The Playstation Vita. Cast aside by so many, the unwanted Christmas pet left to wander the streets. Luckily there are those who look at the handheld’s big soppy eyes and fall in love and are happy to give the delightful package of wonder a loving home. It in turn rewards those who do, as it becomes home to ‘Indies’ and also the RPG.
Which brings us on to our review for Tales of Hearts R, a game that seems to be the perfect fit for the Vita and one that will start to consume a lot of your gaming time.
Tales of Hearts R is a remake of a Nintendo DS game and has been given the usual update treatment for the release on the Vita. Stuff you’d expect to see like improved visuals and some additions to the original story are all there to make it a worthwhile purchase even to returning players.
The story revolves around Kor Meteor, a young man who has just inherited a Soma from his Grandfather. One thing leads to another and eventually Kor finds himself needing to team up with other characters to go on important missions. It is a story of redemption for young Kor, it doesn’t set the world alight, but it is certainly interesting, though it does feel weaker than other RPG titles.
Kor himself doesn’t stand out as a lead character and the support cast, whilst entertaining and believable don’t do enough to take the focus away. It is a shame, because the mix of telling the story through in game moments and some beautiful Anime style cut-scenes is really well worked. But in the long run, you can simply switch off and concentrate on the game in hand.
Again what you have for the most part follows traditional RPG rules. You wander around various levels of the world the game is set. Travelling from A to B to progress the story, whilst facing random battles along the way and then triggering pre-defined major battles. It is all standard fare, but at the same time is balanced well. The random battles are too much that they become an overbearing nuisance, but also aren’t too sparse that you feel you need to grind for hours to be ready for an important moment in the game.
Battles themselves are pretty interesting. Rather than taking the traditional turn-based route, they are free-roam withing in the battle arenas themselves. You and your AI controlled party will encounter the enemies and attack them. You have your basic attack moves as well as various special moves known as Artes.
Early on battles are fairly formulaic and can be breezed over, but has the game progresses and you unlock new abilities, level up Kor and you party improves, there are new mechanics that are introduced. This is something that works rather well as many RPG titles can often feel a grind because of the lack of variation in encounters, here though there is a nice balance and it is much appreciated.
Obviously being a RPG, there is a lot of leveling up, upgrading your character, deciding on weapons, upgrade paths, etc. In other games it can be difficult for some players to really understand the best path to take, especially if they are casual players, or may not be into the overall lore of the world the game is set in.
What Tales of Hearts R has is two options. Players can either choose how they upgrade each specific element on their own and have full control, or the other option is to select an auto-upgrade where you choose the sort of character you want to be, such as a fighter, someone who stands back and supports, etc. It works well and teaches the player how each option effects different stats.
After using the auto option a few times, it became clear how the upgrades were being distributed and eventually it became easier to tinker. Which is excellent, because the auto options won’t give you the very best upgrades and tend to keep things balanced, but by showing you how points are used, you start to get an idea and that something that is very welcome.
Aside from the opening couple of hours, where you really need to set the time aside to get through, Tales Of Hearts R is ideal for spending a little while with, before saving and dropping out. You will find that you want to push on further and further thanks to some well spaced out save points though and that is the sign of a solid game, that you aren’t looking for a moment to save just so you can stop, but instead knowing you can push on without worrying when you can next take a break.
Tales of Hearts R is an interesting game and whilst the story is pretty weak, the gameplay does enough to carry it. It is both open to newcomers but also has enough not to grate on fans of the lore of the ‘Tales Of’ games. In what is now becoming a crowded genre on the Vita, this is a title that should rise to the top.