Hands-On Preview: Tales of Hearts R - A Small Game With a lot of Heart (and Random Battles)
Tales games feel a certain way. They are action orientated JRPGs which are easy to pick up and play but take time to master. Every Tales game I’ve played has been the same at its core and that’s okay since they always feel just right. Playing a game in the series is the equivalent of visiting a dear friend.
When checking out Tales of Hearts R for the PlayStation Vita, the first thought on my mind was how well it would control on the handheld and if there was any adjustment, both control wise and mentally, that needed to be done to play it. I knew that this game was ported from the DS version but I personally have never played a handheld Tales game so I was unsure of how it would work.
Just seconds into this game and all of my worries of it not translating well to the Vita were dissuaded. This felt exactly like a Tales game and after a little while I forgot I was even playing it on a portable.
The demo started off with a boss fight in a desert. The foe was a gigantic, armored worm which summoned smaller worms to attack the party. Although I was just thrown into the situation, I didn’t feel disoriented because I knew exactly how to play the game.
Even though this is on PS Vita, it felt like a Tales title and since the buttons to initiate A and B Artes are the same as the console versions, I was able to hit the ground running. I was able to do a lot of fancy combos on the giant worm and was even able to jump into the air to deal damage to its head. Whenever I needed to heal, I would pull up the menu and have the resident healer of the team patch me up. After a while, the monster was down and I went on my merry way.
After the battle with the worm I went to a vast open grassy landscape where I engaged in random battles. This threw me off a bit since the Tales games which I’ve played always had your enemies on the screen. I’m not a big fan of random encounters but it wasn’t enough to sour the experience too much. I fought a few more enemies for fun and then proceeded into the nearest castle.
The castle was in the middle of a big sprawling city and this is where a lot of dialogue between the characters was concentrated. I didn’t know what was happening but I did enjoy the way the dialogue was written. Tales games always have a nice sense of humor about them and this was no different. I explored around for a little bit before heading off to my objective, which was the big church of the city.
I had to make it to the top of the church but doing so required solving a puzzle. I needed to find four crystal elephants and doing that required that I opened certain doors in my path. Opening one door closed another so I had to think carefully about what I wanted to do. As I collected more and more of these elephants, I had to keep in mind all of the previous moves I made in order to not get lost.
The enemies in this area were much tougher than those of the outside world. I had to really make sure to keep on top of things and to use my party member’s individual Artes to stay alive. It wasn’t terribly hard but it was a good challenge. The only annoying part was that of the random battles, which slowed down my progress a bit.
Graphically speaking, this game looks fantastic on the Vita. The colors are nice and bright and the character models are very detailed. I especially liked the character portraits and all of their various expressions. The animated cinematics are a series staple and they looked great on the Vita as well.
It was unfortunate that my time with the demo was so short (or it FELT short) because I was having a lot of fun with it. I really like how the controls translated to the Vita and I loved the graphics, which seemed to pop out of the screen.
I’m glad that we here in the West are getting so many Tales games lately because it really is a fantastic series. JRPG fans who own a PS Vita are in for a treat when this game releases. I know I’ll be getting it for sure. A Tales game in my pocket? I’m down for that.