|System: PS Vita|
|Dev: Bandai Namco|
|Pub: Bandai Namco|
|Release: November 11, 2014|
|Screen Resolution: 544p||Mild Language, Suggestive Themes, Violence|
It's a good thing that Chase Link combat is fun, because Tales of Hearts R takes the backwards step of making battles fully random, unavoidable, and frequent. You may find yourself stocking up on Holy Bottles, which reduce encounter rate, just so you can get around or solve puzzles without being ambushed a million times. It's strange that Bandai Namco chose to use random battles in this Vita game, considering it managed to render enemies on-screen in the 3DS version of Tales of the Abyss.
A few other aspects of Hearts' design are a big turn-off. There is no English dub for the game, so all the voice acting is in Japanese. This is particularly unfortunate considering the quality of the English script, much of which begs to be heard in its native language. In addition, the environmental design is mostly dull, dull, dull. There are a few nice-looking places such as a magical beanstalk and an artists' enclave in the mountains, but most areas are about as generic as you can get. This has been a consistent issue in the Tales series recently, and one that deserves to be overcome considering the impressive world-building efforts made by the writers.
To make up for these shortcomings, the game avoids some persistent issues with the Tales series. There aren't any ridiculously over-complicated systems that weigh down regular gameplay. Dungeons have puzzles for the first time in ages, which helps make up for the dull visual design. Most importantly, the adventure doesn't overstay its welcome. Many Tales of games last ten to twenty hours longer than they ideally should, but Tales of Hearts R is a smarter, more compact game. It doesn't layer too many twists upon twists, completing its story in a satisfying manner that actually makes sense. For once, the final boss is exactly who it should be, and the romance sub-plots are actually resolved.
On one hand, Tales of Hearts R is a paint-by-numbers game that does little to stray outside of the usual series boundaries. On the other hand, the strong character dialogue, dungeon puzzles, and Chase Link combat system inject a lot of energy and entertainment into the title. It's not a video gaming masterpiece, but its fun to play. As long as you're tolerant of the lack of English dub and don't mind the anime style and plot, it's an RPG that's very much worth picking up.
Date: November 13, 2014