Tales of Hearts

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Tales of Hearts
Tales of Hearts R Vita cover
Cover for Tales of Hearts R, showing official artwork of the game's playable characters.
Developer(s) Namco Tales Studio (DS)
Bandai Namco Studios, 7th Chord (PSV)
Publisher(s) Namco Bandai
Bandai Namco Games (PSV)
Director(s) Kazuhisa Oomi (DS)
Hironori Naoi (PSV)
Producer(s) Hideo Baba (DS)
Takashi Yoto, Mika Murakita, Ryuuji Oodate (PSV)
Artist(s) Mutsumi Inomata
Writer(s) Naoki Yamamoto[1]
Keishi Maeda (Hearts R)
Composer(s) Motoi Sakuraba
Hiroshi Tamura
Shinji Tamura
Series Tales
Platform(s) Nintendo DS, PlayStation Vita, iOS
Release date(s) Nintendo DS
  • JP December 18, 2008
PlayStation Vita
  • JP March 7, 2013
iOS
Genre(s) Role-playing video game
Mode(s) Single-player

Tales of Hearts (テイルズオブハーツ Teiruzu Obu Hātsu?) is a Japanese role-playing game released for the Nintendo DS in Japan and the PlayStation Vita worldwide. It is the eleventh main entry in the Tales series, developed by Namco Tales Studio and published by Bandai Namco Games. Two versions of the game were originally released in Japan: the "Anime Edition", featuring cutscenes by Production I.G, and the "CG Movie Edition", featuring CGI cutscenes created by Shirogumi Ltd. A remake of the game, Tales of Hearts R (ハーツ アール Hātsu Āru?), was released on the Vita in March 2013, and later released in western regions in November 2014. Hearts R was also ported to the iOS and released in Japan in October 2013. Hearts R was co-developed by Bandai Namco Studios and 7th Cloud.

The game follows main protagonist Kor Meteor after he discovers a woman named Kohaku Hearts and her brother Hisui near his home town. When Kohaku is attacked by a mysterious antagonist named Incarose and infected with a monster called a Xerom, Kor attempts to cure her using his soma, an ancient weapon designed to fight Xerom. In the process, he ends up shattering Kohaku's spiria, the essence of her heart and emotions, and scattering the pieces across the world. Together with Hisui, Kor sets off with Kohaku on a quest to restore her spiria. The game's central theme is Kokoro to deau RPG (心と出会うRPG?, lit. "A Meeting Between Hearts RPG"). For Hearts R, extra story scenes were created and the genre name was altered to Aratana kokoro to deau RPG (新たな心と出会うRPG?, lit. "A Meeting Between New Hearts RPG").

Hearts began production in the winter of 2006, during the final development stages of the PlayStation 2 remake of Tales of Destiny. It was produced by Hideo Baba, former brand manager for the series. Though the third title on the DS, it was the first portable title to be developed by Namco Tales Studio. The remake was mostly handled by different development staff, but the writer and character designer both returned to add new content. Both versions of the game have received strong sales and highly positive reviews in Japan, with the DS version selling 696,924 units within a month of its release.

Gameplay[edit]

Like previous entries in the Tales series, Tales of Hearts is an action role-playing game. The game is split into two main areas: the field map and battlefield arenas triggered upon encountering an enemy. The battle arenas are fully rendered and played out in 2D.[5] Characters are rendered outside pre-rendered cutscenes as 2D character sprites against 3D backgrounds.[6][7] For the original version, the top screen shows the main visuals, while the bottom screen shows the navigation map and other functions. Battles are triggered by running into enemy sprites rather than appearing as random encounters. As with previous titles, Skits, extra conversations between characters, are available for the player to trigger.[8][9] The battle system is a variant on the standard Linear Motion Battle System (LMBS) from multiple Tales titles: the system is called the Combination Aerial LMBS, an evolved version of the Aerial LMBS from Tales of Destiny. The "Combination" element is a special gauge that fills up and can be used to perform special attacks with party members not assigned in battle. A secondary "Emotion" gauge is also present, determining how many moves a character can perform: the gauge fills while the character is blocking, and is depleted by performing actions. The lower the gauge is, the lower a character's defenses are.[5][9] Characters can employ special attacks called "Combination Blasters," Hearts '​ take on the series' staple Mystic Artes ("High Ougis" in the Japanese version).[10]

Screenshot of a battle from Hearts R.

For the Vita remake, the gameplay takes place in 3D environments with fully rendered character models.[6] Hearts R uses a redesigned battle system titled the Aerial Chase Linear Motion Battle System (called "Arc Chase" in the Japanese version): the "chase link" mechanic enables a character to follow an enemy after knocking it into the air and continue a combo attack. By selecting an ally, the player character can perform a Chase Cross attack, while holding down the attack button activates a finishing move.[11][12][13] Multiple items found in chests scattered across the land can be used in battle (such as curative items) and for obstacles and objects in the field areas. Multiple elements from the series, including cooking healing recipes, are included. Random encounters with enemies on the field are also present.[14] Characters level up using Soma Build Points (SBP), with the "soma" being a character's signature weapon: the soma evolve, granting new abilities. SBPs are assigned to character stat values called Spir Parameters, which strengthen different character stats. Mystic Artes from the original game are carried over, along with new ones.[10] Also added are Union Artes, special attacks unique to a particular character pairing.[15] Characters can be assigned special accessories called "Combo Commands": activated by a specific set of button presses, the accessory grants a character full access to all their Artes for a limited time.[16]

Plot[edit]

Story[edit]

Prior to the start of the story, the world of Celland is attacked by Xerom, monsters that consume spiria, the crystalline essence of a person's emotions. To combat the Xerom, weapons called soma are created from the strongest people's spiria: those who possess soma can effectively fight the Xerom and enter the spiria of those infected by them to purge the infection. In the present, Kor Meteor, a young man who inherits a soma from his grandfather, meets Kohaku and Hisui Hearts outside his village: the two are fleeing from Incarose, an evil mechanoid sorceress. They are attacked again by Incarose and a group of Xerom, with one of the Xerom infecting Kohaku's spiria. Using his soma, Kor enters Kohaku to destroy the infection. While successful, he damages Kohaku's spiria, causing it to fragment and scatter across the world, with pieces taking refuge inside various people. Feeling responsible, Kor goes on a quest with Hisui and Kohaku to restore Kohaku's spiria, and during their travels they team up with Ines, Beryl, Galando and the mechanoid Kunzite. During their journey, factions begin fighting over the spiria fragments, and the group are initially confronted by the knight Chalcedony. His defiance of his superiors and his rescue by Kor from execution prompt him to join the group. As the two travel and her spiria is restored piece by piece, Kohaku and Kor develop romantic feelings for each other.

Once Kohaku's spiria is restored, it is revealed that she and Kor are the respective hosts of Richea Spodune and Creed Grafyte, members of an ancient race that once lived on the planet's "white moon". The Xerom and their core Gardinia were created by Creed, Richea and a third being called Flora to eliminate the spiria of those who wished for war and ensure everlasting peace on their world. When Gardinia went out of control and threatened Celland, Flora sacrificed herself to shut it down, and Creed's interference in Richea's act of sealing them away caused their minds to separate from their bodies. During the next thousand years, Creed and Richea, the latter protected by Kunzite, have been battling each other using different hosts: Creed is attempting to rescue Flora and Richea striving to stop him. Incarose was an agent of Creed attempting to eliminate Richea, and it was Creed's presence inside Kor that caused Kohaku's spiria to break as an act of self-preservation.

Richea and Creed find their original bodies, and though Richea's body soon begins to weaken, she goes with the group to stop Creed's plans. Though Kor is initially disheartened by the revelations, Kohaku helps revive him. With help from Richea, the group travel to Gardinia, which has been hibernating as one of Celland's moons. Once there, they witness Creed extracting Flora: this causes Gardinia' activation and Flora is immediately consumed by it. After the party defeat an enraged Creed, Kor and Kohaku use Kor's soma and the power of the group to destroy Gardinia and the Xerom: this action costs the lives of both Creed and Flora. In the aftermath, Kunzite enters a comatose state to preserve Richea inside him, while the rest of the group return to Kor's home village, where Kor and Kohaku affirm their love.

Characters[edit]

Kor Meteor
A boy with a strong curiosity for the world, Kor lives with his grandfather Zeks in the town of Seeble. Encountering Kohaku and Hisui and venturing beyond his town for the first time, his grandfather is killed by Icarose. His attempt to save Kohaku from a Xerom infection unwittingly causes her Spiria to shatter, causing Kor to join Hisui and Kohaku in an effort to save her.[17] He is called Shing Meteoryte (シング・メテオライト Shingu Meteoraito?) in the original Japanese. His first name was based on the Japanese words "shin" (?) and "gu" (?), which was intended to mean that he "is armed with a heart."[1] Kor is voiced by Tetsuya Kakihara.[18]
Kohaku Hearts (コハク・ハーツ Kohaku Hātsu?)
A girl who travels the world with her brother searching for Soma, guided by the "voice" of her spiria. Attacked by the sorceress Icarose and infected by a Xerom, Kor's attempt to save her ends up shattering her spiria, rendering her virtually emotionless.[17] During the course of the game, she develops a romantic attachment to Kor. Kohaku's first name is the Japanese word for "amber".[19] Kohaku is voiced by Marina Inoue.[18]
Hisui Hearts (ヒスイ・ハーツ Hisui Hātsu?)
Kohaku's older brother. Because he lost his mother, he is overprotective of his sister. He is initially distant and cold towards Kor because of the latter's actions with Kohaku, but gradually comes around.[17] Hisui's first name is the Japanese word for "jade".[19] Hisui is voiced by Masaya Matsukaze.[18]
Ines Lorenz (イネス・ローレンツ Inesu Rōrentsu?)
A woman who is the manager and sole employee of the transport shop "Every Day is a Peaceful Day". Possessed of superhuman strength, she initially accompanies the group to help sell her wares.[17] Her surname is based on the mineral lorenzenite.[19] Ines is voiced by Shizuka Itō.[18]
Beryl Benito (ベリル・ベニト Beriru Benito?)
A girl who ran away from her village to become her country's court painter, she is easily conned due to her inexperience of the world and prone to be nihilistic.[17] Her name is directly drawn from both the eponymous gemstone and the mineral benitoite.[19] Beryl is voiced by Saeko Chiba.[18]
Kunzite (クンツァイト Kuntsaito?)
A guardian knight hidden from the public by those currently using him, he is an ancient machine constructed with functions that mimic and understand human emotions, giving him the equivalent of a heart.[17] He was created as Richea's guardian. His name is one of the names for spodumene.[19] Kunzite is voiced by Hozumi Gōda.[18]
Galad Grinus (ガラド・グリナス Garado Gurinasu?)
A veteran Soma master who joins Kor's group in the hope of destroying the Xerom. He became a master after his wife and daughter were killed by Xerom.[20] Initially cold and distant, he begins to show a lighter side while traveling with the group.[21] Galad was created as a mature leader figure for the cast, and was based on a picture of Hearts R producer Takashi Yoto.[22] He was designed for Hearts R by Inomata and is voiced by Hideo Ishikawa.[21][18]
Chalcedony Arkham (カルセドニー・アーカム Karusedonii Aakamu?)
The leader of the Crystal Knights and follower of the Baraya faith, Chalcedony has been a skilled swordsman from childhood, and is initially antagonistic towards the protagonists. Originally an NPC in Hearts, he was included as a playable character during the second half of Hearts R. The reason was to expand the character stories and party interactions.[6][22] Chalcedony is voiced by Hiroshi Kamiya.[18]

Development[edit]

Original "Anime Edition" cover.

Hearts began development in the winter of 2006, while the PlayStation 2 remake of Destiny was being performed, though active development did not begin until spring the following year. The production was headed by Hideo Baba, producing his first original Tales game, and the development team was made up of members from both "Team Symphonia" (the team behind 3D entries in the series) and "Team Destiny" (responsible for 2D titles). Multiple development assets were borrowed from the Destiny remake for use in Hearts.[23] The earliest concept form of the game was as a DS remake of Destiny.[24] The game's characteristic genre name was Kokoro to deau RPG (心と出会うRPG?, lit. "A Meeting Between Hearts RPG"), which represented the core theme of people's hearts meeting and uniting to overcome difficulties in their lives. The characters were designed by regular Tales series designer Mutsumi Inomata.[25] Their names were inspired by various ores and gemstones.[19] Despite being the third Tales title on the Nintendo DS after Tales of the Tempest and Tales of Innocence, it was the first to be produced by Namco Tales Studio, and thus it was an unusual experience for the development team.[23] Production I.G created the anime cutscenes, while the CGI cutscenes were created by Shirogumi Ltd.[25] The CGI cutscenes were worked on by a three-person team, including company director Manabu Koike: the three worked closely with the development team to make sure the cutscenes fitted properly into the game, and that they did justice to Inomata's character designs despite the different animation style. One issue they had was with lip-synching dialog to the CGI character models.[26] The main reason behind the creation of CGI cutscenes was that the team wanted to try something new, attempting to sell two versions of the games. After release, it was determined that the CGI cutscenes were less popular with fans.[27]

Hearts R[edit]

Speculation about the existence of Hearts R started back in early 2012. The game was first teased during the credits of Innocence R, with both a post-credits message saying "To be continued to next Re-imagination", and artwork in certain dungeons featuring scenes and characters from both Hearts and Tempest.[28][29][30] This caused speculation as to whether the next remake was Tempest, Hearts or both.[29] Hearts R was officially announced in Weekly Shōnen Jump in October 2012.[31] The game was a complete remake of Hearts, featuring full voice acting for the main scenario, new playable characters, 3D graphics and over ten new anime cutscenes created by Production I.G. It was also given an altered genre name: Aratana kokoro to deau RPG (新たな心と出会うRPG?, lit. "A Meeting Between New Hearts RPG").[31][32] Hearts R was co-developed by in-house development studio Bandai Namco Studios and Japan-based developer 7th Chord.[22][33] The staff of the game also had differences: Hironori Naoi replaced Kazuhisa Oomi as director, while Yoto, Mika Murakita and Ryuuji Oodate produced the game in place of Baba.[11][22] Inomata returned as character designer.[34] The concept behind Hearts R was to leave the base story and theme intact while building on an improving it, using the development of Innocence R as a template. Naoki Yamanoto, the scenario writer for Hearts, returned to co-write the extra story content with Keishi Maeda. For the rebuilt battle system, the team were asked by Baba to create a sense of speed when compared with the original.[22] The localization of the title was originally unplanned, but during heavy promotion of the Tales series in Europe and North America alongside the domestic release of Innocence R and Hearts R, there were multiple requests from the western fanbase to bring the titles west: as Hearts R was the most recent title, it was chosen for localization.[35] The localization was officially announced in April 2014.[34] Unlike previous localizations, the game remained with Japanese voice acting, but with subtitles in multiple languages: the decision for this was influenced both by limited space on the Vita cartridge and fan requests for the original Japanese voice track.[36]

Audio[edit]

Heart '​s soundtrack was composed by veteran Tales composer Motoi Sakuraba, Hiroshi Tamura and Shinji Tamura (as Hibiki Aoyama).[37] The official soundtrack, Tales of Hearts Original Soundtrack, was published by BMG Japan on two compact discs on December 10, 2008.[37] In addition to the original soundtrack, a special disc of selected arranged tracks titled Tales of Hearts CG Movie Edition Visual & Original Soundtrack DVD was released alongside the "CG Movie Edition" of the game.[38] The game's theme song, "Eien no Ashita" (永遠の明日?, "Eternal Tomorrow"), was written and performed by Japanese rock band Deen, who had previously performed the theme song for the original version of Destiny.[39] The single reached 6th place in the Oricon charts during its first week of release and remained in the charts for eight weeks.[40]

Release[edit]

Hearts released as two separate game editions: the "Anime Edition", featuring the cutscenes by Production I.G, and "CG Movie Edition", using the Shirogumi cutscenes.[39] Hearts R came as both a standard edition and a spacial "Linked Edition".[41] First print copies of Hearts R gave access to a special downloadable game called Tales of Hearts R: Infinite Evolve. Rendered in the same graphic style as Hearts, it is a game separate from the main story with an exponentially increasing difficulty level.[42] At release, DLC outfits for the characters were created themed around "idol", "school", "maid" and "butler". Another set was based around protagonists from previous Tales games.[43] Hearts R was also ported to and released on iOS mobile devices in October 2013.[4] For its European release, a special day-one "Soma Linked Edition" was created: it featured three costumes from Tales of Vesperia. The edition also included a code to enter a competition for five autographed Japanese Collector's Editions of Hearts R, which would include a special congratulatory video from Baba and a personalized case featuring the winner's name. Pre-order downloadable content in the form of character costumes was also created.[44] The costume DLC was also made available in North America from selected stores. The stores also had a limited digital release of the game alongside the physical release.[45] Hearts R is compatible with PlayStation TV.[45]

Media adaptations[edit]

Hearts R received a manga adaptation of the same name. The manga was eventually collected into a single volume and released under the title Tales of Hearts R Comic Anthology (テイルズ オブ ハーツ R コミックアンソロジー Teiruzu Obu Hātsu R Komikku Ansorojī?) on 25 June, 2013.[46] An official strategy guide, Tales of Hearts R Official Complete Guide (テイルズ オブ ハーツR 公式コンプリートガイド Teiruzu Obu Hātsu R Kōshiki Konpurīto Gaido?), was released on 14 March, 2013.[46]

Five audio dramas based on Hearts were produced after the release of the official soundtrack. Released under the general name of Tales of Hearts Drama CD (テイルズ オブ ハーツ ドラマCD Teiruzu obu hātsu dorama CD?), the five volumes were released between September 2009 and January 2010.[47][48]

Reception[edit]

Reception
Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings - (Vita)[49]
Metacritic - (Vita)[50]
Review scores
Publication Score
Famitsu 33/40 (DS)[51]
34/40 (Vita)[52]
RPG Fan 93% (DS)[53]

Nintendo DS[edit]

Hearts reached fourth place in Famitsu '​s sales charts in its week of release, selling an estimated 140,000 units per week and eventually selling 696,924 copies by the beginning of 2009.[54] Famitsu gave the game 33/40 points from four reviewers. They praised the battles as being "plain fun", there being "a ton of volume to the story" and both the anime and CG cutscenes. Their main criticism was that there was little difference between the two versions besides the cutscenes.[51] Andrew Barker of RPGFan, reviewing an imported version of the "anime edition" of Hearts, was highly positive: he praised the story for straying from the normal course of a Tales narrative, called the graphics "outstanding", the music "excellent", and was generally positive about the battle system and graphic presentation. It was awarding the site's "Editor's Choice" award.[53] Speaking to Siliconera after the game's release, Baba said that it was the Tales game he most wanted western players to try out, due to its story and technical achievements.[55]

PlayStation Vita[edit]

Hearts R also did well commercially in Japan, selling 55,258 copies in its first week, outselling previous Vita Tales title Innocence R.[56] The title evenutally sold 70,066 units by the end of 2013.[57] Famitsu ranked Hearts R a little higher than the original, giving it 34/40: they cited the battles as being "more exciting" than in Hearts, and generally praised the additions to the story. They also praised the graphical overhaul, calling it "a true Tales at the core."[52] Dengeki PlayStation also praised the game, with the four reviewers giving it scores of 80, 85, 90 and 93. Praise went to the fully voiced main scenario, the new playable characters and aspects of the battle system. The main criticisms were "flat" graphics and other elements of the battle system such as the lack of character support and companion AI.[58]

References[edit]

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