Following the tale of Kor Meteor, a young grandson of the legendary “Somatic” Sydan Meteor, (the “Somatic” being a special brand of warrior) who is responsible for training Kor, whilst over the sea, two siblings; Hisui Hearts and his sister, Kohaku, are fleeing from an extensively powerful witch, as they end up being washed onto the shores of young Kor’s home town, unfortunately separating them, causing Kohaku to enlist the help of Kor to find her brother.
Tales of Hearts R isn’t wholly original, but never does it pretend to be and the fact that it’s simply so “JRPG” lends it a lot of merits, as does the fact the whole game is subtitled, leaving its Japanese audio intact. Whilst some may find this aggravating, I adore full Japanese audio for games such as Tales, as poorly dubbed audio can really take the immersion away.
Tales of Hearts R, like many other RPG titles, see’s you with an overworld map with different cities and locations scattered throughout and there are plenty of things to see and do outside story quests, such as shopping, speaking to NPC’s and battles both in and out of the overworld map and dungeons, which all look rich, vibrant and at some points, genuinely very pretty, but there are a lot of basic layouts and a rather sparse overworld map. However, whatever Tales lacks in spectacle, it certainly makes up for with simply gorgeous design and deceptively interactive areas such as numerous hidden paths that deviate from the tracks, allowing you to explore throughout Tales’ worlds, with secret areas and items scattered throughout the world in hard to reach places.
There’s also a cooking mode that allows you to collect recipes and ingredients and create dishes, with each one giving you different benefits, like healing or damage buffs etc.
The battle system in Tales of Hearts R is possibly one of the best action-based RPG fighting systems I’ve played in a long time, merging a fantastically simplistic, yet deeply complex battle mechanics that really improve on the flow and overall feel of each fight, aligning strategy, support and combat techniques, there are always numerous ways you can approach a battle, making each fight more diverse. Enemies also work together to counteract any strategy that you employ, such as spreading out their allies as you do, and even setting up chase if you or your team stray to far away. Every enemy type does this, and it’s a refreshing take, often causing you to conjure up more tactics on the fly.
During battles, the X button performs your basic attacks,which you can link to special attacks (called Artes) which are then triggered by the O button and the right analogue stick. Attacks are fast and precise, whilst enemy switching is surprisingly fluid. One thing I found odd, was the jump command is set to the D-pad, which, considering the fights break out in a 3D plane, there really is no use to the D-pad (although you can use it, it just makes no sense). But overall, the controls, even for a Vita title, are pretty top notch.
On the story side of things, whilst nothing outstanding, is generally well written, and the games protagonist, Kor, is likeable, even though his entire drive is the standard love-fight-fight for love seen in most JRPG’s, but it generally stands up on it’s own. The support cast is great too, which is a blessing seeing as the story revolves around the concept of trust and honour, but it all plays into the mix nicely. The dialogue is really well written, with lots of humour, plus reasonably deep and meaningful fodder thrown in for good measure, and the cutscenes are mostly all in full anime videos, with a few using the games graphics engine.
☆☆☆☆Four Stars out of Five: Highly Recommended
Summary : Whilst not the most original of JRPG's, and a little on the easy side, Tales of Hearts R is every bit the usual JRPG affair, and when it hits the right notes, it excels in every way.
Tales of Hearts R was reviewed using a review copy provided and sent to us by Bandai Namco.