Welcome to the fourth installment of Fashion Fantasy! Every month, I’m going to be taking a look at the style and fashion of a given game, discussing some of the outfits and garments worn by characters, and analysing what they might tell us about characterisation and narrative! You can check out some of our previous installments below:
To make up for there being no Fashion Fantasy in April, we’re doing a two-parter this month — and we’re gonna be looking at Nautilus’ Shadow Hearts: Covenant and Shadow Hearts: From The New World! Both are very-loosely-semi-historical JRPGs set during World War I and the end of the Roaring Twenties respectively, and they’re known for their often-campy style, so let’s get into it!
This post will include some spoilers for the events of Shadow Hearts Covenant and Shadow Hearts: From The New World, so only continue if you’re alright with that! Let’s begin!
- 1 Overview
- 2 Shadow Hearts: Covenant
- 3 Shadow Hearts: From The New World
- 4 Victory Fanfare
- 5 Additional Information
Shadow Hearts: Covenant (2004) and Shadow Hearts: From The New World (2005) are the final games in the four-part Shadow Hearts series, preceded by Koudelka and Shadow Hearts. This incredibly weird series follows a haphazard group of misfits as they flit around the world, usually trying to prevent some Evil and Lovecraftian Nonsense from ending it (Note: Lovecraft is a character in the series. As is Roger Bacon. And, literally, Gepetto from Pinocchio. Pinocchio, however, isn’t. As I said, it’s a weird series).
While Covenant splits its story between Europe and Japan, From The New World splits it between North and South America, so there’s a fair bit of diversity in terms of style and presentation — doubly so because many of the characters are pretty eccentric, as we’ll get into. Expect to see Brazilian ninjas, Russian princesses, gay vampire wrestlers and full-on BDSM-geared-up dommes as we take a look at some of the style and fashion of both of these cult classic games!
Most of the images presented here have been found on Creative Uncut, a source for videogame concept art. High-quality CG renders aren’t available for all characters, so we’ll be using some concept art as well.
We won’t be looking at all of the outfits in the game — only the ones that particularly stand out for various reasons!
Shadow Hearts: Covenant
Yuri is one of the protagonists, and in many ways is the central figure of Covenant, as well as having been a protagonist in the earlier Shadow Hearts game. After his girlfriend passed away, he’s become tortured and melancholy, as evidenced earlier in the game where you find him being a goth in a church.
Tight black leather with a bold white trim, loose belts crossing at the waist, and a crucifix motif. This couldn’t get any more late-90s-early-2000s, and it’s amazing. I love that they gave the main character a very neat silhouette with some BIG cuffs as well, it gives Yuri a clean, uncluttered look that you can easily read as being a protagonist.
Elemental weakness and affinity are a big thing in Shadow Hearts, and Yuri’s black-and-white look does a good job of telling us his element is Dark.
The bag that Yuri carried on his lower back is lovely — it signals enough that this is where Yuri keeps all those HP-restoring items and softcore gay porn trading cards (more on that later), and gives a little more to his outfit. Those straps also wiggle when you’re walking around with Yuri, and since you’re gonna be looking at the back of him for a while, it’s a good thing for the artists to have included.
On a personal note, I feel like that satchel he carries has actually influenced my own character design — I love “satchel on the lower back” designs, and I’m also very into flowy belts as well.
And I’m purposefully avoiding calling it either a bum bag or a fanny pack because both of those terms sound so horrendous when you think about them for a moment. LET’S AGREE TO CALL IT A BACK SATCHEL
When we first meet her, Karin is an officer of the German army, where she’s sporting the green uniform above — and which I kinda wish she’d gotten to wear throughout the game, even if it was only a variant of it.
Her official outfit has some nice elements — the red, pink and orange tells us that her element is Fire, the detail on the side of the skirt is really lovely, and I really like the single lacey evening glove, but otherwise, it looks a little too “sexy alternate outfit” (which is saying something, considering that Karin also gets an actual sexy alternate outfit, but which I wasn’t super interested in).
The German uniform is neat and proper, and there’s a wee bit of aesthetic flair with the cravat and the repeated Iron Cross motif of the German army (that complements the crucifix on the back of Yuri’s outfit, relevant considering the two are kinda-sorta positioned as will-they-won’t-they love interests). And it also has satchels! It’s practical and it looks pretty tidy. Unfortunately, the Iron Cross tends to be used in conjunction with a lot of other Neo-Nazi imagery in the real world, as well as being used as a stand-in for the swastika in video games for legal and business reasons — and, while it’s not necessarily an icon of hate speech in and of itself, it does come a little too close to it for me.
Joachim is a gay vampire wrestler. Part of his personal quest is wrestling men in an extremely homoerotic series of battles that culminates in him having just-slightly-off-screen-sex with his wrestling hero. I have absolutely no doubt there’s a significant element of this that was done not out of a sense of inclusivity and solidarity of queerness, but as ridicule, however — I am absolutely reclaiming for myself how wonderful and campy that whole idea is.
Joachim’s outfit tells us pretty much everything we need to know. You have the big bright boots and tightly-stretched material to cover his passion for wrestling. You have a gold skull belt, golden claws and some bat-wing-like material coming from his shirt to add some vampiric flair. And you have a shirt with the sleeves ripped off and holes cut into where his obliques will be showing through, and dramatic, beautiful leather cuffs to indicate that I’ve just started chatting to him on Growlr.
Joachim’s element is Earth, and you could certainly interpret the browns as being reflective of that.
Anastasia’s look is very classic prim-and-proper traditional with a little bit of flair. The big ribbony laces in her shoes are great, as are the looped pigtails tied up with ribbons, the white fur trim around various edges of the coat, and the fur shapka pillbox hat. It’s just all-round a nice wee look.
Anastasia uses Water-element spells, which is referenced in the fact that she’s wearing a lot of blue.
Kurando’s look is a nice take on the traditional Japanese hakama and hakamashita, and the fact that it’s split between orange and purple/blue halves (with purple wisteria on the orange half) makes it even better. The red cloth tied around his shoulders is interesting, and I’m not sure why it’s there — looking at the back of Kurando’s character model in-game reveals there’s two small white shapes hanging off of the red cloth, but it’s unclear what they’re supposed to be — my assumption is that it’s probably a part of the hakamashita that’s been tied back, but I’m not sure.
Much like with Yuri, I’ve realised that Kurando’s outfit has kind of echoed through the way I design characters. I love the look of big, bulky hakama, and I really love chunky gauntlets with no other armour or bare sleeves.
Alice doesn’t have a whole lot of time in Covenant — she’s one of the protagonists of the previous Shadow Hearts game — but I still wanted to point out how amazing her outfit is.
Loooong white socks and a blue frilled dress is a really nice look, and it perfectly fits her healing-and-holy-magic vibe. This look isn’t a million miles off of Anastasia’s, either — they both wear blue dresses with white bordering, and a braids tied back with a ribbon — but I imagine it’s just a coincidence.
Big spiky pauldrons, a fur collar on what is basically a bolero jacket, leather straps around the arm and across the steel-toed boots, along with leather belts across a big chest and hanging from a cinched waist? Count me in.
The more I look at this outfit, the more I like it — the fact that Lenny’s also wearing a bodysuit that seems to stop below his chest like a corset makes it even better. The fact that this is on a guy who, in game, is pretty macho, but is presented in the concept art with a slightly more feminine pose, along with a literal limp wrist, is fulfilling all of my sartorial wishes. It’s your usual mercenary garb, but just subtly twisted — and I think that might make it my favourite outfit from the game.
I’m gonna be honest, my primary motive for including Veronica Vera in this lineup is that, while her outfit is kind of regular “anime domme lady” in a way that seems to have become a lot more prevalent in the 2010s, I just really love that big feather eyepatch-lash-thing. It’s amazing, like she wants to walk around in a Venetian carnival mask but doesn’t want to hide her face. Amazing.
She also uses a whip as a weapon, as you might imagine.
Pierre & Gerard Magimel
The Magimel brothers are a campy duo of old queens who act as the shopkeepers of the game, effectively. Much with Joachim, I imagine their queerness was probably meant to be endearing-by-ridicule, and much with Joachim, I’m taking the parts that I like from that and finding some gorgeous power in it.
Gerard Magimel (right) sells the players items from his truck. Pierre Magimel (left) makes dresses for Gepetto’s weapon/living doll, Cornelia, in exchange for the player giving him trading cards depicting buff men in national (un)dress. I, for one, want this kind of barter system in my life.
I’m gonna say that I love the Magimel’s coquettish aesthetics and their stripes waistcoats with big, voluminous sleeves that give them a dandy-ish kind of flair.
Yuri – Miserati Fusion
Miserati is one of the monsters that the main character Yuri can fuse into, and it’s honestly just such a beautiful design. Ordinarily, I shy away from including monster designs in Fashion Fantasy if there isn’t a strong garment element to them. Admittedly, it would be pretty tough to get a weird bell helmet to float above your head while you yourself floated over the ground, but if it could make you look like this, perhaps we should be gearing science towards this brave new future.
This archangelic figure has a chest harness, and an interesting undergarment that looks incredibly fetishy — but instead of being a dark material, they look like they’re made of gold, brass or another yellow-orange metal; it’s all utterly beautiful. There’s a transparent cloth that hangs down around Miserati’s legs as well, which, in addition to the whole angelic/religious getup and the floating gimmick, makes them seem profoundly otherworldly and ephemeral. I love it. When do we get to see stuff like this in RuPaul’s Drag Race?!
Shadow Hearts: From The New World
Johnny Garland is the protagonist of Shadow Hearts: From The New World — a young go-getter from New York with a talent for photography. Considering From The New World is set in 1929, you’d be forgiven for thinking he looks like he’s somehow travelled back in time from the mid-2000s, Weirdly, that’s just his style — and to be honest, I think it might be the case that, much like the time-travelling hipster, this is a look you could potentially have had in 1929. Letterman-style jackets were certainly around, Levi’s have been around since the late 1800s… it’s a weird one.
It’s strange to consider that my suspension-of-disbelief with historical accuracy in the Shadow Hearts series was only challenged at the inclusion of a mid-noughties Marche Radiuju-looking kid and not at an immortal Robert Bacon or a demonic Rasputin. Hm.
Awaker is apparently some kind of incarnation of Johnny, or a being from within him, or something similar. I say “apparently” because, despite having completed From the New World, I remember very little about this person that you get near the end of the game — aside from the fact that I think he uses a lightsaber… But man, what a nice design.
The purple and gold sci-fi style of this outfit would be jarring in a game set in the late 1920s, were it not for the fact that this is Shadow Hearts, where anything goes. I love the architectural, almost Art Deco style (appropriate for the time period of the game…) of the golden elements of the outfit. They seem so impractical, but considering this entity is supposedly immensely powerful and not altogether human, why wouldn’t you exteriorise some fanciful, fantastical golden accessories when you’ve Awakened?
Shania – Tatan’ka Fusion
Much like Miserati, Tatan’ka is a monsters that Shania, one of From the New World‘s protagonists, can fuse into. While I won’t be covering Shania’s outfit itself, I will be looking at Tatan’ka’s, because it is AMAZING.
I said before I don’t usually include monster designs, and this is very much at the threshold because a lot of Tatan’ka’s design is more biology than garment, but I think it’s worth looking at. Tatan’ka is a Lakota word meaning “big beast” that refers to bison or buffalo, which definitely comes through with the horns. Tatan’ka is also Earth-elemental, which explains the stone accessories — which includes not only some lovely stone gauntlets, but also stone stilettos? What a good idea.
Shania – Tirawa Fusion
Tirawa is the strongest of Shania’s fusions, as well as being the final one she receives, and appropriately, that comes with lots of wonderful extraneous accessories. Atius-Tirawa is the Pawnee creator god, the “Father Above”, and the Tirawa of From The New World is gained as a result of a sacrifice Shania’s father makes, so there’s some Interesting Gender Potential going on there.
Tirawa is associated with the Sun in the game, and appropriately, she’s decorated with bright, fiety motifs like her flame-shaped graves, and the floating structures to her side with radiating lines. I love how strong and shiny Tirawa is, especially the huge headdress with the long, red ponytail falling through it.
Frank is a Brazilian man who, upon crashing his plane somewhere in the South American jungle, discovered a hidden village of Japanese ninja who then trained him. With his ninja arts, he’s taken it upon himself to safeguard the United States of America. At this point, I recognise that a lot of what I’ve been trying to relate about Shadow Hearts sounds a little nonsensical, so I hope this video of Frank’s introduction will clear things up. What a guy.
Frank’s outfit obviously borrows heavily from theatrical depictions of ninja, but dispenses with the sombre, muted colours and instead opts for the red and blue (with some metallic/silver touches) to represent the USA. He’s wearing a large Hannya mask on his chest, a common sight in Japanese Noh theatre.
Ricardo is effectively the Mariachi from the movie Desperado. There is no getting away from this fact. And it’s great. Much like the main character of the film, Ricardo is on a quest to avenge his lost love, using a guitar filled with bullets and rockets. Nice one.
Ricardo wears the traditional Mexican charro outfit common to mariachi, witha a really nice orange and dark-grey colour scheme that fits his Fire-elemental attacks well. The pattern on the side of his trousers gives it a wee bit more glamour as well. He looks slick, stylish and suave, and I’m here for that.
Zonda is Shania’s betrothed, and while we don’t see a great deal of him in the game, I thought his outfit was really nice.
While we do get to see a fair bit of (what looks like, from my admittedly very distant perspective) Native American-styled outfits in From the New World, Zonda’s looks fashioned in such a way that it’s a welcome reprieve from some of the brighter, flashy outfits we see. Even the colours, of sombre browns along with the vermillion red and dark emerald green, work really well together.
Gerard & Buigen
Remember the guy on the left? That’s Gerard Magimel, of the Magimel brothers from Covenant! He’s found himself a man – Buigen – and emigrated to the United States with him, becoming biker daddies on the road.
I really like these purely because of the fact that these are two queer men dressed in leather but not in the more common leather-daddy sort of way — here, it’s very specifically for the motorcycle aesthetic. I’m so happy for them both.
That’s all for our fourth installment of Fashion Fantasy! Shadow Hearts can be very easily described as eccentric, not least of which because of the outré outfits and styles we get to see in the games, but that’s exactly what makes them so lovable. It’s a shame that there haven’t been more entries in the series, because goodness only knows what kind of fashion we’d have seen in other time periods and geographical locations the games took us to. We’ll just have to pray for some renewed nostalgic interest coming our way, it seems.
If you’ve got some thoughts on any of the outfits covered (or passed over!), tweet me on Twitter!