Sometimes I get sick of Japanese Role Playing Games filled with angsty teenagers saving the world, perhaps that’s why I was instantly taken in by Tales of Hearts R’s almost humble by comparison quest to save the girl and if you happen to coincidentally save pretty much the whole world on that quest, so be it.
Okay, so saving the girl might not be the most original plotline, but at least it’s delivered with a unique twist. In the opening moments, we’re introduced to Kor Meteor, who’s given his first Soma, a tool that materialises a weapon from one’s Spiria, their emotions in short. Soon after he meets Kohaku Hearts, who quickly identifies herself as the standout member of the cast, greeting her sister complex brother (who happens to stumble out the woods) with a quick kick to the abdomen.
It’s a shame that a freak accident shatters her Spiria core, scattering shards of her emotions across the land, leaving Kohaku leaving her a hollowed shell of the person she once was, infected with a unique case of despir. Restoring Kohaku’s Spiria becomes the crux of the story, driving the characters actions. At times it even plagues the rest of the cast, how can you restore fear to someone who doesn’t have the belief to overcome it. What if you broke that person? As she regains these emotions, her character evolves and changes.
It’s a real good thing that Kohaku is a standout since the rest of the cast has been pulled from the anime trope bin; I’ve already mentioned her sister-complex brother, Kor ends up falling into the typical hero role and the rest of the roster is quickly filled with a tsundere loli, a suave mentor and a woman constantly highlighted for her womanly assets to name a few. It’s not to say that don’t have moments that stand out, it’s just they’re far more willing to fall back into these archetypes.
Fans of the series will be glad to see the staple interactions between characters aren’t amiss, taking opportunities to shed a little insight into the characters and the world they inhabit. Nearly all of these are fully voiced too, albeit in Japanese, those looking for an English dub will find themselves disappointed. Though generally speaking the quality of the voice over is pretty decent, albeit once again falling into the pitfall of being almost entirely what one would expect. With the exception once again being Kohaku, whose transformation between standout not-so-damsel in distress and hollow doll is a frightening juxtaposition.
It’s a shame that at times the translations don’t hold up, riddled with numerous errors that really drag the user out of the experience. Irritatingly there’s a character that constantly mixes up her words and says things incorrectly, and with the translations as they stand it took far too long for me to realise it was intentional. Lastly I understand that Japanese is a very humble language and a lot is left to the context, but some of these translations felt really out of place, like for example changing the main characters. You can slap “Kor” onto as many menus and text boxes as you like, but every time someone speaks to him they’ll call him “Shingu”, considering the first two people you’ll meet are called Hisui and Kohaku, it seemed like a pretty irrelevant change to me.
Gripes aside, the staple combat makes a return with a few minor tweaks for handheld devices. The frenetic action of having four characters run around the screen is here, with each of them firing off numerous particle filled spells to really wash the screen in colour. There’s numerous changes to counter enemies attacks or go into an almost relentless assault. Chain attacks are calculated by your teammate’s actions too, putting an emphasis on ensuring that you’re all focusing the same target or reducing your odds at taking home the optional battle objectives that crop up from time to time.
In typical RPG fashion, you’ll walk away with a ton of experience points and gald after dispatching your opponents. There’s enough places to spend it too, you can opt for armour and consumables, or new cooking recipes and rules that apply in battle to further customize the actions of your party members.
Experience doesn’t do a whole lot until you’ve levelled up, awarded a number of points that can be assigned to your Soma. Level these up alongside one another and you’ll receive random bonuses, which in a way limits the amount of creativity you can have with the system, since you create numerous well rounded party members. Throw in some skills from the party members you’ve bonded with or some almost invisible cooking stats and you’ll see that there’s a lot of micro-management to be found in these menus.
You’ll also find a lot of colour in these menus, something that stretches to the world itself. Every party member is painted in bright colours, the world they travel serving as a canvas. With some real interesting set pieces, a town with a coliseum and theme park nestled within it being one of my favourite examples. You can choose which character you’d like as the lead, a rare but welcome addition for the genre.
Interestingly, the game switches between intense drama and tongue in cheek wisecracking almost instantaneously, one minute you’ll be walking around a town in the midst of a depressive despir epidemic, venturing into an old mans Spiria to uncover his hard secret (I won’t even go into the moral issues of taking items and gald from someones Spiria). The next the characters will be arguing, fighting and falling back into their predestined roles. It’s not a complaint, considering this quirky humour really carry the title, despite at times some rather questionable very Japanese jokes.
This easy going attitude is what makes Tales of Hearts R a gem, it might be missing a little of the polish of it’s console counterparts, but it’s really easy to get drawn in and despite a few minor gripes trying to push you out, this is an adventure you’ll want to see through to the end.
- Colorful Graphics
- Frenetic & Fun Combat
- Kohaku = Waifu Material
- Lackluster Characterization
- Sometimes Poor Translation
- Lack Of Dub Might Be An Instant No For Some