Tales of Hearts R Review + Video Review

tales

 

Title: Tales of Hearts R
Developer: Namco Bandai
Game Type: PlayStation Vita
Download: 1.6 GB
NA Availability: 
Digital Download | Retail

EU Availability: Digital Download | Retail
PSTV Support: Yes

 

Hello and welcome to our very first Video Review!  Today is the 1st Anniversary of our site.  It’s been on year today that we started bringing you reviews for the PS Vita.  In celebration, we are launching Video Reviews on the site!  Above, you will find our very first Video Review, with more to come soon!  Please leave questions and comments in the comments section at the bottom of this article, as this was our big test run for whipping together a video review.  Below is the normal review, if you’d like to read through it as well.  Enjoy!

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The Action RPG on the PlayStation Vita has been getting bigger, day by day.  As far as games are concerned, there’s a fair amount of games available.  A fair amount of those games resides in the Hunting RPG genre.  Games like Freedom Wars, Soul Sacrifice Delta, Ragnarok Odyssey Ace, and more are expanding that genre.  However, there are some other ARPGs on the system, getting out of that type of gameplay.

Console-style ARPGs are fairly scarce on the Vita.  By this, we mean games that have open world maps, towns and dungeons to explore and you move from one area of the world to the next.  RPGs that aren’t based on just going on missions from your main base.  To start off, you could list games like Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment and Ys: Memories of Celceta in this genre.  However, one series that has always done this, even with its newer games that the Vita has seen some action on is the Tales franchise, or the “Tales Of” franchise.

The Vita has actually had two Tales games on it, both remakes of Nintendo DS games that never released outside of Japan.  Until recently, none of them had been released outside of Japan either.  Tales of Innocence R, the first Vita Tales game has yet to come to the West.  However, thanks to #JRPGVita and other resources, Namco Bandai has localized their newest Tales game.  Here is our official review of the Action RPG, Tales of Hearts R.

Story

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The plot of Tales of Hearts takes place in a world known as Organica, where there exists a Spiria inside every living being, housing their heart as well as Somas, weapons that act on the Spiria to create magical weapons to be wielded in combat.  The plot surrounds a youth known as Kor Meteor, whom lives in a small village with his grandfather, working on his sword training.  Upon a chance meeting with a strange couple and a dark witch, he is thrown into a plot between two factions of an empire that can shift the fate of every living being on the planet.

The story of Tales of Hearts R isn’t a bad story.  However, it starts off a little slow.  The true plot and the deeper characterization doesn’t start really kicking in until you’re around halfway into the game.  At that point, there is a lot that happens in the game.  It’s still not the best story the series has to offer and has a lot of clichés, but it’s a story that is memorable.

Gameplay

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Tales of Hearts R is a console-style Action RPG.  As you progress through the game, you will be traveling across a large World Map to visit dungeons, towns, and cities to progress the story.  While you do this, there will also be a lot of dungeons to progress through and you will be fighting in fast-paced real-time battles with your party against an enemy party.

Progression for the game is fairly linear, for the most part.  Progression can actively be compared to some of the older Final Fantasy games.  Since the game is 3D, it could be compared to the kind of progression from games like Final Fantasy VII, VIII, and IX.  You go from one area to another, without too much lee-way in the areas you can go.  Then, at a certain point later, you gain a vehicle and the entire map is available to you to do side-quests and more until you head to the game’s climax.

When you aren’t in towns and exploring, though, you’re in dungeons, headed towards new story events and Boss Fights.  During this is where a lot of the game takes place, as you’ll be fighting through a lot of battles.  Battles, themselves, use the Linear Battle System that Tales series has been using since the PS2 era.  This will have you and your opposing party in an open 3D arena with free roam around (similar to Tales of the Abyss on Nintendo 3DS but with more freedom to roam).

Battles will proceed until one team wins by taking out all of the enemies of the opposing team, which will lead to eventually be 4 enemies or characters on each party.  The battle system is composed of doing physical attacks with your weapon or doing special attacks known as “Artes” that are like combo-focused skills or spells you can cast against the enemy or to support your party.  These can be chained together and also builds up a meter that allows you to do more powerful skills later on in the game.  You can also switch between party members at will (the AI controls everyone you aren’t controlling), and can also use items or give orders to your other party members.

With controlling the characters, you can also set control types.  There is a Manual Type, where you have locks and everything is just attacking as you go.  Semi-Auto, which has you always locked onto the enemy which is the default set.  Then you have Auto, which will allow the AI to completely control everyone, including your character, on strategies that you can set in the customization Menu.  Auto is also useful for grinding for levels without having to worry about being focused on every battle.

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The most unique part of the battle system is Chase Linking, which is something that is new for Tales of Hearts R.  It allows for more extensive and fast-paced aerial combat.  When you attack an enemy enough times, you can launch them into the air and can proceed to fight while they’re defenseless in teleporting combos in the air (imagine it like the teleport-friendly combos from the Dragon Ball Z anime).  This makes the system much more fast-paced than previous games of the series and, with the inclusion of character combos during this, brings the fun factor up quite a bit, giving you more options than only attacking and chaining Artes together.

Winning battles will give you various things.  First of all, you gain Experience that lets you Level Up.  There is also Gald, which is the game’s form of money and Grade, which adds to a total Grade that’s used for when you clear the game’s story.  Leveling Up will allow you to customize your characters.  Leveling Up gives you Soma Points, which are used to enhance your character’s Soma.  Doing this will increase your stats, let you learn new Artes, give you new weapons, or give you passive Skills to equip to enhance battles.

Since this is an Action-RPG and battles aren’t turn-based, there is a little breathing room in the difficulty spikes the game offers.  There, most certainly, are difficulty spikes and some of them are fairly large, but with the way the games go around, you can get through each battle fairly easy with the right strategy and assuming you don’t run away from normal battles.  While there are a couple areas where you do need to grind for levels, they don’t come often at all.  You can go through most of the game without having to stop and grind, like you do in turn-based RPGs.

Despite this, the game is not a short game.  While many gamers may be used to Vita ARPGs lasting around 20-25 hours, Tales of Hearts R is going to last you around 35-40 hours, along with the optional New Game Plus option to carries stuff and give a second playthrough added effects, like more experience or retaining your items and levels.  We clocked in around 38 hours, though our last bit of grinding we took the easy route with a couple of the DLC items you can buy to auto-level your party 5 levels.  Whether you use those or not, though, it’ll be a lengthy game.

Controls

Controlling the game is pretty simple, for the most part.  However, do note that the touch screen is required for some parts of the game.  When you’re in the middle of a battle, you will need to tap on character portraits to use the combo attacks during Chase Links.  Unfortunately, this is not given a button, so this is very awkward and nearly impossible to accomplish if you’re playing on the PlayStation TV.

The rest of the game is pretty easy to control, though.  Moving in battle and in the field is done with the Left Analog Stick or D-Pad and moving the camera on the World Map is done with the Right Analog Stick, though the camera feels a little clunky and unresponsive on that Map, taking much longer to revolve than the camera moves on its own when you tap L to center it behind you.  In Battle, the L Button is also used with the D-Pad to activate Spiria Mode, which lets you power up and use your ultimate artes.

As far as the face buttons are concerned, you use the X button to select options or interact on the field, and the Circle button can cancel options in the menu.  The Triangle is used to pull up the menu, and will open a menu, whether you’re in the middle of battle or in a town or on the World Map.  The X Button can also be used in battle both for physical attacks or you can assign an Arte to the X Button as well as it in combination with a D-Pad button.  You can also assign Artes the same way with the touch screen gestures, Circle button, or the Right Analog Stick.

Most of the game’s controls will be nostalgic for people used to Tales games.  If you’ve played games like Tales of the World, Tales of the Abyss, Tales of Vesperia, or Tales of Xilia, you will be right at home with this game.  Even for those not used to it, it’s not too hard to learn and remember.

Presentation

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Presentation is where the biggest part of this game shines.  As we mentioned above, Tales of Hearts R was originally a Nintendo DS game.  Not only that, but it used to be a 2D game.  With scenes being isometrical and battles being side-scrolling in nature, Namco Bandai completely overhauled the game into a fully-fledged 3D game like the console Tales games that have been coming out, as of late.  The game was completely remade, from the ground up visually as well as content, like new playable characters.

On terms of visuals, the game looks very detailed, be it on the PS Vita or the PSTV.  The character models aren’t perfect, however.  Some of them do have some jagged edges and the visual style is more like games such as Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment than games like Final Fantasy X HD, but the style it shows has a lot of detail and the physics they showcase with character interaction and movement is impressive for a handheld title.

The downside of the presentation are on two parts.  First of all, the music, while good, isn’t as symphonic and appropriate per situation as the series is known for.  The music does have the same feel the rest of the series’ music does, but none of the tunes are immensely memorable.  The other is the audio.  While every other Tales game that gets localized gets an English dub, this game did not.  Your only audio option is to have the original Japanese voice options with text and subtitles in English.

The other is that not all of the anime cinematic scenes were optimized for the PS Vita.  They made a lot of new scenes for the remake, but many of them were recycled from the DS version of the game.  Because of this, at least a few of the scenes are cropped in a 4:3 resolution instead of the Vita’s standard resolution, which looks awkward and are also a little faded in themselves.

Summary

Tales of Hearts R is a game that tries to bring that console RPG experience to the Vita, and does so well.  The gameplay is fun, it has a lot of length to it, and they’ve completely overhauled everything about the original to make it more immersive.  Although there are some cropped scenes and the story isn’t as deep as the series is known for, this is a game no Tales or RPG fan should pass up. 

8/10