Tales of Hearts R review for PS Vita

Platform: PS Vita
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Developer: Bandai Namco/7th Chord
Medium: Digital/Vita Card
Players: 1
Online: No

It was with no small amount of trepidation that I started playing Tales of Hearts R. See, I’ve never played any of the Tales games before, so all I knew going into it was that it was part of a series with a very dense mythology and some of the most rabid fans you’ll ever come across. In other words, it didn’t seem like the kind of game that a complete newcomer would want to pick up.

Turns out, most of that worrying was for nothing. I mean, I almost undoubtedly would’ve gotten a lot more out of the game if I knew any of the characters or their backstories, and I probably missed out on all kinds of nuances that longtime fans would spot in a second. However, I never felt that I was missing out on so much that I was at a loss. Yes, Tales of Hearts R’s story — about a young man named Kor Meteor on a quest to put a girl’s soul (sorry, her “spiria”) back together — has a lot going on in it, and there were definitely times where I felt my attention waver due to an overabundance of text, but I was still able to follow along enough that, well, I was able to follow along.

Tales of Hearts R

It helped, of course, that the really crucial action is conveyed via animation rather than endless dialogue boxes. I would never describe myself as any kind of anime fan, but I still found Tales of Hearts R’s cutscenes to be really well done. The rest of the graphics are pretty much exactly what you’d expect from a Vita JRPG (or probably most JRPGs in general), but when the game switches over to those animated scenes, I was surprised to find myself hooked.

And good thing, too, because otherwise the game doesn’t break a whole lot of new ground. In the process of finding the girl’s spiria pieces, you go from town to town, encountering the usual assortment of characters with their quirks and their requests. As I said, outside of the prerendered cutscenes, you still get the usual dialogue boxes, and there are times where that means giant infodumps. And you still wander battlefields and wild areas, opening random chests and encountering random groups of enemies.

That said, I have to give that last bit some credit. Not only does the game allow for you to roam freely around those towns and wild areas, it gives you a fair amount of freedom when you get taken to a new screen to fight those random groups of enemies. You can dash freely around the battlefield, striking when you see an opening and running for your life when you’re running low on health. That’s not a huge innovation, obviously, but considering how many games of this sort opt for turn-based battles, being allowed to hack and slash your way to victory — rather than sitting through endless turns — is a pretty welcome development nonetheless.

Tales of Hearts R 2

Now, is that (along with the aforementioned cutscenes) enough to win me over to the Tales franchise and make me want to go out and play other games in the series? If I’m being totally honest, no, not really. But I was still pretty pleasantly surprised by the whole thing. Tales of Hearts R works as a standalone game, and it doesn’t ask that you immerse yourself in the Tales universe just to play. I like that…though I suspect that if you’re a Tales aficionado, then you’ll find a whole lot more than I did to appreciate.

Grade: B+