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Tales of Hearts R (PS Vita) Review

/ Dec 29th, 2014 No Comments

Tales of Hearts R Review

If there is one thing western JRPG fans know, it is the struggle — the struggle of not receiving a localized western release of a popular JRPG. When a major entry in a popular series does not grace western shores, it is does not go unnoticed. But JRPG fans also know how to be vocal about what they want, and it is an even bigger deal when that game finally gets a western release.

Tales of Hearts R is a remake of the eleventh entry in the Tales series. It originally released for the Nintendo DS in 2008, and later on iOS in 2013, but neither release made it to the U.S. or Europe until now for PS Vita. Finally, western JRPG fans can give the game a spin, and the updated version of Tales of Hearts R was well worth the wait.

Got Tons of Somas

Tales of Hearts R follows Kor Meteor as he goes from an enthusiastic if not naive boy living in a small village with his grandfather to a hero in his own right. Almost immediately, Kor meets a young lady named Kohaku Hearts. She is looking for his grandfather, Sydan, whom is a renowned somatic (the term for people who can wield powerful weapons called somas). Hoping to gain a soma from Sydan, Kor volunteers to take Kohaku to the only other soma he knows his grandfather to possess. Along the way, they run into Kohaku’s overprotective brother, Hisui, and things start to get out of hand.
 

Tales of Hearts R

There is truly no funny business going on here!

As Kor recovers the soma and bestows it upon Kohaku, an evil witch appears. She has been chasing the Hearts siblings with an eye on Kohaku. The witch puts a curse on Kohaku’s spiria (a person’s personality and spirit). Kor takes it upon himself to enter the girl’s spiria in hopes of ending the curse, but he only manages to make things worse. As he tries to fix Kohaku’s spiria, he ends up shattering it and spreading aspects of her spiria across the world.

With a broken spiria, Kohaku is a shell of her former self. More troubling is the fact that her spiria broke cases of despir (cases of exaggerated emotional behavior) across various villages. It is up to Kor, Hisui and a number of other friendly somatics to fix Kohaku’s spiria, but it won’t be easy.
 

Tales of Hearts R

Kor and friends will have to deal with cases of despir as a core part of their journey.

Localization has some funny quirks, including awkward dialogue and the characterization of Gall Gruner, who talks like an English professor that is way too into jazz. Some of the attempts at humor fall flat, but these minor quibbles become less glaring as players get deeper into the story.

Gall’s characterization aside, all main party members have realized and relatable characterizations. The complexity of the narrative builds as new elements that make the game’s world richer are introduced.

Hey Daddy-O, Play That Sweet Spirit Sword

Players will split time between exploring field maps and dungeons, and fighting in random battles. Exploration is mainly handled on an overworld map with points of interest popping up along the way. Villages act as a way to restock supplies, upgrade equipment, rest up, and find new information to further the story. Generally, villages point players toward a dungeon full of monsters, puzzles, and a case of despir to fix.

The combat system will be familiar to long time fans of the Tales series, but might be an adjustment for those more comfortable with turn-based JRPGs. Random battles take place in active time, with both enemies and the player’s party fighting in a circular area. Within this area, gamers can toggle focus between enemies, run up to targeted enemies, or free run across the battlefield.
 

Tales of Hearts R

Stay sharp because battles can get a bit hectic.

Players have a number of basic options when fighting. Gamers can use standard soma attacks (variety can be thrown in by using the basic attack button and up or down) and Artes attacks (powerful fighting moves that are limited based on character stats), or guard against enemy attacks. Learning to master these basic combat functions will serve as a good base when battling against lesser enemies.

A major battle component is the “aerial chase linear motion battle system,” which allows players to unleash a barrage of attacks on a weakened enemy. The aerial battle system allows players to take down enemies quickly, unleash a flurry of attacks before they recover, use team attacks for characters with strong bonds, and let lose a powerful finishing blow. A final blow can be performed any time during an aerial battle, but doing so ends the aerial battle, so using it at the last possible second is important.
 

Tales of Hearts R

Aerial battles are an important aspect of combat and a great way to do some major damage.

Players learn more advance techniques as they progress through the story, including the technical counter, a powerful last second counterstrike against enraged enemies. Other important advance battle moves are the Spiria Drive, which grants players a short window of unlimited Artes attacks, and Mystic Artes, which are massively powerful attacks performed by a single character or combined by two characters with strong bonds.

The soma system for leveling up characters is a fascinating way to improve characters. After each level, a character earns a number of soma build points (SBP), which can be spent to improve various aspects of the character’s soma. Improving these aspects grants special bonuses like weapons, Artes, and increases attributes. Certain aspects are linked, so improving two different attributes can unlock additional bonuses. There are a number of ways to spec out characters, so it is a compelling system to play around with.

Overall

Tales of Hearts R may have taken a long time to make it to the west, but it was a wait well worth it. The game boasts a surprisingly complex battle system and interesting soma leveling system. While certain aspects of the localization are a bit wonky, the issues smooth out as the story gets going.

Tales of Hearts R will satisfy any Vita owner hankering for another tried and true JRPG.

 

Kalvin Martinez

Kalvin Martinez

Senior Editor at Gaming Illustrated
Kalvin Martinez studied Creative Writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He writes reviews, prose and filthy limericks. While he is Orange County born, he now resides in Portland, OR. He is still wondering what it would be like to work at a real police department. Follow Kalvin on Twitter @freepartysubs
Kalvin Martinez

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TALES OF HEARTS R (PS VITA) REVIEW

Gaming Illustrated RATING

Overall80%

GAMEPLAY8.5

Tales of Hearts R plays is a traditional JRPG fashion. Gameplay doesn't fully open up until several hours into the game, but the combat and leveling system is addictive and compelling.

GRAPHICS8.5

The in-game graphics have a sharp cel-shaded aesthetic, while the animated cutscenes tend to take away from the impressiveness of the in-game models and visuals.

SOUND7.5

If you're not down for a lengthy JRPG adventure with nothing but Japanese voiceovers, this isn't for you. That said, the Japanese voiceovers are great and the soundtrack is good.

STORY7.5

Whether it is the overall conflict between an ancient witch or the tension brewing between the church and army, the game builds on core story elements to present a complex narrative. The only weakness is the localization.

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