It’s been almost six years since Tales of Hearts was originally released but we weren’t fortunate enough to have a localised version, so outside of importing it, most of us – myself included – never got a chance to play it. Fast forward to 2013, and a Vita remake under the name Tales of Hearts R also only releases in Japan. Come November though, it will be making the leap abroad into NA and EU territories; though this time, it will be on the Vita (with its lovely OLED screen) rather than the DS or 3DS.
The original released on the DS in 2D; the remake however has been put into the newer trappings of the 3D Tales games, making it one of the most substantial remakes you will ever come across. Overhauled to be completely 3D, the environments and combat are almost completely different from their original iterations. Combat obviously reaps more differences due to gameplay being adapted for the extra axis of movement and area of effect abilities.
With the unfortunate fact that there isn’t any preview builds about, the next best thing was a video of the first 45 minutes of the game for me to watch over; which if you are a fan of the series, you’re more than well aware that dialogue and cutscenes far exceeds 80% of the footage. It’s not a bad thing; at any rate, it looks as though the game runs beautifully. If the video’s quality is any measure of it running on the system, then it’ll look gorgeous with its art and colours popping out ever so slightly. The load times also seem to be pretty quick between locations.
The core Tales experience seems to be there: real-time combat, check; anime cutscenes, check; young teens out to save the world, check; personal drama, check. All the elements are there within the first 45 minutes, which means we can more or less assume that it’ll continue in the usual Tales fashion. As I mentioned before, the first 45 minutes is pretty bereft of combat and has no bosses or any particularly meaningful battles, so it will be a slightly slower start for the game compared to some of the others in the series.
Some of the story is told through beautiful anime cutscenes and then the rest is told through the slightly less appealing in game dialogue. This game’s protagonist is teenage Kor Meteor who has his coming of age type thing after defeating his grandfather in combat, and finally receiving his grandfather’s weapon. This roughly equates to a spirit weapon and his grandfather and mother were both essentially highly talented Paladins – think fighty, healy Paladins; not actual Paladins. Soon after, he meets two eventual companions, the main antagonist and has the jumping point for the main story to really begin.
Unfortunately the game’s not going to appeal to everyone though, as the localisation remains purely for text; if you’re a heathen like me, then you usually use English dubs rather than Japanese voice over. If that’s your case, then the purely Japanese VO for the game might put you off a little. But the fact remains that we likely wouldn’t get the game otherwise and a large portion of fans aren’t bothered or would rather have the original VO.
I love the Tales games dearly and most of that fondness arises from Tales of Abyss on the 3DS. With a large enough number of save points, RPGs of this nature work exceptionally well on portables and this feels like a perfect fit on the Vita. Having the free movement on the left analogue stick should be a vast improvement over the 3DS circle pad and the L and R triggers are given actual actions rather than the camera rotation the 3DS had; presumably that means that camera rotation is on the Vita’s right stick, meaning the Vita is making good use of the extra inputs.
Tales of Hearts R doesn’t show anything particularly different from any of the other recent Tales games and that’s really not a bad thing at all. Some might be upset by it not having the older style of combat that accompanied the DS version, but the newer style of game does have a lot of benefits. I personally welcome the change and it’s frankly a huge boon to see proper remakes rather than “lazy” HD editions or quick ports. It’s great to have another portable Tales game too, though the only other thing I would ask for is a little support for the Wii U.