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True Love Bears All

Notice: This review contains spoilers for Clouded Heart. If you haven't played the game yet and don't want to know what happens, stop reading now.


The game's plot is short and sweet: foil the Nightwings at every pass, suppress the dark spirits within Marth, return to your own world and perhaps some side romance if there's time.

What I mean to say is that this game is a love story through and through. What starts off as childhood fondness challenged by bullies and physical abuse becomes the split between two worlds with the people of them living wildly different lives (even dying) in these different realities. With a single choice, a boy with enough on his plate as it is becomes the most powerful and feared man in the world thanks to shadowed creatures who encourage him to engage with his inner darkness. Elsewhere, love blooms in full as the choice is made to stand up to the bullies of the past, deny the shadow creatures and pursue the childhood fondness that set this whole story in motion.

The struggles between the duality of the mind taking place in a physical realm is thematic brilliance.


One thing this game's introduction doesn't have is characterization. Each character seems to speak with the same voice. Even Marth as a child uses a very adult phrase like "goddamn".

But it goes without saying that the game improves after this and each character begins to speak with their own voice. Marth, the primary protagonist (and antagonist in the parallel world) speaks with a coldness that's only melted when his beloved Kathrin is around. Kathrin is always energetic and a go-getter but uses this as a facade for her fears of being alone and the challenges she faces with losing her family. Lionel is a man who, after coming in conflict with the game's true final antagonist, lost his memories and is constantly remembering small details with nothing making absolute sense until he obtains his best weapon, a lance, and all things fall into place. Scarlet serves the Nightwings, but where she at first seems like just another soldier, it's revealed that she joined under a promise to rebuild her ruined city.

Where the game truly shines is in its characters and how they go forward with the hands they've been dealt.


I remember back in 2007 when I first played this game how its mapping inspired me to improve my own mapping. It's dated now and I've improved a thousand fold since then, but I still give this game credit for what it did for me.

It's still serviceable but shows obvious signs of where it could use improvement. The use of higher wall tiles as ceiling tiles, while creative, is incorrect and makes the sewer where the player confronts Scarlet look quite bad.


While the graphics used for the maps are default RTP, version 4 of Clouded Heart makes use of custom character portraits that add a visual flair to cutscenes. Granted, not all is well as these portraits take up a third of the screen and at times hide the characters speaking, which is part of the reason why I still sort of prefer version 3 with its use of facesets.

Kathrin is hiding behind giant Kathrin. Marth is unmoved.


Most of the music is either RTP or Chrono Trigger. If you're into that sort of thing, this is the game for you. I personally have no complaints because I feel it's used wisely.


One downside to this game is the slow walking speed. Get used to that and you're set because there's not much else in the game that drags that hard, not even the battle system.

That as it is, the gameplay is default RPG Maker fare with small things added in that makes the game still worth playing today. Two of these things are the use of battle animations to show characters attacking with their current weapon and the addition of side quests near the end of the game that grant you the ability to get all of the game's best equipment for your characters.

I've always admired this game for its use of battle animations to show the characters themselves doing the attacking. Not many games did that outside of Legion Saga II and III and it adds a lot of action to the aged default battle system.

The way the game gives you so many side quests to engage with just before the final dungeon is brilliant, and by putting all of the clues to where they are in one place is a convenience that definitely adds a lot to the adventure. Not to mention that each quest comes with its share of character building content that fuels the story and creates a bond between the party and the player. The fact that Scarlet finds her best weapon by looking in the mirror is some sort of genius.

Fight fire with knives.

Closing Statements:

While it's not as influential as it used to be, Clouded Heart still has a lot to offer modern audiences in terms of character development. That the bullies became the Vultures while searching for The Raven and who later together influenced Marth in the past to become The Raven is some sort of time paradox worthy of a Final Fantasy title.

With all of the good things it does overshadowing the bad, I feel comfortable giving Clouded Heart a modern rating of...