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Review: Tales of Hearts R

Nov 11 // Kyle MacGregor
Tales of Hearts R (PlayStation TV, PlayStation Vita)Developer: Bandai NamcoPublisher: Bandai NamcoReleased: November 11, 2014 (NA), November 14, 2014 (EU)MRSP: $39.99 Tales of Hearts R, true to form, is a familiar experience. It contains all the trappings one might expect of the series, never doing anything particularly new or unexpected, save perhaps the elegant transition to PlayStation Vita. The narrative, though not without its twists and turns, most likely will not surprise you. It centers around a young woman Kohaku, who is attacked by a witch, shattering her Spiria -- the manifestation of her heart and soul -- and scattering her emotions to the winds. The task falls to Kor Meteor, a sheltered boy from a small village, Kohaku's brother Hisui, and an increasingly large company of friends to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. Of course, the witch has a darker purpose than merely attacking a single damsel, and the fetch quest snowballs into a matter of global importance. [embed]283289:56283:0[/embed] Much of the world is afflicted with a condition called "despir," which causes a myriad of emotional issues. These run the gamut from simple depression to giving people sociopathic urges to commit mass murder. Regardless of how severe the malady, saving the day usually involves travelling inside an afflicted person's soul and fighting their inner demons. Literally.  The story itself is a slow burn, taking several hours for the plot to meander much of anywhere and for cast members to exhibit anything more than well-worn tropey mannerisms. The most troubling character in this regard is Kohaku, who, robbed of her emotions, is effectively rendered an automaton for much of the game, one reliant on a bunch of squabbling men to protect and save her. It gets better, though. Innes Lorenzen, who runs a courier business called Wanderlust, is a highlight. A multidimensional entrepreneur, she sells magical weapons to groups in exchange for their indentured servitude. Then there are all these vignettes between story sequences -- little lighthearted asides to the main story where the characters are fleshed out and act like actual people, rather than clear-cut archetypes. Battle is the highlight of the experience, of course. Tales games always have marvelous combat, and Hearts is no exception. The battle system is both action-heavy and strategic, asking players to delve into the fray while also managing the party on a macro level. Encounters are random, with battles taking place in isolated arenas where you field up to four party members at a time. This time around, Bandai Namco has implemented a system where successive hits can stun an enemy, allowing you to launch them into the air. There, foes can be juggled with standard melee attacks and artes (spells) until such a time as you see fit to slam them back into the earth. It can be quite fun. As always, there are a vast number of ways to customize your party. Once a character levels up, you get to allocate statistics and further tailor them to particular roles with various passive abilities on top of their weapons, armor, and palette of artes.  [embed]283289:56278:0[/embed] The actual enemies you'll be fighting along the way look uninspired, as do many of the game's dungeons. While there isn't much to actually explore in Tales of Hearts' massive world, there are a handful of secrets to find should you wish to wander off the beaten path. The towns themselves have a lot of character, which managed to be surprisingly inventive on occasion. My favorite of the bunch was a city built on islands in the middle of a lake, though the village built around a communal Japanese bath house had its charms as well. The least enchanting aspect of the experience is the collection of puzzles strewn about the dungeons, which are banal speed bumps at best and exasperating road blocks to progress at worst. These chores are in no way mentally stimulating and seem to exist merely to pad out the length of the experience. The localization may be an issue for some, as Bandai Namco opted to forego an English dub and just subtitle the game with the original Japanese voice work. While I personally didn't find it to be a point of contention, having the option to choose is always preferable. Tales of Hearts R isn't going to shatter anyone's perceptions of the genre. But it isn't trying to do that either. It's a solid, traditional experience that should satisfy fans of classic JRPGs.
Tales of Hearts review photo
This old flame still burns
The Tales series may not have the same cachet in the West as do other prominent role-playing game franchises, but its renown is definitely on the rise. Bandai Namco has expressed more confidence in the franchise in recent yea...


Tales of Hearts R works just fine with PlayStation TV

Kick back
Oct 14
// Dale North
Vita game Tales of Hearts R works with PS TV, says Bandai Namco. This means you can enjoy the portable title on your larger TV screen.  Duh, you say? PS TV has what are basically the Vita's innards, and it is compatible ...

Tales of Zestiria's combat is fast and furious

Sep 19 // Elliot Gay
There were two separate demo options for Tales of Zestiria at this year's TGS. Visitors could choose from the "Scenario Mode," which went through a chunk of the story before culminating with a boss fight, or the "Battle Mode," which dropped players in a wide open field and allowed for limited exploration and combat until time ran out. I figured "Battle Mode" would give me the most bang for my metaphorical buck, and was immediately given control of the protagonist, Sorey. As I ran around the field looking for treasure and perhaps some secret locations, I noticed that one of my party members, the lance-wielding Alisha, trailed behind me while occasionally commenting on our surroundings. I was instantly reminded of older SNES and PSX RPGs in which your entire party would follow behind you like a party line of sorts. The first thing I noticed upon spinning the camera around was how wide open the main area was. Unlike Tales of Xillia and its sequel, there were no large walls closing me in on either side. Even more surprising, the whole plain was filled with hills going every which way. It seems like a small inclusion, but when you're spending a not insignificant amount of time running between towns and dungeons, any kind of variation helps. Additionally, I found multiple ruin-like areas littered across the field, giving me reason to explore and deviate off the beaten path. I don't know if this sort of thing will be commonplace in the final game, but I certainly hope that's the case.  Combat still takes place in a closed off arena, but one of the bigger differences in Tales of Zestiria is the way battle transitions are handled. As soon as the player character makes contact with an enemy, the game loads in the rest of the mob and immediately goes into action mode on the field. No more cutting to a different screen; a small, but important step toward making the world feel seamless. It's not as smooth as it could be, but it works. In combat, rather than utilizing an MP system for the various artes, Tales of Zestiria takes a page from Tales of Graces' book, using a recharging bar that fills up as you fight. It rewards smart players who link combos together and utilize the side step mechanic to dodge enemies and stagger them. Much like in Graces, you'll be zipping around enemies and taking more chances so that you can fill up your meter faster. With a system as robust as this, I'm sure I barely touched on the intricacies of combo'ing, but there's only so much I can see in a ten minute chunk of time. As always, folks who want to just press buttons and look cool can do it as much as they please. For those who seek a more technical experience, Zestiria looks like it should satisfy. The biggest change, which I unfortunately wasn't able to explore too deeply, is the brand new Armitization system. When activated, Sorey can fuse with one of the Seraph's in his party to become a single powerful being with a brand new array of artes and physical attacks. In the demo, I tried fusing with Edna and Lailah. The former uses powerful Earth-based moves, so when fused, Sorey had giant glove-like weapons equipped that did heavy damage to most of the enemies I bumped into. Fusing with Lailah resulted in a magic heavy character that mostly stood away from the front lines to deal damage. Activating Armitization was as simple as tapping the L1 button in combat. Reversing the process takes another press of the same button. It's not at all complicated to use, though I suspect some of the more hardcore Tales fans will be putting together crazy combos. I'm looking forward to getting more hands on time with the game come Japanese release this January.
Tales of Zestiria preview photo
Rolling hills and clashing swords
Ask most Tales fans what game has their absolute favorite version of the Linear Motion Battle System (LMBS), and you're likely to get a wide variety of answers. Some prefer the 2D combat from the Tales of Destiny PS2 remake a...

Tales of Zestiria footage photo
Tales of Zestiria footage

Offscreen Tales of Zestiria footage shows rolling hills and fierce battles

It also looks like a Tales game
Sep 19
// Elliot Gay
I had the chance to go hands on with the latest in Bandai Namco's flagship RPG series, Tales of Zestiria. I came away from the demo feeling pretty excited for the fast paced combat, but I also managed to get a couple of offs...
Tales of Zestiria photo
Tales of Zestiria

Namco gives us a nice long look at Tales of Zestiria

All the children are insane, waiting for the summer rain, yeah
Sep 17
// Kyle MacGregor
Tales of Zestiria is on display at Tokyo Game Show this week, but those of us not cavorting around Japan will have to settle for this extended peek at the forthcoming role-playing game. Bandai Namco aims to release Tales of Zestiria in Japan on January 22, 2015. No word yet on when exactly the publisher plans to localize the PS3 title for western audiences, though.
Tales of Phantasia photo
Tales of Phantasia

Oh good, Namco is shutting down Tales of Phantasia

Jul 10
// Kyle MacGregor
Tales of Phantasia only just arrived on the iOS App Store this year, but Bandai Namco is already pulling the plug on the mobile role-playing game. The publisher announced plans to "cease distribution" of the title. That ...
Tales of Hearts PS Vita photo
Tales of Hearts PS Vita

Tales of Hearts R coming to PS Vita this November

Playable at Anime Expo in Los Angeles this week
Jul 02
// Kyle MacGregor
Tales of Hearts R is coming to North America on November 11 and across Europe starting November 14. It will have Japanese voice-over with EFIGS subtitles, Bandai Namco announced at Japan Expo in Paris, France today. The PlayS...
Tales: Reve Unitia photo
Tales: Reve Unitia

The Tales of the World: Reve Unitia box art is as gorgeous as expected

The game looks pretty cool, too
Jun 21
// Brittany Vincent
Tales of the World: Reve Unitia is an awesome-looking tactical Tales game, and its official Japanese box art looks just as swanky as the game does. For the uninitiated, Reve Unitia is a strategy role-playing game that include...
Tales of the World photo
Tales of the World

First look at Tales of the World: Reve Unitia on 3DS

SRPG targets October release in Japan
Jun 01
// Kyle MacGregor
Bandai Namco showcased the first trailer for Tales of the World: Reve Unitia this weekend at the Tales Festival in Yokohama, Japan. And now you can take a peek for yourself. Reve Unitia is a strategy role-playing game featuring an assortment of characters from the Tales franchise. It's coming to Nintendo 3DS in Japan on October 23. No word on any plans for a western release.
Tales of Zestiria trailer photo
Tales of Zestiria trailer

New Tales of Zestiria trailer looks and sounds lovely

Now in HD and even zestier than before!
May 01
// Kyle MacGregor
This past weekend, Bandai Namco gave us another look at Tales of Zestiria from the Niconico Chokaigi live event in Chiba, Japan. As exciting as the new footage was though, the video quality wasn't exactly the best....

Tales of Zestiria Amazon placeholder gets me all excited

And then bummed out
Apr 29
// Dale North
We know by now that when Amazon puts up a listing for a game early, it's probably just a placeholder. There's one up now for Tales of Zestiria -- yes, already! It's the English version, priced at $59.96 (price is also likely ...
Tales of Zestiria trailer photo
Tales of Zestiria trailer

Namco brings the drama in latest Tales of Zestiria trailer

Apr 26
// Kyle MacGregor
I'm drowning in Tales games. And I kind of love it. There are definitely worse ways to die. Tales of Xillia was amazing, and its sequel is right around the corner. The Symphonia games look lovely in HD. And Tales of Hearts R...

Tales of Xillia 2 coming west this August, collector's edition detailed

Apr 22 // Steven Hansen
Xillia 2 has an inverted structure from the first, set mostly in the less magical Olympios one year after the first game. It's centered around the badly dressed 20 year old Ludger Kresnik and the 8 year old Elle who, in a bit of reverse The Last of Us, saw her father gunned down in front of her. This is all reflective of what is meant to be a darker story focusing on player choice. The point of view is always Ludger's and throughout the story you'll be tasked with making binary choices (mapped to L1 and R1) that affect how certain scenes play out, Ludger's relationship with party characters, and the end of the game.  We were treated to a cutscene where Ludger's brother, Julius, who works for a spurious company, tries to kill you and you have to choose between forcefully stopping him or reasoning with him. The some weird stuff went down where Elle's amulet started glowing and drilled itself into Ludger's head and he got weird face tattoos and monster hands. What is it with anime and face tattoos? It also follows the gaming-wide conflation of grittiness and maturity. "We changed the atmosphere to be a bit darker compared to the previous Tales of Xillia. In [the first game], the target audience is teenagers, 15-18, but for Tales of Xillia 2 our target audience is those who are older than 20 years old so we wanted to make a bit more mature and darker atmosphere." Ludger's crazy transformation is eventually represented in Xillia 2's "Cross Dual Raid Linear Motion Battle System," as he can transform and wreck house in his powerful monster form. There's also a real-time weapon swap system allowing for Ludger to swap between dual blades, a sledgehammer and dual pistols. Linking to characters allows for support attacks -- linked artes -- which are dependent on character affinity, which can change based on choices made during cutscenes. It took Xillia two and half years to release in the west after its Japanese release. Xillia 2 has a 15 month difference. Next year's Tales of Zestiria should be ready three to six months after its Japanese release. Congratualtions, Tales fans. Namco realized you want to play its games and will be working harder to get them to you in a timely manner.
Tales of Xillia 2 preview photo
Embracing a binary choice system
We knew Tales of Xillia 2 would be coming to the Americas before the first Tales of Xillia came out, but now we have a date, along with a bulky collector's edition. You can get your hands on the PS3 RPG on August 19 in North ...

Tales of Heart R photo
Tales of Heart R

Hideo Baba confirms Tales of Hearts R for Western release

A tale of too many awesome Tales games
Apr 18
// Brittany Vincent
Ready for more Tales games to invade your backlog? Who isn't, right? Like a fabulous shooter once said, get psyched, because Tales series producer Hideo Baba has just confirmed that the PlayStation Vita Tales entry Tales of ...
Tales of the World photo
Tales of the World

Tales of the World: Reve Unitia announced for 3DS

In Japan
Apr 02
// Chris Carter
Are you a Tales fan? Well you're in luck, as a strategy-centric 3DS iteration has been announced, titled Tales of the World: Reve Unitia. The only real details we have so far is that it will include a number of popu...

Review: Tales of Symphonia Chronicles

Feb 21 // Chris Carter
Tales of Symphonia Chronicles (PS3)Developer: Namco Bandai GamesPublisher: Namco Bandai GamesReleased: February 25, 2014MSRP: $39.99 Symphonia is one of the most critically acclaimed games in the Tales franchise for a reason -- it's a damn good RPG. Here in the Chronicles package on the PS3, you'll get remastered visuals, dual audio, and a few minor content extras (like new Mystic Artes, costumes, attacks, and a few extra skits, so nothing major). This isn't just an upscale, as most assets were overhauled and there are some all-new illustrations in tow. It's not going to look as good as the recently released Tales of Xillia or most of the recent JRPGs currently on the market, but fans of the genre should be able to cope just fine. Symphonia offers up essentially everything you could want from an RPG experience, from a colorful cast, to an overworld you actually want to explore, to an engaging battle system. Lloyd Irving is also one of my personal favorite genre protagonists, and he's a general fan favorite for a reason: he is likable, fun to watch, and most of all -- he has flaws, and feels human. The narrative is very reminiscent of the "Crystal" Final Fantasy games (or most recently, Bravely Default), and just as charming. Lloyd and his party must assist Colette Brunel, a savior of sorts, in regenerating the world and unsealing its five temples. From there the story takes off with a series of twists and turns (and interesting player choices) I won't spoil here, but suffice to say it's worth the ride. Characters interact with each other by way of skits and numerous dialog sessions, and genuinely feel interconnected with one another, rather than an isolated collection of fighters. The battle system is in real time, and in Tales fashion, operates similarly to an action-JRPG hybrid. From a party of four, one member is controlled by the player, and the other by the game's AI component. Thankfully, you can set up parameters for said AI to act before combat, and they actually stick to the plan more often than not. It's all relatively simple but fun, and after dealing a certain amount of damage you can spring "Unison Attacks," which involve the entire party. Skills work by way of "EX Gems," which allow you to equip abilities similar to Final Fantasy VII's materia. Standard stuff, yes, but it all works. As good as this sounds just don't expect anything revolutionary from Symphonia. Most of your time is going to be spent in a typical RPG manner, watching the story unfold by way of cutscenes, or in dungeons fighting off monsters. Symphonia is a meaty game overall, with 40 hours worth of content at minimum, and around 100 if you do everything (and you probably will, since the game draws you in so well). The second piece of the Chronicles package, Dawn of the New World (released for the Wii in 2008) is a tad shorter, and sadly, not as essential. To be blunt, the majority of New World is forgettable. Lloyd and his companions take a backseat in favor of an updated cast, lead by newcomers Emil Castagnier and Marta Lualdi, and they aren't nearly as likable. It sets up an interesting premise in that Emil's parents are allegedly killed by Lloyd (who in turn had to face his mother's murder), but it doesn't really go anywhere from there. It also doesn't help that exploration is limited due to a lack of a real world map, and the game on the whole is easier. There are a few new mechanics, though -- the main draw is the ability to capture monsters -- but it isn't nearly as deep a system as the game thinks it is, mostly due to the fact that they feel utterly underpowered compared to the rest of your party. Capturing monsters is also a chore since you have to line up specific elemental Artes and abilities to even get them. The crux of the problem is that the new cast just isn't as interesting to watch (and the old cast that does return doesn't sound or feel the same), and as such, the story isn't as poignant. That's not to say it's bad, but when compared directly to its predecessor, it's tough to not want to go back and just beat Symphonia again. The good news is that if you love Symphonia and want more out of its world, New World sort of delivers on that promise. While only half of the package is truly worth the price of entry, the fact of the matter is Tales of Symphonia is required reading for JRPG fans. If you've been itching to get into another giant quest filled with twists, turns, and a top-notch battle system, this is your chance. For fans of the original, all of the components that made the tale so great the first time around are still here. Think of the sequel as a bonus for those of you who can't get enough.
Tales reviewed photo
Lloyd Irving returns at last
The Tales series often doesn't get the same recognition as big-name JRPGs like Final Fantasy, and that's a shame. It's a consistently quality franchise that has been delivering year after year, but one of the problems wi...

Tales photo

Tales of Asteria is like 'Tales Allstars' on mobile

I expect a divisive reaction
Feb 17
// Chris Carter
Guys, there's a new Tales game! But it's for Android and iOS! It's called Tales of Asteria, and apparently it'll be a "who's who" of the Tales series. Specifically, it'll include six heroes of old -- Lloyd Irv...
Namco Bandai photo
Namco Bandai

Tales of Phantasia goes free-to-play on iOS devices

Another classic role-playing game retrofitted with microtransactions
Jan 23
// Kyle MacGregor
Namco Bandai is doing its best Square Enix impression today, as the publisher has released a free-to-play version of beloved role-playing game Tales of Phantasia on iOS devices in North America. The classic title fi...
Tales of Zestiria photo
Tales of Zestiria

Namco unveils first look at Tales of Zestiria footage

Dec 22
// Kyle MacGregor
Namco Bandai has unveiled the debut trailer for Tales of Zestiria, and it has dragons. The role-playing game is currently in development for the PlayStation 3 and will ostensibly release in 2015 in commemoration of the serie...
Tales of Zestiria photo
Worldwide announcement!
Namco Bandai has announced that Tales of Zestiria, the latest Tales series game, will be coming to North and South America for the PS3. This is a worldwide announcement -- a first for the series. How nice! All we know so far ...

JRPGs photo

Namco Bandai begins teasing next Tales project

Prepare to foam at the mouth
Nov 27
// Kyle MacGregor
The next Tales game could be unveiled any minute now. Or maybe in a month or so. Who knows?! Anyway, a teaser site for the next entry in Namco Bandai's acclaimed role-playing game franchise has manifest on the Inter...
Namco Bandai photo
Namco Bandai

Namco doesn't have the staff to localize every Tales game

Dev team focusing on flagship releases like Tales of Xillia over portable entries
Oct 27
// Kyle MacGregor
Namco Bandai simply doesn't have the staff to bring every Tales game to Western markets. The publisher prioritizes "flagship titles" like Tales of Xillia when determining what to localize, series producer Hideo Baba told Sili...
Tales of Symphonia photo
Tales of Symphonia

Tales of Symphonia Chronicles heads west in February 2014

Collectors Edition coming to North America, Europe, Australasia
Oct 22
// Kyle MacGregor
Tales of Symphonia Chronicles has set a course to land in North America on February 25, 2014. The PlayStation 3-exclusive HD collection will arrive just a few days later in Europe and Australasia, launching on February 2...
FF, DQ, Tales collab photo
FF, DQ, Tales collab

Dream on: Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, Tales crossover

Still your quivering loins
Oct 17
// Steven Hansen
What happens when Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy, and Tales producers Yosuke Saito, Shinji Hashimoto, and Hideo Baba share space in Japanese monthly V Jump? JRPG nerds fangasm off into the sunset. A snippet of possible collabora...

Tales of Bibliotheca movie about as exciting as a library

Story collection app first trailer
Oct 16
// Dale North
I like the Tales series of RPGs, and I think that Namco Bandai's iOS story collection app (so far, Japan-only), Tales of Bibliotheca, is a nice idea. But this new trailer looks like such a drag at first -- fair warning. You ...
New Tales of Symphonia photo
New Tales of Symphonia

Tales of Symphonia getting a new Collector's Edition

In North America, even!
Oct 16
// Patrick Hancock
I've only played one Tales game, and it was Tales of Symphonia for the GameCube. It seemed to have just what I wanted, engaging combat and likeable characters in an appropriately insane JRPG plot. Though really, I d...
Tales of Xillia 2 photo
Tales of Xillia 2

Namco reveals tanzalizing new Tales of Xillia 2 trailer

So intense it hurts!
Oct 14
// Kyle MacGregor
A farm fresh Tales of Xillia 2 trailer emerged from the woodwork today. And it's nothing if not intense. The new video intertwines anime cinematics with in-game footage to set the stage for what looks to be yet another ...
Tales of Hearts iOS photo
Tales of Hearts iOS

Namco hates you: Tales of Hearts R is on iOS in Japan

Don't go breakin' my heart
Oct 10
// Steven Hansen
I don't want to break your Tales of Hearts, Tales fans, but I guess it builds character. Tales of Hearts was a DS game that never got localized. It's supposed to be quite good. Namco polished the game, added a new character, ...
Namco Bandai photo
Namco Bandai

Tales of Phantasia hits 150,000 downloads in five days

Free-to-play mobile re-release of classic RPG seems to be doing okay
Sep 30
// Kyle MacGregor
Tales of Phantasia has garnered a pretty sizable following since its debut on the Japanese App Store last week. In its first five days on the market, the classic role-playing game managed to generate upwards of 150,000 downlo...

New subtitled Tales of Symphonia Chronicles trailer

Hug it out
Sep 30
// Dale North
Here's a nice, long trailer for Tales of Symphonia Chronicles, the upcoming PS3 game, set to launch next year in both North America and Europe. It's in Japanese with subtitles, and contains a lot of hugging, yelling, and swo...

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