So a psychic, a thief, and a priest walk into a monastery…

That’s a pretty good setup line for a joke, I think, but I’ll leave the rest of it to your imagination.

I’m a big fan of buying Shadow Hearts games, even though I’ve never finished one, but I have an excuse for that.

See, I stopped playing the first Shadow Hearts game because I was having a horrendous time reading the in-game text, something which I blamed on the game itself, its developers for choosing a hard to read font, my television for being too blurry, and in general just about everything except the real problem.

…yeah, it was time for glasses.  I should have realized sooner, like when I would be standing at one end of a grocery aisle and not be able to read the sign at the other end.  Kind of hard to blame that on a blurry television.

ANYWAY.

A couple of months later, once I’d actually gone to an optometrist and discovered the joy of being able to see again, I realized that I had unfairly blamed just about every possible culprit other than the real one.

But by then it was too late to jump back into Shadow Hearts, and I would have to start it over from the beginning.

I didn’t, but I remembered liking it, so I bought the sequels when they were released and put them on my “play these sometime” stack.

Around the time I bought the third game in the series, I heard that there was a prequel, of sorts, that had been released for the original Playstation, so I tracked THAT down, via eBay.  It cost me $40 at the time, too, which was kind of an absurd amount for a PS1 game, but it was tricky to find and I managed to justify it.

That was, oh, 2006.  So, four years later, I’m giving said prequel, Koudelka, a spin.

It’s actually quite good.

I mean, it looks terrible.  PS1 games have not aged well at all, and there’s only so much that the upscaling mode of the PS3 can do to help.

But… I’ve been playing it for about six hours now, and it keeps sucking me back in.  I’m enjoying the banter between the three characters, particularly the I-don’t-care-if-you-live-or-die attitude of the titular main character, and the story, while kind of heavy on being grim & gritty for the sake of being grim & gritty, is compelling enough to make me want to see it through to the end.  There’s this monastery, see, and it’s pretty much cursed and stuff, and you have these three people who have all come to it for their own reasons, but wind up joining up in order to survive being as the place is full of the, you know, spirits of the damned and such.

The developers also did a really good job with the sound, something that particularly stands out when compared to how poorly the visuals have aged.  The sound of hitting an animated skeleton with a club, for instance, conveys the idea that you are hitting a skeleton much better than the action on screen does.  The game is full of atmospheric sounds, and you can tell what sort of surface you are walking on by the sound of your footsteps.  It does a great job of bringing you into the game world.

One caveat:  There are, I think, two battle themes – one for normal encounters and one for boss fights – and fighting is fairly common, so you hear the same battle music over and over again.  I rather like it, so it doesn’t bother me.  If you didn’t like it, it would probably drive you batty in fairly short order.

I’ve been told that it’s a quite short game, and that it shouldn’t take more than 15 hours to play through, which is about the point where games start to outlive their welcome, so that’s a good thing.  Of course, I was also told that it should take about two hours to play through the first disc, and it took me four and a half, so, uh, I may be at this for a while.  🙂

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