Tales of Hearts R Review – A Worthwhile Tale (Vita)
Remakes seem to be all the craze lately, so Bandai Namco decided to join in on the party and remake what I have been told was a classic Nintendo DS RPG in Tales of Hearts. Adding an R to the end of it’s name and coming over to the PlayStation Vita, the game sees some cosmetic changes, along with added story, playable characters, and a re-worked battle system. All of these changes ensure that Tales of Hearts R is a competent entry in the Vita library and one that RPG enthusiasts should be eager to pick up. It is, however, not the best entry in the Tales of series and leaves you with a few what if moments.
A Story of the Heart
Tales of Hearts R puts gamers in the shoes of the epically named Kor Meteor, a young somatic who just lost his only family member, and comes across fellow somatic’s Kohaku and Hisui, who are fleeing from a powerful being set on doing something nefarious. Almost immediately after they meet, Kohaku’s Spiria is shattered into many different pieces and it is up to Kor, Hisui, and a cast of characters to hunt down these missing pieces and restore Kohaku’s Spiria to it’s complete state. To do this, Kor and his group must find each shard, which is usually lodged into person, and dive into that person’s Spiria to retrieve it. For those who might be confused about it, the Spiria is like the inner spirit of people, which is used to activate their Soma into a weapon.
The story in Tales of Hearts R has a really great concept and a few really good characters, but for me it wasn’t the strongest story delivery in the series. While it has a really good message built into it, I felt that the characters weren’t as strong as previous titles like Abyss, Xillia, or Graces F. The biggest culprit here is Kor, the main protagonist, who just isn’t developed enough to really sell the story. Thankfully he is helped off the bat by a strong supporting cast. It’s bad enough that I feel Ludger Kresnik from Tales of Xillia 2 was a better lead and he was a mute! The story is told through Japanese voice acting with English subtitles and the patented Tales of character optional dialogue parts where character portraits show up on screen to give more back story on events happening in the game. The Japanese voice work will throw off some who don’t like to read but really shouldn’t, as all the voices really fit their character counterparts and feels more authentic.
Combat has been given a huge facelift from it’s original DS release, bringing in the Tales of combat that people just can’t get enough of. Players are given control of one character with three AI controlled characters fighting alongside you in a round battle arena for each fight. You are given “free roam” inside these fights, allowing you to run away from trouble and set up your next attack should you need to. The AI controlled teammates follow strict guidelines that you set to a tee, so tell one to sit back and only focus on healing and that is exactly what they will do. It is a great system that allows players to get exactly what they want out of their teammates, setting up a perfect combat team to take on any situation. It’s not just you that will attempt to fight smart, as your enemies will try and fan out to avoid one attack hitting multiple enemies and will look to attack healers whenever they can. Even with all this going for it, the battles are still fairly simple to get through and often times don’t bring near enough of a challenge.
When engaging in battles, you will have your basic attacks to perform, with the attack button and a direction on the d-pad performing different attacks. The same is true of your “artes” button, as you will be able to have four different artes that you can perform during battle. You can switch these out at anytime during or after battle to best suit your needs and play style. Outside of artes, you will also have the ability to counterattack incoming enemies, or later in the game perform chase links. These chase links occur after you hit an enemy enough times to where you then throw them up in the air, then chase them into the sky and continue your attack, finishing with a punishing blow. If this wasn’t enough, there is also a Spiria Dive attack that allows you to speed up your character and perform a deathly blow to an enemy. This is perfect to throw out there during a boss battle, due to it being un-blockable, and does a ton of damage to boot.
Getting the most out of combat and your characters boils down to how you spend your experience points. These points are used to upgrade areas of your characters Soma’s in five different categories such as Sincerity and Belief, unlocking new artes, skills, and weapons. Each skill you unlock has a point total assigned to it and each character can only spend a certain amount of points on assigning skills, so you can mix and match these skills to your hearts content. Whether you want to enable the ability to do more damage with attacks or better guard against magic attacks, it is completely up to you. The system is set in place so that you have complete control on how each of your characters level up and exactly how they perform in battle. Outside of all that combat, players will also have the ability to find ingredients throughout their travels that they can use to cook up dishes that boosts things like your healing power or attack power.
It’s All About the Graphics
Graphically speaking, Tales of Hearts R looks OK on the Vita, with some good looking menu’s and character models that go along with basic but good looking towns. There is nothing here that really jumps out at you and the cinematic cutscenes look fairly good but unspectacular. The world map that you have to explore is downright ugly and fairly barren, with a feeling of free roaming available, but with the actuality that there’s not really much to do while roaming. Inside each dungeon though, there are multiple different secret directions that you can take, opening up what looks on paper like a fairly straight forward dungeon and giving it a bit of variety. On the audio front, things are pleasant but like I mentioned with the graphics, nothing really jumps out and grabs you. The main track is solid and the voice work for each character is well done, so that’s a plus.
Tales of Hearts R is one of those games that is solid yet unspectacular, which is really the best way to describe it. The story and characters do just enough to keep you intrigued and moving forward, with the combat swooping in to patch up any possible holes with it’s fast paced fun. Kor Meteor is not the greatest lead that the series has seen and kills a lot of scenes that need a strong lead character. The combat is also far too easy, even on the hardest difficulty setting and graphically the game is fairly uninspiring. However, when the dust has settled, this is an RPG that will keep you entertained north of 20 hours and one that Vita owners will want to have in their collection.
Review copy was provided by the publisher. For information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.