Shadow Hearts: Covenant is a console role-playing game developed by Nautilus and published by Midway 2004. It is a direct continuation of Shadow Hearts and the second official game in the Shadow Hearts series. The game features two DVD-ROM discs instead of the usual one, which provides, according to the publisher, over forty hours of gameplay.
The game is also known as . This is the name used within the game itself: the name "Shadow Hearts: Covenant" was used only on the American and European packaging and in advertising.
The story starts a year and half after Shadow Hearts in the midst of World War I. The heroes are drawn into an intriguing plot involving the demons of demonolatry, the chief advisor of the tsar of Russia and a man from main character Yuri's past.
The release of Shadow Hearts: Covenant generated much more fanfare than its predecessor. As such, the series gained a much wider following in the United States. It was named RPG Vault PS2 Game of the Year for 2004
In Shadow Hearts: Covenant, players are able to customise the Judgment Ring to their own preferences with the introduction of two new Ring items: Hit Area Expand and Strike Expand, making the game easier or more challenging to the player, depending on what they want. Several ring types are also introduced to cater to the different players e.g. Practice Ring for beginners, Normal Ring for amateurs, Technical Ring for veterans and lastly, Auto Ring for gamers who simply are just too lazy to aim at the Judgment Ring.
A worthy mention of the new battle mechanism would be the introduction of the Crest Magic system, where players are able to equip Crests to certain characters that would allow them to cast different types of elemental magic. Along the journey, players are able to collect new crests and use more powerful magic. The crests may also be positioned in a key item known as Solomon's Key. Positioning the crests correctly will unlock new spells for each crest for a certain region. It should be noted that most of the crests' names are derived from the names of various demons in several ancient mythology.
Shadow Hearts: Covenant also includes "Hit Classes" which are incorporated with the physical and magical attacks. These include: Standard, Hard Hit, High Angle and Knock Down. Depending on the "weight" of the opponent monster, you'll be able to do more damage when connecting a combo during battle. Conversely, if an attack with an inappropriate Hit Class is used to continue a combo, the end result is a missed attack, or rather, a Combo Break.
For example, a Standard hit will simply push an enemy behind while attacking. This allows for any other type of Hit Class attack to be connected to do a Combo. A High Angle and Knock Down combo attack is another similar example. However, say if a Knock Down attack is applied to an enemy who has a "Heavy" weight followed by a High Angle hit, it will most probably miss since the enemy is still Knocked Down at that moment when the combo attack is made.
Combo shortcuts are also introduced where players are able to assign physical/magical attacks onto the controller buttons. This reduces the time taken to create a Combo attack as one character can attack immediately after another with a simple press of the button. However, this makes the game more challenging as players have to decide quickly what kind of attack they should follow up next as the combo shortcut menu appears only for a short amount of time i.e. when the preceding character is in the midst of launching his/her attack.
Karin and a weakened Yuri manage to escape with help from Domremy residents Blanca and Gepetto and make their way across Europe, gathering their strength and new allies as they chase after Nicolas and in turn are chased by other members of Sapientes Gladio. Eventually, the group learns how deep the influence of Sapientes Gladio really runs, and that Nicolas is far from the one in charge. The real leader of the sinister organization is Rasputin of Russia, which sends the group to Petrograd in an attempt to stop him and save the Russian royal family from his influence and nefarious plot. Along the way, Yuri also discovers the true origins of Sapientes Gladio, which, in turn helps him regain most of his power. Using Yuri's rediscovered abilities, Yuri and his group soundly defeats Rasputin. However, Nicolas, who was revealed to be Nicolai, a bastard son in line for the Russian throne who had hoped to use Rasputin's plot to gain rule over Russia, makes one last attempt to inflict evil on the world by opening a door sealed in the same tower the Holy Mistletoe was stored in, which contains malice. Although Nicolai is fused with the powerful demon Astaroth, he is physically defeated. Nevertheless, the door is opened and malice is released into the world. As Yuri and his group recover, Nicolai is taken by his ally, Japanese Envoy Kato, to Kato's homeland.
Due to malice being released, the war's brutality escalates. The group follows Kato and his agents to Japan in an attempt to find and destroy Nicolai, who still contains the demon Astaroth, once and for all. However, this leads the group to be in conflict against the Japanese government because Nicolai is under the custody of the Japanese government. With the Emigre Manuscript, Kato creates the Mutant Apes, powerful warriors who loyally follow his command. One of the Mutant Apes, Ouka, is created from DNA of his deceased lover, Yoshiko Kawashima, who died six months ago in the first Shadow Hearts. After Yuri's band stops the Japanese government from starting a war with Russia using the captured Nicolai and his powers, Nicolai himself escapes and intends to destroy the world. Yuri and Kato's groups both go after Nicolai, now completely corrupted by the demon Astaroth. Although Astaroth is eventually defeated by Yuri, Nicolai causes the death of the Mutant Ape Ouka before he is finally destroyed.
Kato is completely devastated by the second death of his love, and after he kills Nicolai, decides the world is full of too much evil and suffering and must be destroyed. Using the magic of Emigre Manuscript, he begins a ritual that will take the world to one hundred years ago and destroy the current world. Believing that the future they want is the one that they create for themselves, Yuri and his friends and allies come down to stopping Kato from carrying out his apocalyptic plans.
Like its predecessor, Covenant has two endings, depending on a choice made by the player earlier in the game. In the "bad" ending, Yuri's personality and memories are erased by the Mistletoe's curse, and he lives out the rest of his life in Wales under the care of Roger Bacon. In the "good" ending, Yuri is killed before succumbing to the curse. He retains his personality, and is escorted into the afterlife by his true love Alice. (It is also implied that Yuri may be projected back in time to the beginning of the first Shadow Hearts and given a chance to prevent Alice's death, but this is open to interpretation.) In both endings, Karin travels back in time to 1887 and meets Yuri's father Ben Hyuga. It is revealed that Anne, Yuri's mother, is actually Karin.
Returning from the first Shadow Hearts, Yuri settles in the town of Domremy after burying Alice Elliot. He uses his Fusion form to scare invading soldiers away from the village, but runs into problems when Nicolai Conrad from the Vatican strikes him with the Holy Mistletoe, cursing him and diminishing his powers. He now travels with the party, hoping to regain his abilities and fight off the new evils infecting the world. His aloof and rude traits have been somewhat tempered by the loss of Alice, but are still there in many situations. Yuri is one of the characters able to have five hit areas alongside with Joachim and Kurando. Yuri has the highest SP(Sanity point) in the party. His numerous transformations along with each of their unique stats and abilities make him incredibly balanced, allowing him to fulfill any position of the party (i.e.: physical fighter, magic-user, healer, etc.)
An officer in the German army and descendant of a long line of Bavarian nobility, Karin first encounters Yuri at the church in Domremy, when he saves her from an errant grenade. After accompanying Nicolai to obtain the Mistletoe and watching the ensuing events, Karin joins Yuri's side. Fiercely independent and well-mannered, she harbors a crush and later deep love for him, and sticks by him in any situation. She uses swords, especially rapiers, in battle and obtains Sword Art power-up through the score of a Wagner opera. Karin doesn't really have a weakness nor strength. She is a balanced fighter between physical and magical, but is more toward the former.
Once a renowned showman and puppeteer known throughout Europe, Gepetto retired to the quiet village of Domremy only to become mixed up in the affairs of Yuri and Nicolai. He offers good advice, but also has a bit of a lecherous side. He uses his beautiful puppet Cornelia (named for his late daughter) to fight and channel his magic-based Marionette skills. Gepetto has the highest magic stat in the party in exchange for a weak physical and special defense.
A white wolf, and unofficial guardian of Domremy, he joins Yuri after his young owner Jeanne is killed by Sapientes Gladio. Loyal and wise, Blanca encounters other wolves throughout the world which he can fight in Wolf Bouts to raise the power of his Manifestation skills. Blanca's balanced between physical and magical attributes (though more toward the latter) like Karin along with a high speed potential.
After briefly appearing in the original game taunting his brother Keith. In Covenant you find Joachim as the protector of the French village of Le Havre. Joachim is both a vampire and a trained wrestler who joins the party when he succeeds in defeating the mayor, who has been pestering Granny Lot for her store. He uses several forms to fight in battle, which change depending on his Joachythms. His regular form is most frequently seen; "Invisible" form lowers his chance of being targeted; "Golden Bat" form greatly raises his physical strength but eliminates his magic abilities, and his super hero form, "Grand Papillon" (which is French for "Butterfly"), is a powered-up version of his regular form. Joachim has the highest physical damage potential (even exceeding Yuri), but the trade-off is his slow speed, weak magic defense, and random transformations. And he is also able to equip five hit areas.
A master fortune-teller as popular for her beauty as her abilities, Lucia is sent by her mistress, Carla, with the party to train her abilities. She is short-sighted, flighty, and tends to speak without thinking. Her Tarot Cards ability is risky, while her Aroma Therapy is an incredibly versatile supportive ability.
The fourth daughter of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, Anastasia is outgoing, inquisitive and does whatever she wants (such as sneaking out from her castle in night and stealing snacks). However, Anastasia is the only one in her family who is suspicious of her father's adviser, Grigori Rasputin. When he frames Yuri and party for controlling Anastasia and forcing her to attempt murder on her little brother Alexei, she joins forces with Yuri to stop Rasputin. Anatasia can use her Snapshot ability to get information on enemies and in some cases learn the abilities of them. She also possesses a magical stat that can rival Gepetto.
The samurai bodyguard of the Kawashimas, Kurando, as suggested by his master, Naniwa Kawashima, decides to join with Yuri and party after rescuing Yoshiko, Naniwa's adopted daughter. It was told in the game that Kurando's mother, Saki is the sister of Yuri's father which makes Kurando and Yuri cousins. Kurando is the only other character in the party unable to use crest magic, however, like Yuri he is capable of fusing into demons. He has a maximum of 5 hit areas. His second form grants him a competitive strength and unrivaled speed that not even Yuri or Blanca can match.
An interesting bit of trivia, is that, when this game was in its early stages of development, Aruze "leaked" that the story revolved around only Nicolai, Karin and other yet-to-be-named allies. Yuri was unmentioned and Shadow Hearts 2 was believed to be absent and this game a separate story. However, once the game was released, many players and fans were delighted and surprised to see that Yuri had made his return as the main focus of this game.
Changes also include some new music tracks, a slightly bigger Judgment Ring, and support for the PlayStation 2 HDD.
The ending theme, titled GETSURENKA ~ Ending sung by Mio Isayama, was composed by Yoshitaka Hirota and the lyrics were written by Kumiko Hasegawa.
The music tracks exclusive to the Director's Cut version of the game were later released in Japan on the Shadow Hearts Special Sound CD which was included as part of the Shadow Hearts: From the New World Premium Box.