Tales of Hearts R (PS Vita) Review

By André Eriksson 01.12.2014

Review for Tales of Hearts R on PS Vita

Bandai Namco's Tales series is a long and dear franchise for many dedicated J-RPG gamers. While not as well-known as the Final Fantasy games, they do offer a long and steady tradition that this game is true to. Tales of Hearts R on PlayStation Vita is now finally available in the West, so a bigger crowd can enjoy this beautiful game. Following on from the recent eyes-on article, Cubed3 reviews the new Bandai Namco release.

Tales of Hearts R is a very polished remake of the DS game Tales of Hearts, which was only released in Japan, but now Western gamers can also take part in this beautifully crafted story. It starts off with a young man named Kor and his grandfather, Sydan, out in a forest. Kor acquires Sydan's Soma, a weapon used to link Spiria, after proving himself worthy of it. Soon thereafter, Kor finds a mysterious girl on the beach named Kohaku, as well as her brother Hisui.

Subsequently, they get attacked by an evil witch named Incarose who puts Kohaku in a coma and kills Sydan. When Kor tries to awaken Kohaku by visiting her Spiria with the help of his newly acquired Soma, he accidently shatters her Spiria core, spreading it all over the world, leaving Kohaku an almost empty shell. Thus, Kor, Kohaku, and Hisui go on a quest to find and return all of Kohaku's spirit shards.

Tales of Hearts R offers the classic Tales experience - it is an action RPG title, split into two different sections. One is the overworld and the other the battle screen. On the overworld, the player controls their avatar of choice on the world map, travelling from one location to another, and talks to people, solving puzzles to progress through the story. The battle interface comes into play once getting into a random encounter or triggering a boss fight.

Screenshot for Tales of Hearts R on PS Vita

These are 3D and in them the player controls one character and up to three AI, all fending off the enemies in their way. In their arsenal, there are basic attack and artes, which require TP to use. To be successful, there is a requirement to mix these well, since every basic attack that hits restores the TP meter. Every character has a unique set of attacks and abilities to use and it is fundamental to set up a good party with different kinds of fighters to achieve victory.

There is an issue, however, which needs to be taken into account, and that is that the AI is not exactly the smartest kid in town, meaning that sometimes there is a need to actually decide what the AI should do via a separate menu, which can get really hectic in certain battles. Tales of Hearts R would ultimately benefit a lot from having better AI, since even though it is not as bad as it could be, it is noticeably poor on higher difficulties.

There is also a very creative level-up system that offers many ways to customise characters in terms of what roles they need to fulfil. The system is made by the player assigning points to different aspects of their Spiria when they level-up. When assigning points, different statistics increase depending on which aspect these points are assigned to, and skills and perks are given to the character once a certain number of points are given. This means that gamers could either make an extremely specialised character with few, but useful abilities for their role, or a mixed character with a lot of abilities in different fields. The possibilities are endless.

When levelled-up, they also get skills that can be dished out by assigning SP (skill points) to them. These skills further add to the customisation to make the character into what the player wants or needs him/her to be. These can be everything from added health, to an x% chance of something occurring when they attack, or the regeneration of TP when doing combos. The breadth of customisation options makes every team and set-up unique to every player.

Screenshot for Tales of Hearts R on PS Vita

The story in Tales of Hearts R is extremely well written and offers a lot of food for thought that might be of use in everyday life. Early on, the story focuses on how different emotions can have both positive and negative effects as Kohaku finds and regains more and more of her feelings. Tales of Hearts R also offers a very colourful cast that it is easy to laugh and cry with, specifically due to some parts of the tale and character development that can really hit people hard on a personal level.

The issue with the yarn, however, is that it is extremely slow paced. This is something that fans of the series might be used to, but for an average gamer this might turn them off pretty early on as whilst the start is insightful, it is very transparent in its role as an excuse plot to get the cast on the road. It might - depending on the speed of the player - take anywhere between 5-15 hours of playing before they get into any real action, especially to people new to the genre and franchise.

Those who can sit through this slow start are in for a real treat once the story really starts, though. It is deep and complex, and offers a lot of morally questionable characters and ideological queries that a good Tales release should offer, which leaves a lot of things for the player to reflect upon once the ending credits roll. Overall, this is a very good, but slow start to the story that any veteran of the franchise will love, but that might turn off impatient newcomers to the genre.

Screenshot for Tales of Hearts R on PS Vita

One very welcome feature is that it is mostly voice acted, with almost every cut-scene having voice acting, and it is of very good quality, helping to give the characters their own personalities and quirks - from Beryl's very childish way of speaking, to the cold and almost robotic speech pattern of Kunzite, which adds so much colour to the cast of heroes, as well as to the previously mentioned story.

Cut-scenes are also very beautifully made, and some of the more story-impacting ones are visualised in an anime style that adds details to characters not otherwise seen. The normal cut-scenes are also very impressive. While viewed from an overworld perspective, it might be hard to see some characteristic traits, so Bandai Namco does a beautiful job of adding in over the top signals for the characters, which gives them an obvious personality, even within such limitations. Beryl, who is an immature and tactless artist, for example, has a quirky and childish way of waving her arms around whenever she gets emotional, and Hisui, Kohaku's overprotective big brother, has very aggressive mannerisms when moving and interacting with the world around him, often involving hitting others.

The overall experience that Tales of Hearts R offers is a very well made and beautiful one that any avid J-RPG player should experience once during their lifetime. The battle system - horrible AI aside - is very fine tuned and offers a lot of control and freedom in the three-dimensional battle arena. This, along with a beautiful crafted story with well written characters that sadly sometimes are a little too stereotypical but more often than not very charming and unique, creates a very well thought out package that is much appreciated after waiting so long for it to come over from Japan.

Screenshot for Tales of Hearts R on PS Vita

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

Tales of Hearts R is a wonderful and well crafted J-RPG, and is the perfect pick up for those that love the Tales franchise that has been out of reach for Western audiences for far too long. It delivers a deep and meaningful story, wrapped up in a great package. The only issue is that the story at the beginning is too slow paced for newcomers to the series, which sadly may turn them off before the core of the story kicks in. Overall, though, this is a very high quality game that cannot be recommended enough to those looking for a strong J-RPG to sink their teeth into.

Developer

7th Chord

Publisher

Bandai Namco

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10 (2 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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