Developed by the Japanese Tales Studio, Tales of Hearts was originally released on Nintendo DS in 2008, but only in Japan. Tales of Hearts R (please note the ‘R’), developed by Bandai Namco Studios and 7th Chord, is a remake of the 2008 game and it was released on PS Vita in March, 2013, but once again only in Japan. The game will finally be available in western markets in November 2014 after huge demand from the community.
The story follows the adventures of Kor Meteor, a bold sixteen-year-old who lives in a small ocean-side village with his Grandfather, Sydan the Somatic. Kor soon meets a young girl, Kohaku Hearts, and her brother, Hisui, who are fleeing from an enigmatic witch. This evil sorceress, attacks and infects Kohakui’s spiria, which is the core of a person’s will and emotions. Kor attempts to repair her crystalline spiria, but instead damages it, causing it to scatter across the world. Kor and Hisui set out on an adventure with Kohaku to restore it.
The concept behind Tales of Hearts R was to leave the base story and the theme as it has always been, but revamp everything else. It now includes 3D graphics, redesigned character models, full voice acting, new NPCs and over ten new anime cutscenes.
It makes use of the ‘Aerial Chase Linear Motion Battle System’, or ‘Arc Chase’ for short, allowing players to complete combo attacks on airborne enemies and giving free control of movement in the 3D battle arena. The main purpose of this refurbished system is to create a faster-paced battling experience, while retaining a sense of familiarity to the original. Though those looking for additional challenge will be happy to know that combat seems much faster than the standard Combination Aerial LMBS from the original.
This is a shell for a strong emphasis on story-telling, as from what we saw from our initial looks is the player assuming a very passive role. That said, the story does progress very quickly building an adequate base for the events that will follow. This is presented through full voice acting, though in Japanese with English subs. So non-fluent speakers will be partake in extensive reading. It worries me that this might not be a game for on the go, essentially one of the Vitas strongest selling points. Despite that the translation in charming, though no doubt altered to fit the English language.
The new anime cut scenes appear to be highly detailed and impressive, definitely something to look forward to upon release. Combine this with the full voice acting and you can really see the game coming forward leaps and bounds. It results in a much deeper sense of immersion – as immersed as you can be into an anime world – and allows the story to progress in a way never before possible. My only gripe being that the graphics in game are quite average, though due to the nature of the port and the Vita hardware, it’s tough for me to pin this one on the developers.
Tales of Hearts R not only received a facelift, but is finally making it’s Western appearance. JRPG fans will have a lot to look forward to since the handheld’s been a haven for indie developers, but hasn’t really seen the J-support that it’s predecessor has. If you’re looking to grab a copy of the game, you can pick it up on November 11th in the U.S, with fans in Europe waiting 3 days for a launch on the 14th.