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Forums > Submission Feedback > radicaldreamer's Shadow Hearts: Covenant review

This thread is in response to a review for Shadow Hearts: Covenant on the PlayStation 2. You are encouraged to view the review in a new window before reading this thread.

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Author: zippdementia
Posted: June 27, 2009 (11:19 AM)
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This review reads like an ice cream pizza tastes. Every individual ingredient is tasty, but you wonder if they've all been put together in proper fashion. You also worry about your cholesterol, but admittedly your review doesn't have that affect on me.

To get to the point, your review says something good, technically proficient, and game revealing in most paragraphs. But the paragraphs come presented as a jumble, and the flow is strangely absent. You'll go from talking about presentation to talking about gameplay, and then from that to story, though you've already covered story. Also, there ARE some paragraphs that seem pointless, or at least very weak.

"This structure is both typical and not. Towns and dungeons are integral role-playing game elements, but less prominent in Shadow Hearts: Covenant are extended, interactive, scripted story scenarios, such as Final Fantasy VIIís opening bombing mission or Final Fantasy VIIIís attack on Dollet. When used liberally but appropriately, they add variation and create a cohesive, integrated, and Ė when done best Ė seamless bond between the interactive and non-interactive elements of the game. The effect of this difference is that Shadow Hearts: Covenant has a much clearer distinction between story and gameplay, and the two feel somewhat disconnected from each other.

Story advancement is instead achieved almost exclusively through cutscenes, which are primarily conversations with little physical action. As such, their strength relies heavily on the quality of the voice acting. Despite, or perhaps because of, the fact that the cast is voiced by anime dub regulars, this requirement is met only half way. The voices are suitable for their respective characters, but the people behind them lack acting skill; consequently, they tend to overextend their limited emotional ranges whenever events become emotional, dire or serious."


Neither of these actually says much. They could easily be cut without hurting the review.


Note to gamers: when someone shoots you in the face, they aren't "gay." They are "psychopathic."


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Author: zigfried (Mod)
Posted: June 27, 2009 (12:16 PM)
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Apologies to Zipp if it looks like I'm picking on him -- I'm using his feedback as a way to decide what reviews to read. (Existing feedback is usually what gets me to read a review)

I have to completely and totally disagree with Zipp's point about those two paragraphs. Those paragraphs clearly distinguish different methods for integrating story into a game. I've heard people say before, "if an RPG isn't going to let me control the action, then make it a cutscene dammit" -- but in this review, Mr Dreamer pinpoints the potential issues with taking the cutscene approach, and as an added bonus explains why scripted scenarios can work.

These paragraphs also tie directly into the review's first sentence. The entire review could be said to be a support of that one sentence. In that sense, it is an extremely cohesive piece that absolutely sticks to its guns to make its point.

Because of that, in general I thought the review flowed well. There was a spot or two that felt a little jarring, but it was more due to sentence length than any actual disconnect between ideas (see: beginning of paragraph four... not entirely sure why that sounded weird to me, but it did. Maybe it's just too damn powerful? In which case it would fit better at the end of the previous paragraph as a concluding point, as opposed to being an introductory point for a new paragraph.)

//Zig


Unlimited Zig Works!


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Author: radicaldreamer
Posted: June 27, 2009 (12:26 PM)
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Flow is one of the things I tend to agonize over while writing, since it is something that tends to escape me. One of the solutions I've observed is to simply talk about the game as a whole instead of talking about its constituent parts, though I don't know if such an approach can apply in all, or even most, cases. Other than that I've always just tried to read other reviews that I've been told flow well and try to emulate them (always remember NT220's Lufia).

However, regardless of how they flow or are integrated, I do feel that the paragraphs mentioned contain a few important points that would be lost by cutting them. Maybe streamlined, reorganized and/or rewritten.

EDIT: Always interesting to see completely different opinions on the same piece of writing. This certainly isn't like a video game competition where the outcome is a strictly calculable occurrence and the win screen professes the absolute truth.


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Author: Halon
Posted: June 27, 2009 (12:53 PM)
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Hmm, this is the first time I've seen a review compared to pizza and ice cream. I think.

Anyways you'll see my thoughts on the review when the results get posted!


IF YOU WANT MORE BEATS FOR YOUR BUCK THERE'S NO LUCK.


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Author: zippdementia
Posted: June 27, 2009 (12:46 PM)
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I'm going to defend my position on this one. Or at least say that I see Zig's point, but I think the paragraphs in question still need to change. Look at this sentence for example:

Towns and dungeons are integral role-playing game elements, but less prominent in Shadow Hearts: Covenant are extended, interactive, scripted story scenarios, such as Final Fantasy VIIís opening bombing mission or Final Fantasy VIIIís attack on Dollet.

It reads very confusing. I know what you're trying to say, but it would read better to say

Shadow Hearts: Covenant lacks extended, interactive, scripted story scenarios, such as Final Fantasy VIIís opening bombing mission or Final Fantasy VIIIís attack on Dollet.

Then your next lines about scripted sequences makes more sense. Though this line is still wierd:

The effect of this difference is that Shadow Hearts: Covenant has a much clearer distinction between story and gameplay, and the two feel somewhat disconnected from each other.

The effect of what difference? You don't mention any difference before this. I'm not sure how it lacking scripted sequences is creating a distinction between story and gameplay, until I get to the next paragraph.

Story advancement is instead achieved almost exclusively through cutscenes, which are primarily conversations with little physical action.

Ah, okay now I get it. This line should really be part of the above paragraph, and probably come before the last line. With that taken care of, you don't really need a section on voice acting, unless the voice acting was bad enough to draw you out of the game experience.


Note to gamers: when someone shoots you in the face, they aren't "gay." They are "psychopathic."


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Author: radicaldreamer
Posted: June 27, 2009 (12:56 PM)
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I disagree. Voice acting at any level is worth mentioning because specific qualities have different impacts. The exception is if it is barely present, such as in the original Shadow Hearts. Consider the case of Resident Evil and its laughably bad acting. Unfortunately I can't even think of an example of a game with great voicing acting so I'll have to go immediately to the effects of voice acting: consider a game with great voice acting, with actors who actually have the talent to make emotional situations not only believable, but involving and compelling.

Shadow Hearts: Covenant is somewhere in between that, so it doesn't have the same effect as either one. Unlike Resident Evil you don't immediately write it off as something stupid and not to be taken seriously. But it's not at the level of drama as that hypothetical game with good voice acting. When situations are calm the voice acting in Shadow Hearts: Covenant is fine, but whenever emotions get a little stronger, you need to take a little more effort to suspend disbelief than in the case of that hypothetical game.

Even when compared to FFX, a game that is fairly comparable in voice acting quality, the effects are different. There is no one as amazing as Auron in Covenant that you always look forward to him saying anything, but there is also no cringe-worthy intentionally forced laughing that makes you want to turn the volume down until it's done.


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Author: jerec
Posted: June 27, 2009 (05:12 PM)
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What sportsman said. I'd like to jump into this discussion... but not yet. :P


I can avoid death by not having a life.


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Author: zippdementia
Posted: June 27, 2009 (06:19 PM)
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Unfortunately I can't even think of an example of a game with great voicing acting...

Bam. That's it right there. Unless the game has abnormally bad voice acting (as does Mytran wars, which I'll be reviewing in a week or so) or unusually great voice acting (mostly games that keep the original Japanese language) it doesn't seem worth a mention.

But now we're getting off the main point, which was everything else I said about those paragraphs.


Note to gamers: when someone shoots you in the face, they aren't "gay." They are "psychopathic."


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Author: radicaldreamer
Posted: June 27, 2009 (07:12 PM)
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I had trouble thinking of an example at the time. I was tempted to say Metal Gear Solid, but the voice acting in that is often held back by the series' ludicrousness. I'm sure there are many games out there with great voice acting that I just haven't played yet, especially anything on the 360 or the PS3. Though if I put some thought into it, I do recall Starcraft and Dawn of War having great voice acting.

I kept talking about this because I still disagree. Mentioning it only in the case of extremes ignores the fact that the diverse gradations of middle ground have their own unique effects on the totality of the gaming experience. The point I make about the voice acting is also a little more complicated than simply the labeling of good/bad/okay, since it is about the actors and their (in)ability to handle diverse acting situations, which implies that the quality of voice acting isn't uniform. I don't accept that there is a broad neutral territory, and that only significant deviations from it are worth mentioning. FFX and Shadow Hearts: Covenant both fall into such a neutral, but the experiences of their respective voice acting are very different. If nothing else, it's important just because it features so prominently.

As for the rest, I do mention the difference, but concede that on the whole the writing may simply not be clear enough, and that sentences could be reworded, rearranged, and added for clarity.


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Author: zigfried (Mod)
Posted: June 27, 2009 (08:33 PM)
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The Riddick games have great voice acting, in the sense that I never even thought of it as voice acting. They were just characters on the screen talking to each other. That's probably why I didn't even think to mention it in the review.

//Zig


Unlimited Zig Works!


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Author: True
Posted: June 27, 2009 (08:36 PM)
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Given his Av, I think Radical would agree with me here, but in my opinion Lunar is one of the best games in regards to voice-acting.


If I Offended You, You Needed It.


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Author: zigfried (Mod)
Posted: June 27, 2009 (08:38 PM)
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I love Lunar, but I actually thought the acting in that (both episodes) was overdone. I got used to it after a while, but the first few hours bugged the hell outta me.

//Zig


Unlimited Zig Works!


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Author: radicaldreamer
Posted: June 27, 2009 (08:49 PM)
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Lunar is one of my all time favorite games but I actually think the acting is not that great -- but one of the reasons that's okay is that there really isn't that much of it because most of the game isn't acted out. Most of the story is conveyed in text, and both games succeed in that endeavor because of the quality of the writing.

Ghaleon was especially overdone, but his themes were epic!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MWbPd0zwGgg

Deus Ex is a case where voice acting would definitely be worth mentioning.

"Mr. JC Denton, in da fresh, as daaark and sirius as his bruthar!.


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Author: zippdementia
Posted: June 27, 2009 (09:40 PM)
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I mean, there are cases where voice acting SHOULD be mentioned. I just don't think you make a strong enough point in your Shadow Hearts review to justify it.


Note to gamers: when someone shoots you in the face, they aren't "gay." They are "psychopathic."


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