It's a new Shadow Hearts and a brave new world.
Eurasia was an interesting setting, but now we turned our eyes to North America and South America. You play as Johnny Garland, the game's protagonist... although he only becomes the protagonist on the game's final stretch. After a run-in with the occult, he joins Shania, a Harmonixer that strips down in order to fuse, something that Yuri didn't need to do, because Japan and her bodyguard, a gun-tooting native american named Natan. The cast only gets crazier from there, Mao, a female giant cat that knows drunken kung fu, works for Al Capone and trained Frank, our resident American trained in Brazilian ninjutsu, and then we've got Hilda, the game's resident Vampire who has a slim form, curvy form and a third peach pink bat forms depending on how many calories she sucks from her enemies, and lastly, Ricardo, a Mariachi that plays serenatas for the entire party in order to buff them.
If you've ever played a Shadow Hearts game you know the deal: Explore towns and dungeons, random encounters, turn-based battles, the Judgement Ring to perform attacks, spells or use items. The Judgement ring is a timing-based mechanics of sorts in which you must press the X button when a marker passes over a highlight area of the ring, if you wish to deal extra damage or even pull off your action entirely. Why change what isn't broken? It works well, it's fun and not even half as tedious as it sounds. It also brings back the customization aspects from Covenant, so each character can have different types of Judgement Rings, enlarge the highlighted areas or add secondary effects to your attacks.
What changed, for the better, was combos. Now characters can store 'Stocks', up to two of them, by attacking or receiving damage. Stocks can be used to pull off combos, so characters no longer need waste a turn, and with it sanity, or stay close together. You just use a stock and boom, combo. Stocks can also be used to perform a double attack, or even a double attack combo. If you play your cards right you can even defeat bosses before they even get a change to do anything! The system is beautiful, but be careful: Enemies run under the stock system too! There're special forms of attacks(Heavy Attacks) that consume stock in order to take away stock from the enemies(Or from you, if an enemy does it!) and even a few spells that steal stocks. You must also think out your combos, since different attacks and spells will change the altitude of your enemy: Air spells won't work on a grounded enemy and ground spells or attacks will miss on a floating enemy. The combat system is easily the best it's ever been thanks to all the different, and fun, mechanics and depth.
From the New World was a bit hard for me to fully digest. It's got the best combat system in the franchise, and making combos is a blast, but the story was so forgettable and as amusing and unique as the characters were, I still didn't feel engaged with them, I had a hard time being invested in their plights or shenanigans. Losing almost every horror element was also a tough pill to shallow, everything is so cheery and happy now, even more than Covenant. So many sidequests were annoying too, and as much time as they make you waste the game still ends up being rather short for a JRPG. Still, this is a quality JRPG, it simply falls short of the bar that Shadow Hearts 1 and Covenant set.
8.0 out of 10