The Tales series has been around for a while now and it stands as one of the best Japanese Role Playing Game series’ around.
Titles such as Tales of Xillia and Tales of Symphonia are just two of the many better titles all of which take on a traditional Manga style look mixed with old school RPG game play mechanics. They work well and it’s because of this that they have gained quite the fan base. Developers 7th Chord and publishers Bandai Namco have recreated one such entry in the Tales series found on the Nintendo DS, Tales of Hearts and brought it controversially onto Sony’s miniature powerhouse. Titled Tales of Hearts R, it steps up against the hefty number of other JRPG’s sound in the PlayStation Vita’s library but does it hold its own?
Revolving around a young girl named Kohaku, Tales of Hearts R places you in control of Kor Meteor (silly name), an unlikely hero who sets on a quest to help Kohaku and her brother retrieve lost fragments of her ‘Spiria’ which once held Kohaku’s emotions. It’s a unique tale which sadly fails to grip due to the many characters who feel like they could be compelling and deep but never really reaches their peaks. For example, Kor is a raring-to-go, trusting individual that never really turns into the gallant hero we are come to expect him to grow to which is made even more awkward thanks to the romance route Tales explores later on between Kor and Kohaku. Kohaku herself, considering the story revolves around her, never says anything worth listening to past the first hour or so. Saying that, the entire story is fully dialogued however it is in Japanese which in one aspect is impressive as it is a lengthy plot but also becomes an annoyance as there is a lot of it to read through.
Tales of Hearts R transforms the original game from 2 Dimensional to full 3D however the many environments and locales can never be fully explored. What I mean is, the exploration is limited to linear paths occasionally branching towards chests so even though early in the game you would be in the dense Twilight Forest, it feels like you’re in a maze of cramped tight corridors. This direction of game-play mixed with the returning mechanic of random enemy encounters makes for a highly frustration plough through the 20 hour story. Thankfully though the battles are a breath of fresh air. You and your party face enemies in a battle arena scenario of which you are required to unleash Kor’s fighting techniques granted to him through his Soma which is attached to his wrist which can be transformed into a sword at will. Combos can be chained together as well as access to Kor’s Artes which are special abilities. The combat is fast and frantic and when you and your other party members, which can be instructed to act differently in battle, are up against a few enemies at a time or even bosses, things get tense. The combat opens up and deepens when you master Space Links, Spiria Drives and Guard counter attacks which certainly opens up doors to different fighting styles. Levelling up your Soma grants you SBP which can be assigned to different aspects of it across five areas such as ‘Sincerity’ and ‘Belief’. Each of these increases attributes and changes how that character performs such as attacker, defender or supporter. This system adds an impressive level of customisation and depth to Tales of Hearts R and certainly makes up for the mediocre story.
On the PS Vita, Tales of Hearts R looks beautiful. The fully realised 3D environments and character models are bright and nicely detailed and thanks to the high definition screen on whichever version of the Vita you own, Tales of Hearts R in its entirety looks gorgeous. The cartoon cut scenes nicely tell the story and are often more exciting to watch than the game itself as they can be action packed starting off with the witches chase at the very beginning. In battles, especially busy ones, particle effects rain all over the screen pulling off an impressive light show but you never lose track of what’s going on.
Tales of Hearts R would have made a great fighting game as the combat is deep and exciting however the exploration leaves a lot to be desired. It leaves you thinking your wandering corridor after corridor until another cut scene or dialogue section starts which only tells more of the okay story told by some boring characters. It’s worth playing if the price goes down but for a full price game? No way.
Story - 3/5
Graphics - 4/5
Gameplay - 3/5
Overall - 3/5
Version Reviewed - PlayStation Vita