So, as I’m now planning on playing through the entire Koudelka and Shadow Hearts series on my Twitch channel (after I finish The Legend of Dragoon), I wanted to share a few of my favourite moments from this criminally underrated series.
Now, the games are generally very dark in tone, so you can expect each of these scenes to reflect that. However, the games also feature quite a bit of comedy as well.
6. A Tricky Little Girl – Koudelka
We’re going to start off this list with a pretty simple and short scene. As you progress through the first disc of Koudelka, your trio of heroes (Koudelka, Edward and James) come across a little girl acting strangely in a corridor within the dungeon of a monastery. That, alone, is rather creepy. However, she runs away and Edward follows her to try and help her.
As she stops further down the corridor, Edward nears her, only to be stopped by Koudelka. It turns out that the little girl is a ghost and she had been Edward towards a part of the floor that had collapsed. If Koudelka hadn’t stopped him, he would have plummeted to his death.
The little girl proceeds to chuckle and vanish into the wall, leaving players stunned. It was such a simple scene but it was so expertly handled that it deserves a mention on this list!
5. A Fateful Train Ride – Shadow Hearts
Next up, we actually have the opening to Shadow Hearts. This series has some of the best opening cutscenes in video game history, in my opinion! And the introduction to Shadow Hearts is no exception. The first couple of parts paint a picture of how dark the game could be, showing a very bloody murder scene. So you think you already know what you are in for. You don’t, but you quickly find out.
The scene cuts a train, where a young girl is being guarded by some Japanese soldiers. A man in a suit and tie appears, with two demons flying around him. Those demons then proceed to slice the soldiers apart in a very gory moment. Just as the man is about to take the young girl, our hero arrives behind it. One of the demons attacks our hero, slicing off his arm. He, Yuri, then catches the demon with his other hand, crushes it head and reattaches his arm.
With that, you know that this is not going to be your typical J-RPG. This opening scene instantly shows you what to expect from the game whilst also creating a lot of questions to drive you forward in the plot.
4. An Almighty Fusion – Shadow Hearts
In Shadow Hearts, the main character of the first two games (Yuri) is a type of magical human called a Harmonixer. These special people are able to fuse with demons in order to gain control of their abilities. That’s a pretty nice take on the summoning mechanic, but it is rather than any type of summoning mechanic actually has involvement in the plot. Final Fantasy IX and XV did it, but it is usually just a battle gameplay mechanic. Not in Shadow Hearts. The demons you can fuse with are all part of a side story about the ghosts of monsters Yuri has killed wanting revenge on him.
However, the moment in Shadow Hearts where it really becomes a part of the main plot is at the end of the first half of the game. At this point, you have failed to stop a crazed warlock from summoning a God who is ready to destroy (or rather, cleanse) the world. In a last-ditch attempt to stop that from happening, Yuri takes it upon himself to jump at the God and try to fuse with it.
That scene blew my mind when I first saw it, because it seemed so unexpected. I was all ready for a big boss fight, but instead, I watched the main character of the game try (and only partially succeed) to fuse with this God, Shanghai get destroyed and the Yuri/God fusion just fly away. I had no idea what was going to happen in the game after that!
3. A Demon in the Church – Shadow Hearts: Covenant
In the first Shadow Hearts, you had to battle with a demon called Amon (who you can also get as a fusion too). The boss fight was really hard, so I had a lot of respect for Amon as a fusion. However, by the time Shadow Hearts: Covenant came around, Amon was already a fusion for Yuri. This meant that the developers and scenario writers could have quite a lot of fun with the opening scene of the game.
In this opening, a bunch of soldiers are making their way into a village. They enter a church before the doors close behind them. Suddenly, from outside, the screams of other soldiers can be heard as they are all slaughtered. After a few moments of silence, the stained-glass window in the church shatters and Amon comes flying into the room.
We then get to see Amon tear through the rest of the soldiers, apart from a young female soldier, before he protects her from a grenade’s explosion and walks away, turning back into human form. That was another great opening, and really shows that the Shadow Hearts series can create some great opening moments for the games!
2. Shloop, Shloop, Splat – Shadow Hearts
Next up is one of the creepiest things I’ve ever listened to, whilst still being able to make you cringe in an entertained way. Basically, you and your party have arrived at a village that is being haunted by a girl called Li Li. In an effort to learn more about the situation and find a way to help rid the village of this curse, you speak to a lady called Sea Mother, who recounts Li Li’s horrifying tale.
To summarise, Li Li’s father was a fisherman who got lost at sea. She begged for his return, praying to their God. Her prayers were answered and her father returned, but her voice had been switched with her father’s. The only way to get her voice back, having fallen in love with a travelling actor, was to kill her father. So, she would stand at her father’s bed every night, knife at his throat, unable to kill him. Meanwhile, he would lay there, pretending to be asleep in the hopes that she would eventually carry out the act.
This scene truly explains just how dark the Shadow Hearts series can be, and it has stuck with me ever since I first saw it.
1. You Forgot Something – Koudelka
Thus, we come to my favourite moment in the Koudelka and Shadow Hearts series. It also happens to be the most horrific, in my opinion. This moment is actually one of the “ending” scenes for Koudelka, but is also unique in that it ends with a Game Over. Basically, our trio have made their way through the horrors of the Nemeton Monastery in an effort to find and subdue the tainted monstrosity that a young woman named Elaine had become.
However, if you have gotten to this part of the game without going and finding the necklace that Koudelka lost during the opening cutscene, then you’re in for a surprise. Elaine will awaken, shoot a beam of magic at the three heroes and melt their skin and internal organs, killing all of them in a truly gruesome cutscene.
Sadly, I couldn’t find a video of just that one scene, so the video above has it right at the start. You’ll know when it is done… Trust me…
And That’s All Folks
There you have it. Those were my 6 favourite moments from the Koudelka and Shadow Hearts series. This series of games is truly outstanding, and I really hope we will either get a remaster or sequel in the near future.
What did you think of these scenes and moments? Let me know in the comments below!