To me, I felt that 2013 is the year of remakes in Japan since Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;birth1, New Atelier Rorona, and Tales of Hearts R got released this year for the Playstation Vita. With that, I decided to pick up my first Tales game that never made it out of Japan, which received a remake. That game is Tales of Hearts R. (Image Source)
The main story involves a young male character named Shing Meteorite who lives with his grand father. One day, he finds a girl named Kohaku washed up from shore and soon later her brother, Hisui in the forest. While they went to visit the graves of their parents, Incarros attacks them and then kills Shing’s grandfather and injures Kohaku. After a failed attempt to cure her by entering her Spir Maze, her Spirune gets broken into several pieces and spread out throughout Spiria. With that, they go on a journey to find the remaining pieces while befriending new people along the way. After all the pieces of Kohaku’s Spirune are recovered, Kreed, which was inside Shing is revived and regains his own body. He plans to reawaken Gardenia to free Flora, which will also cause Spiria’s destruction. Now Shing and company has to go to Gardenia to stop him from executing his plans to save the world.
As for the game itself, it plays like any other Tales game. However, there are some apparent differences. First is the Soma system, which is the only way you can get upgraded weapons in this game. Similar to Final Fantasy 12, you can allocate points to a certain amount for each attribute, which will influence the stats. After you filled it up, you will receive a reward such as a new ability, stats boost or a new weapon. Although this system is nice because you can customize your character’s stats as you wish while receiving new weapons for free, there are some limitations to it. First, you cannot customize your weapons, which makes the game a bit harder since leveling up and accumulating enough points is the only way you to get new weapons. Not only that, it’s not automatic, meaning that you have to go to the “Soma” menu and allocate the points yourself. Thankfully, Namco at least gives the option to allocate the points automatically if the user wishes to do so.
In addition, you can also enable special skills for your character. While the amount you can enable also depends on your level, you can gain new skills by doing a Soma Link between other characters (through battling, looking at skits or in-story events) or from leveling up your Soma. Opposed to the original game, you can share these abilities with other members if your Soma Link is high enough even if he/she doesn’t normally learns it.
As for the battle system, this is the biggest change since Tales of Hearts used a 2D battling system. In this remake, it uses the same battling system from all the recent 3D games with a few changes and additions. Besides the ability to attack monsters in mid-air, you can use the “Chase System” to perform a special attack. When the player successfully performs an attack on a monster showing a blue ring while pressing the L button, the monster will become stunned for a short period of time and allows the player to attack continuously while maintaining his/her combo. With this system, the player can teleport his/her character to the monster or perform a Chase Finish. Sometimes, a character’s icon might flash. You can touch on it to perform a “Cross Chase”, in which two characters perform an attack on a monster. While this can be useful in boss battles since it deals extra damage, I also find it somewhat troublesome because you have to take your right hand off the buttons and touch the flashing icon to perform it. It feels more like a gimmick to me since Namco could assign a button to achieve this. Lastly, there is an over-limit meter on the left that increases over time. On the higher levels (3 or 4) this allows the user to perform a Mystic Arte or a Dual Mystic Arte. In addition, you can also gain special abilities like instant spell casting and invincibility depending on what level overdrive is activated.
As for the graphics and the music, they look great for a game on the Vita. The character models and the scenery just look pretty. However, I felt that the cut-scenes in this game were a big disappointment for the fact that a good amount of them are in a 4:3 aspect ratio while others are in 16:9. This surprises me since Production IG’s animation usually looks great. I suppose Namco Bandai didn’t want to spend a lot of money to redo all the cut scenes since they only a small part of the game. Even so, it makes them look lazy in that aspect.
Overall, Tales of Hearts R is a very good role-playing game on how love can drive a person to do bad things. While I didn’t care much about the male characters, especially the main character since he is a typical male hero, I did enjoy the female cast more although there are only three playable ones. Aside from that, while I didn’t unlock everything (especially the Tales of Graces f cameo), there is a lot to like from this game, which every Tales fan will appreciate even with a few apparent flaws.
Strengths: New additions to the Battle System (e.g. Chase System), great looking graphics, very enjoyable story and characters, new playable characters, additional content (minigames, extra dungeons and optional bosses)
Weaknesses: Cutscenes are inconsistent in quality. Also, having to use the touch screen to execute a Cross Chase is cumbersome and feels like a gimmick. Also, some features from the original game like Combination Blaster attacks which allow you to summon other characters are removed.
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