A Tales worthy of the legacy.
If my previous reviews of Tales of Xillia 1 and 2 weren’t good enough indicators of my past with the Tales series, I’ll just condense it by saying simply that I’m a fan.
So naturally, when I heard that we were getting a remake of a portable Tales game that never made it to the States, I was excited.
However, it’s a common occurrence where a respected series makes it transition to the portable arena with disastrous results. With that in my mind, I tempered my expectations and went in hoping for the best, and I’m happy to report that this is certainly a full-fledged Tales game, both in scope and quality.
Platforms: Vita Exclusive.
Voice Acting: JPN Only
Demo Availability: N/A
Length: 25-30 hours
The story of Hearts R revolves around the shattered “Spira” of one girl, which can more or less be described as her “soul”, where all her various emotions are stored.
Each fragment recovered was another emotion for her to display, and there was a real sense of progress as she slowly became whole once more.
There’s a larger overarching theme of comradery, and while it’s certainly heavy handed enough to be a Saturday morning cartoon special on PBS, I endured thanks to the return of the Skits system, which made the various characters feel likeable on the most part.
The plot itself runs at a brisk pace, and I never really felt like I was being put through the motions for the sole purpose of padding out the playtime of the game.
The story was predictable and about as generic as JRPGs go, but thankfully the combat added some key new mechanics to liven up the experience..
The real-time combat system that the Tales series is known for returns with full 3D movement, split second dodges and devastating combos.
Along with what fans of the series expect, there’s also the guard counter, where an enemy counter attacks after being in hit stun for a certain amount of time, and if the player is able to block the moment the attack connects, they cancel the enemy’s attack with a powerful counter to continue the assault.
On top of that, there is the chase link, where after taking so many consecutive hits, a mark appears on the enemy that allows them to be juggled indiscriminately for a short while. It also allows for the player to quickly teleport behind the enemy after knocking them away to continue the combo.
A well executed chase link sequence is not only insanely powerful, it’s also impressive to behold as the enemy is ping ponged across the battlefield, taking hit after hit like it were an episode of Dragon Ball Z.
The characters gained strength by spending points earned from leveling in one of five specialties, which granted stats bonuses and various passive and active skills.
Given spending these point also granted new weapons for use, I was able to customize the characters for specific roles that fit my approach to combat perfectly.
While the combat itself is satisfying and easily the best part of the whole experience, I had to wonder why they decided to use random battles instead of the traditional Tales system of being able to see encounters on the map so that you might avoid them.
While the overall production values of Hearts R is rather good, there were some rather clunky animations during in-game story cut scenes. Also, many of the FMVs ran at a standard aspect ratio instead of the native widescreen of the Vita, which felt rather jarring considering they kept switching back and forth between the two.
Still, at the end of the day Tales of Hearts R is a testament to the fact that with enough care and attention to detail, a venerable series can make the transition to the portable market with great success.
Fun Tidbit – This title uses the standard “Grade” system for new game + content and holds a good deal of post game content with extra skits, dungeons and bosses.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.