There’s a good chance you’ve heard of Tales of Hearts before. If not, you’ve likely at least heard of the Tales series in some way since 1995. From the Super Famicom to the Game Boy Advance to iOS, there are few gaming devices that haven’t been hit by this series. Add onto that the manga and anime as well and you have an amazing collection that is clearly doing very well for itself and is showing no signs of slowing down. Tales of Hearts R is a remake of the DS version that came out in 2008 and it shows you how much can change in the industry and technology in just six years. Tales of Hearts R came out March of 2013 in Japan, and I’m sure it has been a long wait for fans of this game to have a localized version.
For those not aware of the story, you play as Kor Meteor, a very gung-ho, naive, gullible, country boy. With the power of your Soma, which happens to be a sword, you take on the role of a Somatic. There are creatures called Xerom that are plaguing the world and causing despir (not a typo) among people. Unfortunately, you accidentally mess up the Spiria (the essence of heart and emotions) of a young woman you meet at the beginning of the game and vow to retrieve all of the shards, bits of the Spiria that have spread throughout the world and seem to be affecting people in a negative manner depending on the shard. If you can’t tell already from that short description, you aren’t going to find an extremely unique or thought provoking story here. Much of the story, and specifically the characters, fall on some pretty heavy anime cliches, but as long as you know that going in, it likely won’t matter that much.
The differences between the remake and the DS version will be apparent the moment you turn on the game. First, you’re greeted with an animated video that shows you the characters you love in a new and far superior light. Even in game, gone are the sprite-like characters from the DS version and welcome are the 3D graphics. While I don’t always think a game is superior just because it may have better graphics, I would be lying if I didn’t say the enjoyment I have gotten out of Tales of Hearts R wasn’t largely due to that improvement. Some other additions to the game include 10 animated cut scenes as well as a new playable character.
The cut scenes were great and I always found myself wishing that they’d go on for just a bit longer…or a lot longer. Some of the animated scenes will pop up when something like a new character shows up for the first time, and I think it does a lot to show the fully animated character even for just a few seconds. For me, it immediately gave me a connection with the character slightly above what I would get if they were simply shown with the in game model only. For those playing this game (or even the series) for the first time, this isn’t one you’ll want to look past. For those coming back after playing the DS version, I think the upgrades and additions will make you feel like you’re visiting a very good friend you haven’t seen in a long time that you’re glad to see again.
One of the big aspects of the Tales series is the combat system. This is an action role-playing game and I found the action to be a lot of fun in this iteration of the battle system. If you’ve played a game like Final Fantasy or even Pokemon, you’ll be quite used to the random battles that take place when you are moving around in the world. In Tales of Hearts R; however, you have a lot of options for how you want to handle the battle. Even outside of the battle, you’ll find a place that you can easily put in a lot of time. Not only do you have the ability to tell each character in your party how you want them to act in battle such as focusing on healing or only on fighting, you can also go more in depth than I ever wanted to. Those wanting to fine tune the AI in their party to very specific levels should be smiling the entire time because this system definitely impresses. Feel free to tell a character that they should focus on one particular type of Artes (spells/abilities), that they should always try to be a certain distance away from the enemy, that they should focus a particular target, that they should use an item on themselves or an ally when health reaches a certain point and so much more. For each character, you are given ten lines with three options for each line: an action line, a target conditional, and a conditional for yourself. For example, I have one of my characters “Heal: Arte” a “Single Ally” when “HP less than 20%”. That’s a very simple one, but there are a lot of ways to change even that particular one to suit the exact style you want in battle.
The battle itself is a lot of fun. You are enclosed with the enemies in a circular battlefield with an invisible barrier. Using the D pad to move will move you either left or right on the screen or allow you to jump, but the analog stick is where I spent most of my time. The analog stick allows you to free run around the battlefield, really throwing the “action” into the action RPG. Don’t feel like blocking? Maybe just try running away. Or maybe you want to try and get behind the enemy to do some damage in the hopes that it will focus on one of your allies. Either way, being able to go wherever you want on the battlefield just feels like you are given a lot of freedom on how you want to play. The right analog stick can then have four Artes attached to it-one in each direction- for quick activation. You then have the ability to block solo or as a party, use even more shortcuts than the analog stick allows, use “Spiria Drive” (which is activated and gives you a lot of bonuses for a limited time), or use items. You can even do a “Chase Link”, which allows an enemy you’ve hit a lot to be knocked up in the air, teleported to, attacked to the ground, teleported to, etc. etc. With so many options in how you want to set up battle before and during, it never felt stale and I never groaned when a random encounter showed up.
As you level up, you and your party will each gain “Soma Build Points” (SBP), which you then can put into your Spiria atrributes as you see fit. There are five Spiria attributes: fight, belief, mettle, endurance, and then one that is character specific. Though you don’t have to deal with it often, a new person coming into your party will have all of their (SBP) ready for you to assign. The first time that happened and I was given over 100 points to distribute, I felt a bit overwhelmed, but the game saw this issue in advance and gave me an easy and quick way to hand out these points. By pressing “Select” on this screen, you can pick between options like “Fighter” or “Caster” or “Support”, and the game will hand out the points in a manner that best suits this particular role. While I do like the micro managing of what skills my characters are learning next, I have used this option a few times already for those times I just wanted to get back to the game as quickly as possible.
Like many games that are localized, you usually run into a few text issues. Unfortunately, with Tales of Hearts R, it’s not always so easy to tell if it is a text mistake or it’s meant to be that way. For example, having “think” instead of “thing” or “plaiter” instead of “platter” seems like obvious typos, but then you run into a couple instances of “go nood” and “woodhinked” that seem to be done on purpose. When a game is in the habit of either having one character make mistakes like this on purpose or playing on words quite often, it then just becomes confusing when an actual text error appears. I can easily accept “woodhinked” but I’m completely brought out of the game when I see “plaiter”, as I’m just not sure if it was on purpose or not. There are also some issues with the voice over work when you hit “X” to skip ahead. Sometimes, the character will continue talking through their entire lines even though the scene is moving on. This can cause some weird moments where a character is talking when their dialogue feels like it should have been cut off by pressing “X”. With all that said, there is still some very positive things with the dialogue itself.
The Japanese voice acting is extremely good, even for minor characters, and each of the voices matched the character and their personality perfectly. I know that may not sound like much, but when the main story is completely voice acted, it can be a large issue if even one character doesn’t match at all. While the main story will have little cut scenes, there are also conversations that happen outside of these. Usually after one of the cut scenes, you will see a prompt to hit “Select”, which will start a conversation on the screen between multiple characters. These are also fully voice acted and it can be funny to see a boxed head on your screen push another one off the screen as if they were pushing them out of the conversation. One of my favorite things that this game does with dialogue, however, happens on the world map itself. Now, I’m pretty bad with directions both in real life and video games. I’ve wasted a lot of time trying to find out where I’m going, especially in games where you have to walk on a world map to get to the next city or area. Luckily, Tales of Hearts R has the backs of the directionally challenged. You are always told the location of the next area you need to go, normally with a line letting you know you need to head a certain direction from the current city. This can be helpful, but not if you put the game down for a couple weeks and come back and have no idea where you were going. Thankfully, you can hit “Select” at any time and it will give you the same dialogue line with the directions of where you are supposed to be going. Even if I’ve put the game down for a couple of hours, I was glad this little feature existed
Whether this is your first time with Tales ,or Tales of Hearts specifically, or you’re coming back happy to see some of your favorite characters once again, Tales of Hearts R has a whole lot to offer. Even with the slight issues with text or dialogue, the rest of the game makes up for this tenfold. The free running and complexity of battle is exciting and fun, the characters are extremely interesting (if not cliche), and the game lets you choose exactly how detailed and intense you want to get into some of the systems, while still allowing more casual players to enjoy the game to its fullest. If you like action role-playing games, the Tales series, or an innocent, lovable protagonist, and you want to take it on the go or play it at home, then this game is a must buy.[review]