Review: Tales of Hearts R (PlayStation Vita)

Tales of Hearts R: Official GBAtemp Review

PlayStation Vita 3,968 views 2 likes 14 comments
Reviewed by Austin Trujillo, posted Nov 10, 2014
Nov 10, 2014
  • Release Date (NA): November 11, 2014
  • Release Date (EU): November 14, 2014
  • Release Date (JP): March 7, 2013
  • Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
  • Developer: Bandai Namco Studios, 7th Core
  • Genres: Role Playing
  • ESRB Rating: Teen
  • PEGI Rating: Sixteen years and older
  • Single player
    Local Multiplayer
    Online Multiplayer
    Co-operative
The Tales Of series is a masterful design of adventure, storytelling, and hours upon hours of content. I would like to thank Bandai Namco for providing us with the review copy of the game, and we’re going to jump right into what makes Tales of Hearts the must have JRPG on Playstation Vita!
Austin Trujillo

Gameplay

Tales of is known for introducing a relatively simple combat system that becomes extraordinarily hard to master. The amount of variety every character has of attacking is a real treat to play around with. To go into more detail, you have up to 8 different characters to choose from throughout your journey through the game, each with a large variety of attacks, stats, and Artes (special abilities).

Leveling up allows your character to increase basic stats, and use earned points to upgrade different aspects of your “Soma.”

Your Soma is the source of all your abilities, and your signature weapon that you will use during battle. You can add these points to the different attributes of the Soma Battle System: Endurance, Sincerity, Fight, Belief, and Mettle. All of these attributes of set skill point unlocks will change the way your character fights, what signature weapon they wield, and what Arte abilities they can use. Development of your Soma is key to your progression and combat in the game.

You can also equip special accessories to your character called Combo Commands, which allow full access to all of a characters Artes for a limited time, based on the activation of key button presses.

The Artes become available based on skill point progression of the attribute, but there are other Artes available for special occasions, such as “Union Artes,” which are special attacks that change depending on the pair of characters you use in battle.

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Speaking of some teamwork elements, the more you pair certain characters with your main fighter, you will gain levels for you “links” with those characters. Doing this allows you to equip some abilities that the other character has learned for use in combat.

We also see the return of the timed guard/counter system seen in Innocence R, but the timing feels a lot easier to execute now, allowing you to strike back for some heavy hits. There is also the Overlimit mode to take into account. The Overlimit mode is built up based on the amount of hits you deal, and take in battle, and adds to a small gauge on the left side of your screen. When this gauge is full, you can activate Overlimit, which lets you take less damage from enemy attacks, and allows you to trigger Mystic Artes you obtain through level progression. The Overlimit also allows you to continuously chain Artes without pause, thus dealing some pretty heavy damage!

It all seems pretty overwhelming at first, but fortunately the game progresses and teaches you all of these aspects in such a way that you can practice them and master them before you truly need to worry about using them. Not to mention, there is no need to worry if the difficulty ramps up for you, as you can change the difficulty setting at any time during gameplay from the settings menu.

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Now, I’ve been talking a lot about how to use the combat system, but it’d be much better to talk about combat itself. Battles take place in 3D environments with fully rendered character models, unlike the DS counterpart. The Vita version of Tales of Hearts R uses a system known as the “Aerial Chase Linear Motion Battle System,” or the “Arc Chase,” in Japan. Both of these are a mouthful though, so it’s easier to just explain what it is. Taking a page from most combo heavy fighters, Hearts R allows you to perform attacks that allow you to knock the enemy into the air for some serious pummeling, and the height at which you send them soaring is pretty insane. Enemies can be knocked up as high as 5-6 times their regular jump height if your combos continue to land. Combos string together well for such an action heavy RPG, and it’s a really nice fit for the franchise, though it did seem a tad out of place for a typical Tales game.

Slightly frustrating however, is that the higher you knock your enemy off the ground, your mage attacks seem to lose some accuracy. This typically wouldn’t be a bad thing, unless you yourself are a mage heavy user, in which case it can slightly break the rhythm of the fights you’re locked into, especially if your opponent is the one jumping around high in the air without being hit.

A little change never hurt anybody though, and the system is constructed well enough to offer plenty of opportunities for some fantastic and awe inspiring graphical combos.

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What I liked even more about this new system was allowing your selected allies that you take into battle with you, to get a piece of the action. By holding down the attack button, allies can jump into your aerial chase for a finishing move called a Chase Cross attack. Finishing enemies off with this move is really satisfying, and it helps keep that experience rolling in for you!

The rest of the gameplay elements stay true to the series’ 3D standards, with progression taking place in a dungeon-crawler fashion across numerous terrains to progress the story. Key elements from previous games also make a return, with cooking recipes, gambits, and more. Fortunately in this iteration of Tales, cooking levels rise as a team, which makes use of high level recipes much faster to acquire.

All in all, gameplay is actually a lot simpler to master than other previous iterations of the Tales of series, but whether that is a good or bad thing depends on if you are a Tales Of veteran or not. Tales of Hearts R feels like a great way to introduce yourself to the elements of the Tales of Franchise, which is a wonderful way to make it more accessible to people unfamiliar with other games. I also feel as though Tales of Hearts R is MUCH more character focused than its counterparts. Speaking of that character focus, I think it’s time we dive into the story of the game!

 

Story

The story of Tales of Hearts R is driven heavily by, well, people’s hearts. Bet you didn’t see that coming did you? A characters heart is the source of ever growing, ever changing power, evil, and lots and lots of feels.

The story begins with the introductory cut scene of characters Hisui and Kohaku fleeing from a dark presence through a forest. As they are chased to the end of a cliff, with nowhere to turn, and a seemingly dark evil coming to take their lives, they jump off the cliff into the raging ocean below.

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Then we cut straight to the main protagonist of the game, Kor Meteor, a young boy from a small village by the sea, living under the care of his grandfather. We come upon Kor receiving his grandfather’s Soma, the weapon that channels a person’s Spiria, and form a weapon based on it. His grandfather informs him that upon mastery of the Soma, it will give him the strength to protect himself, and all those he cares for. A little while later, as Kor is left taking care of his grandfather’s house, he grows bored and decides to take a walk on the beach. And lo and behold, there he finds a woman washed up on the beach. Kohaku has been washed up onto the shore of the beach, and after a rather entertaining revival scene and some perverse slaps later, she informs Kor that she has come seeking his grandfather and his Soma, for a darkness is about to take hold on the world. Kor takes her to the resting place of his mother in order to give her the other Soma in his family for use to banish the evil, while reuniting with her brother Hisui on the way. At the final resting place, they are ambushed and attacked by a mysterious witch, who casts a spell on Kohaku’s Spiria, and knocks her unconscious. Kor attempts to attack the witch, but with his level of strength, cannot muster the power to defeat her. Before he is surely killed, Kor’s grandfather jumps in front of him as the Witch sends a deadly spell heading his way. Kor’s grandfather takes the hit dead on and falls to the ground. Kor, in a fit of rage, strikes back at the witch and manages to knock her off her feet, giving him the chance to grab his grandfather, and follow Hisui back to the village, with Kohaku still unconscious on his back.

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Back at the village, Kor decides to use his Soma to travel into Kohaku’s Spiria, in an effort to destroy the dark spell that manifests itself there. However, he accidentally manages to shatter her Spiria core, the source of her emotions.

With the now emotionless Kohaku with them, and a darkness taking hold over the world, their only other option is to find the Spiria fragments of Kohaku’s heart, and journey to defeat the evil taking hold of the realm.

Throughout the rest of the main story, you will meet up with various character to help you in your efforts of battle.

Ines Lorenzen, a powerful young woman with a mind strict for business, takes Kor and Hisui as collateral for payment of Hisui’s Soma, and basically has them working for her, even though she’s a part of your party! attachThumb11706

Gall Gruner, a Somatic with a tragic past, joins the crew in order to help Kohaku regain the fragments of her Spiria, following the demise of his daughter and her lost heart. attachThumb11705

Chalcedony Akerman, Commander of the Order of the Crystal Knights, is a self-disciplined and powerful warrior. While he appears as a sort of antagonist at first, his sense of duty and honor will eventually persuade him to aid in their journey. attachThumb11704

Beryl Benito, a self-proclaimed artistic prodigy, is a runaway girl that works as a courier in exchange for Soma. She’s the comic relief your party (as if there wasn’t already enough). attachThumb11703

Kunzite, a Mechaknight built long ago, Kunzite was awakened from a long sleep by Kohaku’s voice, and decides to follow her to look for clues on the whereabouts of his master. attachThumb11707

Lithia Spodumene, an emerald haired woman that laid dormant in Kohaku’s Spiria. She is the one that names Kor chosen one of this quest. attachThumb11708

All in all, the story of Tales of Hearts is massive and breathtaking. The story will take you a long time to get through, and there’s not a moment that it goes by where it isn’t entertaining, tragic, and full of life and character!

 

Other Gameplay Elements

The combat system takes up such a heavy portion of the game, but it isn’t all Tales of Hearts has to offer you.

Another decent chunk of your game will be spent traversing the massive realm before you, finding items, helping with side quests, and learning more about the characters that help you along the way.

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One of the coolest additions to the game is Reinheit, an aerial vehicle that allows you to traverse the massive world around you and reach and explore many isolated areas, find treasure, and complete the world map. While using this mode of transport, you will not be attacked by random encounters, so free roam is all yours. This also gives you a great means of fast travel, though it will of course, not be available to you if you have not visited certain areas on foot.

Another main mechanic to your traversal is the Sorcerer’s Ring, which activates certain mechanisms and switches, and allows you to progress through most areas depending on the color of the ring, and what ability that color uses. You can also use it to make your way across large gaps and other environmental hazards.

Let’s not forget the age old favorite of dungeon crawlers, treasure. Treasure can be found in boxes within towns, ports, and dungeons, and will also be scattered all over the landscape before you. Be on your guard though, as not every treasure box is as safe as it seems!

Also scattered throughout the game are Namcoins, which you can obtain through conversations with People and Animals (just talk to Spot and he’ll give you the dough). You can trade these coins in for useful prizes, and collecting all 76 will give you a super special reward.

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Present as well, are Skits, the conversations between your characters and current members of your party. These have always been wonderful in adding entertaining dialogue to the game, and Tales of Hearts doesn’t disappoint with its hilarious conversations, and warm character development. They are also voiced this time around!

Besides the regular barrage of dungeons and landscapes, you also have the ability to traverse through a person’s Spiria Nexus, by initiating a Spiria Link. Spiria Nexus’s are grueling mazes filled with monsters and danger, in a crystalline, purple atmosphere. You will need to traverse these mazes in order to fix a person’s Spiria. At the end of every maze, you will be faced with a person’s Spiria Core, where you will either have to speak with the person’s Core in order to cure it, or engage in a very difficult battle. It’s best to always come prepared to the Spiria Nexus but don’t worry. You can only activate the Spiria Link by selecting a person with an exclamation point over their head in order to travel into their Core.

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Tales of Hearts is one big monster of a JRPG, but the content it provides is vast, fleshed out, and entertaining. I never found myself bored and without something to do, and rather than having to grind for hours and hours, found myself progressing naturally through side quests and battles without having to stress over my levels.

Tales of hearts feels and plays masterfully, and everything looks great, although a little white washed in my opinion. While some aspects of the game look polished and vibrant with color, other areas look boring or become tiresome to look at after a while. Delving into Spiria Nexus’s over and over and seeing the same boring purple and crystal haze becomes quite repetitive, and enemy encounters look and feel constant and un-dynamic.

The soundtrack of the game also leaves a little something to be desired, and character outcries became irritating after hearing them proclaim their attacks over and over again, but fortunately you have the ability to turn voice volume down in the settings. Unfortunately in doing so, you also turn off the in game cut scene voice volume, so you have to decide what you feel like putting up with more often than not.

Other than the minor complaints I outlined, Tales of Hearts R was a treat to play. You’re never starved for content, and the flaws are so minor, they don’t distract from the core of gameplay. With so much to do, so much to see, Tales of Hearts R is the all-star JRPG on Vita to date.

 

Verdict
Pros
+ Massive story
+ Loads of content
+ Fantastic combat system
Cons
- Bland and repetitive areas
- Mediocre music
8 Presentation
The Tales Of series is a solid role-playing franchise with wonderful entries filling its library of titles, and Tales of Hearts R is among those. It's presentation is solid, comedic, and down to earth.
9 Gameplay
Tight combat controls, vast areas to explore, loads of hidden goodies, and simplistic travel management make the gameplay of Tales of Hearts R a treat to play. Ever changing and everlasting, the game does not stop delivering its epic fun.
8 Lasting Appeal
Tales of Hearts R has so much to offer to you as you play through the game. There is nonstop content from collectibles, to the core combat and leveling progression system. It would be close to perfect if there were only more incentive for replay-ability. While you can always go back and nab some collectibles, there is not much incentive to do much else after completing the game. But the lasting appeal will draw you out to that end for some time, and that makes it a game worth playing.
8.5
out of 10
Overall (not an average)
Tales of Hearts R is a fantastic addition to the diverse Tales of franchise. I found myself engrossed in the story of the characters as I followed them. I laughed with them, and I had my heart strings tugged on once or twice. I took on epic battles with them, and I struck down evil with amazing magical fortitude. I enjoyed all of the hours I sunk into Tales of Hearts R, and would highly recommend it to anyone looking to begin with the Tales Of franchise.
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