October 8, 2014

Tales of Hearts R Review

Posted in video games tagged , at 7:50 pm by riulyn

I just finished Tales of Hearts R a few days ago in Japanese and I figured one or two of you might be interested in my opinion about Tales of Hearts R, considering that it is coming out in NA in November. Well, I had fun with the game. I am really glad they are bringing this one over to NA first and not Tales of Innocence R.

TLDR If you are a Tales fan with a Vita who hasn’t played Hearts yet, I’d buy it. Though I cannot say whether the localization job will be good.

Tales of Hearts R isn’t a bad way to introduce yourself to the Tales of series. It’s not amazing but it’s a game where characters take center stage. Story-wise, it’s definitely more about the characters than a story with world-building or ethical issues or straight-up world saving, though of course your party does some major ass kicking, takes a better “moral standard”, and saves the world. Gameplay-wise, battling is similar to Tales of Innocence R but with improved button response and a character growth system like Tales of Xillia. It’s not nearly as fun as Ys IV on vita and the artes/skills are tamed down a bit compared to Graces or Xillia, but each character can use a good variety of artes and there are no hard to use characters like the gun users in Innocence R. I played regularly as all of the characters except Hisui, who I let be my main healer, and Beryl, whose the best mage and her non-magical attacks are the slowest of all 8 playable characters.

GAMEPLAY

I think the battle system is playable with decent enough variety. Two characters are pretty much melee only, while the other 6 having varying amounts of spells and physical techs. There is still the timed guard/counter system seen in Innocence R, but the timing is not nearly as difficult. There is an overlimit mode where you take less damage and can trigger a special arte, if you have learned it. You can also use gambits to have characters automatically use items for certain battle conditions, and they can cook after battle. Cooking levels rise as a team, which makes it way easier to raise cooking levels to use high-level recipes in comparison to Innocence R.

The only thing I found amusing and annoying about battles is that your characters can really defy gravity. If a character continues to use an arte that kicks or slashes the enemy upwards, instead of keeping the enemy at a standard height above the ground like in other Tales games, the character and the enemy continue to move higher and higher off the ground. I think the limit is about 5 or 6 times higher than the normal jump height? Because of that, your other characters cannot reach the enemy that is being kicked or slashed upwards since a normal jump can’t reach them. And a lot of spells won’t hit them if an enemy is above a normal jump height above the ground, too. It’s something that unfortunately can really break the rhythm of battle if your character isn’t the one doing the gravity-defying act.

Leveling up allows your character to not only increase basic stats but allows you to use earned points to upgrade different aspects of your “Soma”. Do not ask me what Soma really is as I think that went over my non-fluent in Japanese head. Basically, adding points to one attribute will cause small increases in your stats and when a certain amount of points is added, that attribute levels up and you gain a skill/arte/new weapon/skill points. Yes, developing your Soma is the way you get better weapons in this game. The game is a bit tight on money, or at least I felt it was, so I still easily ran out of money doing armor upgrades and buying all the recipes. The recipes can be quite expensive too… Anyway, with earned skill points, you can then actually equip the skills you have learned. This game, like Innocence R, is pretty stingy on giving you skill points but allows you to learn a plethora of skills. I think I was usually only able to equip 1/3 of the skills available on a character. You can also level up your “links” to another character by battling a lot with them or via affinity points gained from storyline or skits. This allows you to equip some abilities that the other character has learned. I found that it allowed me to set up my characters with recover TP and HP at the end of battle skills before they all learned it and other bonuses like that, so I think it was a nice keep over from Innocence R.

STORY/CHARACTERS

The story is very focused on characters and their “hearts”. What is inside people’s hearts, hearts growing and changing, etc. Only one character doesn’t really change, and it’s probably because he was added in to the R version of Hearts.

If the cast wasn’t full of strong and different personalities, the story would really be nothing special. The way the characters act with each other – supporting, competing, teasing, playing – feels very genuine and really shows off each character to be more than just verbal tics and one-liners. The relationship between the main duo, of course, is particularly strong in this game, as pretty much anyone could expect from reading a preview blurb about the game’s story. Despite this, I feel like the they do a good job developing at least 3 or 4 other relationships within the plot of the game in a way that doesn’t seem out of the way/forced, while there’s also the fun of skits. Of course most Tales games now reach a decent standard of character interaction, but I’m glad Hearts was nothing like Innocence in this aspect. Certain things come up repeatedly in the skits, but overall I think the skits really show that everyone in the group has friendly and slightly different connections with each other. Like in Innocence R, in some skits you can choose some actions of the main character, leading to different dialogue following it, with probably an affect on character affinity.

I have to say that it did feel a little unnecessarily dragged out in the last 1/4. Like they wanted to add in a few more dungeons. But they threw in one scene that I really didn’t see coming, so I guess it wasn’t all just padding? It was just added to really put the hurt on one character and then later for the enemy to try to use that scenario to hurt the party but of course by that time the party has strong hearts so it was useless. I think anyone who has played the game will know exactly what I’m talking about.

OTHER

It’s unfortunate that the voice acting isn’t the best, though mostly I think they say some lines too slowly and makes the lines awkward instead of heartfelt. Last time I checked, which was months ago, I saw that they weren’t planning to do English voices, but I think English voice actors could definitely do a better job. I won’t be finding out, as my to-buy list is too long for me to get an English copy of Tales of Hearts R when it’s not one of my favorite games.

I didn’t care for the music, but that’s not really unexpected considering I’m not the biggest fan of Tales soundtracks.

Like Innocence R, they use a lot of skit scenes and stills to convey the emotions/tone of characters while they interact instead of making the 3D models move.  They really didn’t try to make the 3D models look that nice, either, though they at least look like they are somewhat healthy body shapes compared to the anime cutscene art where they are all way too thin to be real.

I don’t know who my favorite character ended up being. Maybe a certain painting magician girl…

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6 Comments »

  1. Joseph said,

    I’ve always wanted to play this tales game, so maybe the via will be my chance. I’m currently wrapping up xillia though it looks like reviewers aren’t crazy about xillia 2 so I may pass that one. Otherwise I’ve been playing destiny pretty much all the time recently lol. Great review though, now I know to avoid innocence and grab hearts

    • riulyn said,

      I am enjoying Xillia 2, but there’s pretty much nothing for people who aren’t fans of the first game. And even for fans of the first game, there are a few annoyances in Xillia 2 that could turn them off of it as well. However, I think the best part of Xillia 2 for me is the story. Not really how it’s organized but the fact that it is a rather “uncomfortable” story and it evokes some actually conflicting thoughts instead of the usual “let’s save the world and make everything better”. It’s definitely the most shades of grey I’ve seen in a Tales game so far, and definitely more grey than most JRPGs.

      • Joseph said,

        No kidding? I had heard the story was the weakest part so now I’m interested again. I like xillia quite a bit so maybe it’s for me after all

      • riulyn said,

        I haven’t read any reviews for Xillia 2, since I figured I would want to know what happened in it no matter what since I really enjoyed Xillia, so I don’t know why people are panning the story (if that’s what’s going on). I feel like the characters are written in a genuine manner and the pace keeps up. If there wasn’t the debt stuff, the story would probably be pretty short, but Xillia is short too if you cut out the fluff (I replayed the game in less than 20 hours while still watching the skits though not doing sidequests). If the “getting money to pay your debt” part is lumped into story impressions, I can see why people are hating on the story, but if it’s just the actual plot events, I’m not sure what exactly they are picking on. Not saying the story is amazing, but it feels stronger/more coherent than Graces, Legendia (at least the first part), Phantasia, Destiny, Innocence. I tend to agree with majority of reviews when it comes to story impression, but sometimes I don’t, like with Fire Emblem Awakening, where I still don’t get how some people think the game’s story is amazing…

      • Joseph said,

        Not familiar with awakening unfortunately. And now that you mention it in trying to think of a tales gamethat really hooked me with the story. Probably vesperia or abyss had the most compelling for me so far. Although xillia is solid. For me the lead character is really important, and Yuri is my all time fav. Asbel is probably my least favorite lol. I usually play for the battle system for sure. I’ll pick up xillia 2 at some point. A plus for me is that so many characters return

    • roanoke834 said,

      Like Riulyn’s said below, Xillia 2 is actually pretty great. The only real problem with it is all of the story is locked behind amounts of gald you have to pay to a debt to move on to. Other than that, the story is actually very interesting and pretty dark. It also brings back one of the best aspects of Legendia, that being the character quests (sort of.) Each character has their own story that you get chapters of as you progress and these are all a really neat addition that I wish would show up more in the games. Gameplay-wise, it is just more Xillia though. Which is fine if you liked Xillia.


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