Platforms PlayStation Vita Publisher Bandai Namco Games
Developer 7th Chord, Bandai Namco Studios Genre Role-playing Game
Tales of Hearts R for PlayStation Vita is a remake of Tales of Hearts, a Nintendo DS title that was released in Japan back in 2008. The Tales series has continued to grow popular in the west over the years, with the Tales of Xillia sub-series and the Tales of Symphonia Chronicles HD release earlier this year.
Tales of Hearts R follows the story of Kor Meteor, a bumbling young man with a kind heart who is destined to be a hero. Kor meets a young woman named Kohaku Hearts, who is being chased by an ancient witch. After an eventful encounter Kor shatters Kohaku’s Spiria, sending its shards across the globe. The Spiria is a powerful force within one’s self that controls emotion, and also allows individuals to wield ancient artifacts known as Somas; these items evolve depending on the person wielding them. With Kohaku’s Spiria shattered she becomes an emotionless husk which motivates her brother Hisui and Kor to hunt down her Spiria shards and return them to her body.
Kohaku’s shards cause people to go haywire throughout the world, with the extra emotional power sending whole towns into an overwhelming amount of emotion depending on which shard is present. For example, Kohaku’s fear made one individual overcome with the fear of losing those he cared for, while doubt made another individual distrust everyone around her.
Like most JRPG’s the tale slowly unravels to unveil a quest to save the world. Throughout my 32 hour journey with Tales of Hearts R I experienced almost every typical JRPG trope, character and twist that you would expect. This certainly took the wind out of the narrative as it seems quite happy to paint by the numbers most of the time, producing a predictable story.
One of my main issues with Tales of Hearts R’s story is the constant reliance on puzzles that require a large amount of backtracking, especially towards the campaign’s conclusion. These puzzles are never challenging and instead take an extended amount of time due to constant monster attacks. This issue becomes absurd towards the conclusion of the story where I was introduced to at least 5 different puzzles before I could reach the final boss. What made this experience even more frustrating was when a character in my party stated how this puzzle wouldn’t be fun and that it would require a lot of backtracking. That one statement summed up the puzzles perfectly, they were never fun and instead felt like they tried to pad out the experience with incessant backtracking.
Tales of Hearts R is still able to make the typical character types interesting by utilising the skit system. Which showcases characters having conversations in-between battles. Watching characters talk about events outside of the main story and interact like real people is heart warming, offering a greater chance to delve into the personality of each character. Memorable moments such as experiencing one on one interactions between characters at an amusement park are genuinely entertaining,. Though they are completely optional and easy to miss, these interactions helped make me care about every individual in my party.
Unfortunately, Tales of Hearts R does not include an English audio track. Though this means JRPG purists will be able to enjoy the original Japanese audio track, those who want the option of either English or Japanese are out of luck; though English subtitles are available.
Tales of Hearts R keeps the fast free-flowing combat of the Tales series intact, with the use of physical attacks and magical manoeuvres known as Artes. Battles are great fun and due to their quick nature, they are perfect for the handheld experience.
Players must also micromanage their squad in order to get the best out of their team, by assigning armour, weapons and items. Likewise, in battles, I had to constantly manage my squad’s health and magical abilities, especially during boss encounters. Ignoring your teammates when they are close to death will mean certain doom. In order to take down the strongest enemies Tales of Hearts R has to offer, your team must be there to provide support. Keeping your team alive brings tactical elements into battles, which forced me to do more than simply mash the attack button and expect a victory.
Kor also has the ability to fill up his Spiria Drive meter, which can deliver devastating finishing attacks that look spectacular and deal a heap of damage. Hitting a high numbered combo on an enemy can also allow players to hit the defenceless foe into the air and deliver a large combo. Kor will turn into a flash as he teleports around the enemy delivering devastating blows – you can even double team the enemy with another party member to deliver a lot of damage. These additions keep combat fresh and fun, allowing for extended combos that help the combat flow nicely, while making you feel like a sword slashing master.
Players can also upgrade the Soma of each character within 5 categories – Endurance, Fight, Sincerity, Belief and Mettle. Each category increases a different combination of statistics, such as physical attack power, physical defence, health points and more. When each category levels up a new move, Soma incarnation or bonus points are unlocked, which are used to improve skills. No matter which party members you decide to bring with you into battle, you can alter their focus and specialise their battle prowess to fit your play style. Perhaps you want your healer to have a higher defence so they can constantly heal your team, or you want Kor to deliver a higher amount of physical damage, the choice is yours. There are many tactical elements that can be explored throughout the upgrade system, which constantly rewards.
Aside from Tales of Hearts R’s main story, well, there isn’t much else to do. Side quests are almost non-existent, instead there are small side instances which usually involve short scenes. There are collectables and items scattered across the land, but they don’t offer much that can’t already be purchased from vendors. Also, unlike most JRPG’s I never had to grind in order to level up my character. Simply following the story and going from point A to point B was more than sufficient to take down every boss I encountered. Tales of Hearts R’s main focus is the story, and following that quest becomes your only meaningful task. Those wanting to experience a JRPG with extras alongside their main course, may find Tales of Hearts R lacking.
Tales of Hearts R looks great on the OLED screen of the original Vita, providing a crisp and vibrantly coloured world, with impressive anime quality cut scenes. Each city throughout your adventure also benefits from the beautiful visuals, each possessing its own unique aesthetic. From the city built on a bed of hot springs, to the kingdom of Straga, and even Kor’s home village, each destination is unique in its own right – aside from the copy/paste layout of each boating port location.
Tales of Hearts R is a perfectly fine JRPG for the PlayStation Vita. It transitions all the usual series elements such as free-flowing combat and lovable characters onto Sony’s handheld. However, Tales of Hearts R’s main issue is that it doesn’t do much to set itself apart from other JRPG’s. Housing a predictable story and lacking in additional content aside from the main story, makes Tales of Hearts R less memorable than it could have been.
Tales of Hearts R is definitely worth experiencing if you’re a fan of the series or if you want a JRPG for the PlayStation Vita. But it won’t leave everlasting impressions like previous entries in the series have accomplished.
Enjoyable cast of characters.
Excellent free-flowing combat.
Lacking side content.