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Reader Results > Staff Results

These days, it looks as if game developers are trying to reinvent the wheel with each RPG they create. All too often, it seems that their efforts result in gimmicks that do not enhance gameplay as much as would be desired. However, if there were one pair of games that deserves the greatest amount of praise for introducing a new, fresh element of gameplay, along with a truly unique atmosphere and unrivaled hilarity, it would be the Shadow Hearts-flavored games in the Koudelka series. The latest entry into the series, Shadow Hearts: Covenant, lived up to the good name of the series and then some, thus earning itself top honors in the PlayStation 2 category in RPGamer's staff awards.

Best Playstation 2 2004 Winner
Shadow Hearts: Covenant

Shadow Hearts: Covenant expanded on the series' wheel reinvention, or ring reinvention as it may be, by improving upon the elements contained within the original Shadow Hearts. Most aspects of gameplay are affected by the player's performance in a "Judgment Ring" trial, which presents the player with the chance to stop a spinning indicator on certain places on a large round wheel. Shadow Hearts: Covenant improved upon this system, originally introduced in the original Shadow Hearts, by adding several customization options with which to change each character's Judgment Ring to suit players' individual tastes.

The Judgment Ring system aside, Covenant boasts the musical stylings of Yoshitaka Hirota and Yasunori Mitsuda, both whom did a wonderful job creating a unique atmosphere through their compositions. Combine all of the aforementioned things with a story that masterfully mixes serious themes with humor that is unparalleled, and you have a title that fully deserves a place in every RPGamer's collection.

Second Place - La Pucelle Tactics

Taking second place in RPGamer's PlayStation 2 Staff Awards is one of a pair of Nippon Ichi titles to make it into the top three, La Pucelle Tactics. The antics of Prier and company, along with the fun, gameplay has won over the hearts of many an RPGamer. Considering Atlus' showing in RPGamer's staff awards, along with many other indicators, it is a pretty safe assumption to say that Nippon Ichi has taken to the forefront of the tactical RPG sub-genre.

Third Place - Phantom Brave

The second Nippon Ichi title in the top three, Phantom Brave, takes third place below its sister game, La Pucelle Tactics. Phantom Brave boasts very unique extentions upon the tactical RPG battle system. Rocks, trees, corpses, player characters, and even enemies can be used as lethal weapons, for example. Phantom Brave also did away with the traditional tactical RPG grid-based movement system. All of these things, among many others, give this game a very fresh and innovative feel. Phantom Brave fully deserves third place, and deserves recognition for its innovation in the genre.

by Phillip Clayton

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