Ominous Chanting: "ICARO", a recurring song throughout the series.
  • 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.
  • Optional Boss: Every Shadow Hearts game has quite a few Bonus Dungeons, and pretty much every one of those has a boss to kill which usually grants a character their Infinity +1 Sword, a unique accessory, a final skill, or even access to new quests.
  • 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.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: One is a Improbable Weapon-Using Large Ham wannabe-superhero trained as a pro wrestler. One is a Elegant Gothic Lolita Magical Girl. And one is called Keith.
  • Painting the Medium: Among other instances, in the second game, Yuri acknowledges the Nautilus as Joachim's "last weapon", and decries the Man Festival sidequest:
    Yuri: You can't be serious... Not in such a pure, clean, mega-hit RPG as this...!
  • Permanently Missable Content:
    • 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 Shadow Hearts. Mind you, you need to get some items there to do the sidequests in Europe.
    • Amon can be missed if you don't get a certain item before the battle, which locks you out of getting the ultimate fusion.
  • 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.
  • Powers as Programs: Crest Magic in Covenant. However, Hilarity Ensues when the party realizes that Yuri is too stupid to recall spells.
    • Crest Magic is also involved in a long sidequest, the Solomon's Key, as all the crests are portable versions of the 72 spirits of Solomon.
    • Stellar Magic in From the New World also acts like this. But unlike the Crest Magic, there's no real story significance about them, but you can customize your Stellar Charts to your preferences.
  • Pretender Diss: Yuri has nothing but contempt for Sapentis Gladio for thinking themselves greater opponents than Albert Simon, and when Rasputin casually puts down Albert prior to his battle with Yuri, the first thing Yuri says following the battle as Rasputin lays dying is to put him down for even remotely comparing himself to a proper Big Bad like Albert.
    "Albert was a hundred times stronger than you!"
  • Psychic Powers: Koudelka, and Halley in Shadow Hearts.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits:
    • 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: Covenant: 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 Romanov, and a samurai.
    • Shadow Hearts: From the New World: A boy who can use the embodiment of humanity's malice as a weapon, a female Magical Native American, a Magical Native American who uses Gun Fu, a Brazilian ninja with a saw-katana, a giant drunken cat, an Elegant Gothic Lolita, and a mariachi which a guitar-machine-gun.
  • Double Standard: Rape, Male on Male: Poor Joachim... and poor Yuri for having to watch it.
  • Recurring Boss:
    • Shadow Hearts features Wugui, who can be fought four times; once as a Hopeless Boss Fight with Zhuzhen alone, a second one immediately after the first as a Yuri solo fight, a third one as a regular boss fight while transformed into Yamaraja: War, and the last being an optional fight after being temporarily resurrected as a cursed puppet by Cardinal Simon.
    • Shadow Hearts: From the New World has Killer, who is fought four times. Two of them are fought by himself, a third one gives him a cohort (Daoros), and the final one has him transformed into a monster by Malice.
  • Recurring Element: Roger Bacon and the Émigré Manuscript have been involved in every game in the series, Koudelka included.
  • 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 Émigré Manuscript ritual. Lady herself, by that point of the game, can be seen as putting her out of her misery.
  • Reverse Cerebus Syndrome: Downplayed. The series has been getting more zany and light-hearted with each new installment. Even those have their serious moments.
  • Running Gag:
    • The Ring Spirits, magical otherworldly beings ruling over the fate of humanity. Sounds Serious Business? Think again.
    • Also, the homosexual 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.
    • Roger Bacon has two. Naming him, and getting him perverted magazines.

    S - Z 
  • Sanity Meter: Each character has a number of Sanity Points (SP) which deplete by one each combat round, and when they run out, the character starts acting erratically, attacking at random or skipping turns. In addition, these characters will not gain any EXP from the battle, due to not remembering what happened. In general, characters who are used to supernatural events (like vampires or Harmonixers) will have more SP than everyone else. It comes in handy, because fusions will either consume a lot of SP to begin with (in the original SH), or just deplete by three to seven points each turn (starting with Covenant).
  • Schizo Tech: Scads of it. The nuclear-powered "Bacon Jet", Margarete's cell phone, robots and computer banks in 1928 Roswell, and much more.
  • Sequel Goes Foreign: Each sequel visits new countries not visited in the previous installment.
    • Koudelka is set in Wales. Shadow Hearts is spent mostly outside of Wales, such as in China and continental Europe.
    • Shadow Hearts: Covenant pays visits to Japan, which wasn't visited in the previous installment.
    • Shadow Hearts: From the New World takes place solely in the Americas (which is also known as "the New World"), sharply contrasting with the previous three games that took place in Europe and Asia, both continents considered part of the "Old World".
  • Shout-Out:
    • In the first game, the boss Messiah has an attack called "Holy Chest" that involves opening the Ark of the Covenant.
    • In Covenant, one of the wolves Blanca faces for his powerup sidequest is called "the Lonely Wolf" and wears a RED BASEBALL CAP. Another wolf battle has Blanca fighting the Black Dog Stars.
    • From the New World has something similar with the Pagoda Fights: Mao has to fight The Terminator and a Bruce Lee Clone.
    • The resident roach-like monster is called Gregor in Covenant and From the New World.
    • Sapientes Gladio's Clawed Soldiers seem to takes cues from the Shocker Combatmen from Kamen Rider, right down to the high-pitched "Yii!" war cry.
  • Skippable Boss: Hilariously subverted. When Johnny arrives to the altar in the Aito cave, he finds 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:
    Johnny: I guess that's typical. *cue boss battle*
  • Social Services Does Not Exist: Orphans living on the streets of Britain. To be fair, given the state of the orphanage in London (as well as the time the games are set in), this isn't too implausible.
  • Spirit Advisor: The Ring Soul.
  • Sprite/Polygon Mix: Koudelka and the first SH, of the "polygonal characters on bitmap backgrounds" type.
  • Stable Time Loop: Covenant creates 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.
  • Status-Buff Dispel: The final bosses of Covenant and From the New World both have buff-removing spells, taking on the form of Profound Purity and Lost Progress respectively. In the case of Lost Progress, it is cast immediately after the use of any full-party buff, and grants the boss an additional extra turn afterwards.
  • 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.
  • The Stinger: From The New World's bad ending, as well as both of Covenant's endings.
  • Straight Man: Yuri, which leads to many a Lampshade Hanging when the party encounter some new bizarre situation or character.
    • 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
  • Sufficiently Advanced Alien: Meta-God in the first Shadow Hearts.
  • 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.
  • Suspicious Video-Game Generosity: From Covenant: did you just find a stud card? Chances are Pierre Magimel isn't too far away to make a new dress for Cornelia. The same applies in reverse, you can always check the surrounding areas if you find Pierre but don't seem to have the necessary stud card.
  • Tangled Family Tree: Most of the main characters are related to each other in some fashion.
  • Tarot Motifs: Lucia's special ability lets her draw Tarot cards to invoke special effects. Not as good as it sounds, as it's entirely based on luck and can backfire horribly. 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...
  • There Can Be Only One: The Wolf Bout and the Cat Pagoda.
  • Tome of Eldritch Lore: A recurring plot device in all four games is the Émigré Manuscript, a forbidden text that contains instructions on how to bring someone Back from the Dead. Unfortunately, it almost never works out the way the caster intends. Johnny is the only person to be brought back from the dead with his mind intact, and even then, it was only because his sister sacrificed her own life force.
    • 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. 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.
  • Tragic Monster:
    • A secret room in Koudelka reveals a monster who is still sane but suicidal. He often laments how sad his situation is while advising the heroes. The game doesn't give them the option to Mercy Kill him.
    • Any victim of a failed resurrection ritual.
  • 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-Russian (actually German) Yuri, who was raised in China, talking with German Karin, French Gepetto, 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.
    • In From The New World: "In the white man's words..."
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: In the Shadow Hearts universe, monsters are treated as a normal part of the world. However, the average person apparently doesn't handle them too well, and the Sanity Points mechanic seems to reflect that 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 I.
      • Anastasia actually mentions this and gives Karin a fake identity, "Anne".
      • Karin has a few things that make her justified. Firstly, Nicolai's plan to use the Mistletoe would have ended with her dead if Yuri didn't think quick and Jeanne didn't distract Lenny, so she's on the run. Secondly, after the first hour or so of the game, Karin switches out of her German officer clothes for something else, and basically defects from German lines in favor of going after Sapientes Gladio as a greater evil. That doesn't excuse the fact that she wears obscenely revealing clothing for the 1910s and 1920s.
    • Then there's the fact that in most of the games, half of your party members are wearing outfits so skimpy for the times that they probably would have been arrested, never mind gawked at.
    • Blanca from Covenant takes something that would be this and makes it almost normal. Anyone else would be wondering why a full-grown wolf would be wandering around a place like the streets of Paris without a leash or collar. Except in this universe, there's the Wolf Bout, a rather organized search for the strongest wolf, and you'll find wolves who honor this just about anywhere with or without owners attached to them.
  • Useless Useful Spell:
    • Downplayed for spells proper. Single-target buff spells usually see little use, but multi-target "Arc" versions are much more useful. "Edge" spells, which imbue physical attacks with their element. also won't be used a lot against normal enemies, where it's easier to just wipe them out with the first strike.
    • Inverted for Ring items that can be attached to the Judgement Ring in Covenant and FtNW. They don't waste your MP, may activate on every single melee attack, and have a pretty high chance to inflict a status effect that the enemy usually can't dispel. And you'd be surprised how nice Instant Death is against late-game monsters. You even get to keep them for New Game Plus.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: The Interrogation scenes — have your characters choose 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.
  • Violation of Common Sense:
    • To get the canon ending of Koudelka, you have to lose against the final boss instead of winning.
    • 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, which 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 mischievous 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 Shadow Hearts as the lingering (and quite vengeful) hatred of the Cosmic Horrors that Yuri has defeated and absorbed; in Covenant as a Hate Plague formed from the accumulation of all negative emotions; and in From the New World 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.
  • Visual Initiative Queue: Starting with Covenant.
  • 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.
  • 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
  • With My Dying Breath, I Summon You: Halfway through the game, Dehuai attempts to do this after his defeat, only to fail as the last bit of his energy isn't quite enough. Then Roger Bacon pops in and finishes the ritual in his stead.
  • Wrestler in All of Us: The second game has a pro-wrestling superhero vampire!


Video Example(s):



Lucia attacks the party by sending her pet cat Andre after them... who happens to be absolutely massive, being several times a normal human's size. Yuri has a VERY appropriate comment for the situation.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (9 votes)

Example of:

Main / MegaNeko

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