Last year, Sony’s Shahid Ahmad started a twitter campaign to get some Japanese RPGs onto the Vita. He had people vote on which game should be brought to the little handheld that could. He announced the fruits of #jrpgvita, Tales of Hearts R. ToHR is a remake of Tales of Hearts which came out on the Nintendo DS back in 2008 in Japan exclusively. In March of 2013, Bandai Namco released Tales of Hearts R on the Vita. But is the game worth the hype?
Tales of Hearts R follows Kor Meteor a boy from a small remote, village who is being trained by his grandfather to use his Soma, a weapon that uses will to manifest. His life is forever changed when brother and sister, Kohaku and Hisui Hearts wash up on the shore of his lonely town of Seaville. Hisui is hot headed and brash and often clashes with our protagonist, Kor. Kohaku is a courageous, strong-willed character who wants to do what is right. That is until Kohaku is severely injured and her Spiria core is shattered, sending shards of her emotional states across the world. Effectively turning her from a character full of personality, to an emotionless doll.
I liked Kohaku so much before, so this emotionless version took the steam out of what could have been a pretty fun character. To see her interact with her brother and Kor on their journey would have been great. Outside of that, the game starts off with small beginnings in Seaville, to stopping an Earth shattering event. Apart from the issues I had with Kohaku, the story isn’t too bad as it progresses. There are plenty of colorful characters the trio run into along the way, like seasoned soldier, Gall and painter extraordinaire, Beryl.
Hearts R’s gameplay is fairly standard Tales of fair. You control one character at a time on a circular field with the left stick and you can stick to an X and Y axis when you use the directional pad. That way you can still dodge enemies and do a jump attack. As usual your characters have access to artes, mystic artes and dual mystic artes. The game also introduces a spiria gauge that fills as you fight. There are four levels that can give you bonuses like hitting harder, faster, or not using TP.
The game doesn’t really make use of the front touch screen or the rear game pad. Except to activate certain character artes. You can tap their profile icon or swipe on it to use certain abilities. Which is a nice touch to keep you in the battle. It makes playing it on the newly released Playstation TV that much easier. Once you level up, you can assign points in one of five categories that give you stat bonuses, artes, or even new weapons to use. Personally, I didn’t spend that much time fiddling with the points after the first few levels. Instead, I pressed Start and used the preset builds. The game’s length will run you about 35 hours, but can run up to 50 with side quests and exploration.
The game is bright and colorful and the characters look great. You can tell the game has been upgraded, though, rather than developed specifically for the Vita. The backgrounds are pretty plain and aren’t very memorable. The characters look sharp, but aren’t animated very well. There are traditional FMV sequences that are very well animated. You can tell which ones were made for the DS version and one ones that were made for the Vita version, as those are presented in widescreen while the others are in 4:3. The game runs very well at least, and the enemies are varied enough so there isn’t too much monotony. The sketches are done really well, and I actually enjoyed the minimal amount of animation that happens with the portraits.
All of the spoken dialogue is in Japanese with English text. While all the voice actors did a really great job, I would have liked an English language track available. Either through DLC or already included, if only for the ability to have that option. The music is forgettable. You won’t be humming along to any tunes, but they aren’t grating. Also, the intro animated sequence is missing the game’s theme song for the Western release, instead being replaced with a song that just feels very out of place.
Overall, the game has some flaws and other minuscule issues, but the world is a fun place to roam around and meet the unusual characters that come your way. It’s by no means the JRPG that will make you run out to buy a Vita. However, if you have the system, or even an Playstation TV, currently and you’re itching to play an RPG, you can’t go wrong with this release of Tales of Hearts R.