lorekai: Tales of Hearts R Review.

This week I’m reviewing Tales of Hearts R, an excellent addition to the Tales of series.

TalesofHeartsRBoxArtJPN

Story and Characters:

If I were to describe this game’s story in two words, they would be safe, and concise, neither of which is a bad thing. None of the events feel superfluous, or drawn out, and the story is both enjoyable and well written, it just doesn’t offer anything new, and if you are at all familiar with the series, or even the genre, none of the twists will be particularly surprising.

While I find the character designs a little lacking, the characters themselves were very likeable and fun, if a little standard, there is only a little bit of irrelevance, and they actually address it in game. If nothing else, it’s a good sign when I have difficulty picking which characters I want in my party because I like them all.

Gameplay:

This game is fun, this game is very fun, it puts me very much in the mind of Symphonia and Vesperia, which if you are familiar with my opinions on the Tales of series, you will know as a very good thing. The dungeons have puzzles, proper puzzles, which is something I missed in the more recent games, and while the puzzles themselves are a little too easy, they are not frustratingly so.

Combat is where this game really shines though, for the most part it’s pretty much the standard 3D Tales of battle system, you have a circular arena to move around in, you use X to attack, and O to a special attack, and these can be altered with use of the directional buttons, it’s fun, it’s simple and it works, and each game in the series has it’s own addition to change it up a bit. What this game has is the chase link system, and while specifics of it are a little hard to explain, it basically allows you to preform huge combo chains with ease, as well as offering some other attacks. The combat however is not without it’s flaws, the party AI options have been stripped down to almost nothing, and maybe it was just how I was playing, but the combat itself seem notably slower, it most Tales of games standard encounters would take between 20-25 seconds to complete, but in this game they would take around 30-40 seconds, it’s minor thing but it does add up.

Sound:

I stand with what I said about the soundtrack in my first impressions post, in that there is nothing standout about it, either good or bad. It’s not bad, it’s pleasant enough to listen to, but there is nothing to compel me to want to download the soundtrack, or even to want to keep the sound on while playing.

If I have one complaint in terms of sound though, it’s in one of their decisions in using the Japanese voices. I have no problem with them using the voices, though I know it is a point of contention for many people, the problem I have is their decision to change one character’s name. To hear one name and read another bothers me greatly, and while I know he was given that changed name in the Graces F cameo battle, the other characters who also appeared in that battle had their names changed there as well, but got to keep their original names it Hearts R, there is no consistency, and their decision makes no sense to me.

Furthermore in regards to their use of the Japanese voices, I noticed several instances where the text and the spoken dialogue was out of sync, so the voices did not match with who was currently speaking at the time. Also the fact the some skits were voiced and some weren’t confused me, as I was unable to work a common link or probable cause for it.

Graphics:

This game is very visually appealing, it runs smoothly, and the game’s world is vibrant and pretty, it makes excellent use of the Vita’s capabilities. The cutscene discrepancy, in that some were square while others were rectangle, and the noticeable variation in quality between them, did bring it down a bit for me though, as while it was nice that they included what I assume were scenes from the DS version, it makes the game feel unpolished and the developers look lazy. Aside from that though I was very impressed with this game’s visual presentation.

Ranking within the series:

Vesperia > Symphonia > Xillia 2 > Hearts R > Xillia > The Abyss > Eternia > Graces F > Symphonia : Dawn of the New World

Overall:

If you have a Vita and like jrpgs I would definitely recommend picking up this game, there is however one thing I feel I should note though, for a Tales of game this game is short. If you don’t do the sidequests or postgame, then you are looking at around 25 hours at best, which compared to the usual 40 hours or so of most Tales of games, is not a lot. It is however a very fun game, and the postgame looks to have a lot to offer, if you have the opportunity I would definitely recommend giving it a chance.

Also it has Wonder Chef, I missed Wonder Chef and his awesome disguises.

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lorekai: Fantasy Life Review

This week, thanks to life finally not being in the way of gaming, and wordpress finally cooperating, I’ll be reviewing Fantasy Life, a 2012 RPG from Level-5, that only very recently made it’s way out of Japan.

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Story:

While suffering a little from predictability, overall Fantasy Life’s story is fun, lighthearted, and enjoyable, I would also however say that it is one of the weakest parts of the game. It is in no way a bad story, the characters are fun, and there is a good sense of self awareness, as it sidesteps the major story tropes of the genre, however due to this, and the game’s lighthearted nature, there is never any sense of urgency, even when plot events suggest that there really should be. Furthermore the story itself seems somewhat overly blatant in the themes it explores, which I would attribute some of the source of the predictability to, and while I would have no problem with this, it becomes a little tiresome when most of the major plot events feel like the same conflict being reiterated over and over again.

Gameplay:

Everywhere I look on the internet I see people trying to compare this game to Animal Crossing, and I can understand why people, without having played the game, would think that way, personally however, gameplay-wise I would sooner compare this game to Rune Factory, Dragon Quest IX, or even Skyrim, before Animal Crossing. As while this game does have a fairly similar customisation aspect, it makes up such a small part of the game, there is really no basis for the comparison to be made.

Gameplay-wise this game has a lot to offer, especially if you are a completionist, you have a fairly substantial world to explore, a large number of quests to complete, the wonderful distraction that is customisation, of both your home(s) and your character, secrets to uncover, and twelve different jobs to master. These jobs can be divided in to three different categories, combat, gathering, and crafting, each with their own different skills and gameplay elements, and while you can switch jobs whenever you like, I would definitely recommend starting with a combat or gathering based job, instead of a crafting one, unless of course you have lots of people available for multiplayer, as getting the necessary items, for crafting, will be quite irritating and costly initially, making it difficult to improve your rank.

The combat in this game is pretty simple, press “A” to attack which whatever weapon you have equipped, and run around to dodge enemy attacks, with different weapons and jobs adding other options, such as equipping a shield, or using a special attack. It’s nothing unusual, and it works well, particularly in multiplayer, furthermore each action has a skill level, and the more you do something the better your character becomes at it. Overall combat is fun and intuitive, though perhaps a little easy.

Sound:

It’s a Nobuo Uematsu soundtrack, need I say more? If I do then, it’s a fantastic soundtrack, with a good range of tunes, appropriate for the setting and themes in game, and contributing well to building the lighthearted atmosphere of the game. Perhaps not one of his strongest soundtracks, though that could be due to my continued playing of Theatrhythm creating an unfair comparison, but still one that is far above the average, but again it’s Nobou Uematsu, need I say more?

Graphics:

Graphically this game shines, true there are games out there that are prettier, but this often seems to come at some form of cost, like the severely limited towns in Bravely Default, whereas Fantasy Life has consistent quality across all areas, and uses colours well to create a detailed, vibrant, and sometimes quite beautiful world to explore. Furthermore the character designs are downright cute, and there is a huge range of character customisation available, I’ve streetpassed more than fifteen people with this game and I’ve yet to come across any characters that look the same.

Overall:

Fantasy Life is an excellent game and one I would recommend that almost anyone should give it a try, regardless of their interest or experience with jrpgs, it has a lot to offer in terms of gameplay, as well as a fun story, all of which is extremely well presented both visually and aurally. Also you can have pets and take them on quests with you, and who wouldn’t want to go adventuring with their cats?

Thanks for reading!

lorekai: Tales of Xillia 2 Review

As promised last week, this week I’ll be reviewing Tales of Xillia 2, an excellent game and what a sequel should be.

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Story:

While lacking some cohesion initially Xillia 2’s story is what a sequel to an RPG should be like, especially one with quite a closed ending like Xillia, it builds upon the pre-established world in a way that doesn’t make you wonder why some things never came up before, and treats the returning cast members in a way that makes them seem like they are there for a reason, not just because this is a sequel. The story itself is very interesting, offering both questions and answers at a consistent rate, and the cast of characters both new and old are well developed, and work well within the story, even if it is painfully obvious which characters are going to turn out evil.

That the characters are well developed actually creates some of the problems with the story, as the story is separated into main chapters and optional character chapters. While I would never say not to do the character chapters, as they add a lot to the story and offer a great deal more insight in to the characters then Xillia ever did, their frequent tone shifts, particularly early on, make the flow of the story a little awkward, and create a few instances of greatly inconsistent characterisation.

 

Gameplay:

Gameplay-wise Xillia 2 takes everything from Xillia, fixes the bad things and then polishes it to near perfection, that it is to say, it’s a very fun game. These improvements are most noticeable within the combat, they’ve taken Xillia’s fun but somewhat clunky battle system and completely revamped it, the AI has improved, link artes are more easily accessible, there are new physical weaknesses, and the awkward camera angles are gone. Furthermore the switch from the Lilium orb to the Allium orb, makes obtaining new skills and arts so much more pleasant.

One of the other areas where the differences between Xillia 1 and 2 are most apparent is in how they handle exploration, while in Xillia exploration was both story driven, and a necessity, to gather resources to level up shops, in Xillia 2 it’s very much up to the player’s own volition. The shop leveling system is gone, and while you can use the resources for synthesis, they are not nearly as necessary as they once were. Side questing does put a little bit of emphasis on exploring, and it is very helpful for certain aspects of the game, but ultimately if you didn’t want to, there are some areas you could go most of the game without seeing.

The only negative aspect of gameplay that I can think of comes from the difficulty, or lack there of. Tales of games aren’t difficult, but usually approaching endgame I’ve encountered at least one boss that has given me some sort of trouble, in this game not so much. It’s not a huge concern for a game that is otherwise excellent but it is somewhat disappointing.

 

Sound:

Hard to go wrong when they ripped pretty much everything from Xillia, very disappointing though, as the soundtrack is one of the things I look forward to the most in a new game. It’s still a good soundtrack, I enjoy hearing it, and the new pieces are excellent, it just would have been nice if there had been more of a change. I also think some different background sounds would not have been remiss, if I hear “Fresh mutton!” one more time. Aside from that there is very little I can complain about in terms of sound, even the voice acting is excellent, though it is to be expected from a Tales of game.

 

Graphics:

Again it’s hard to go wrong when they ripped pretty much everything from Xillia, and while it is a little disappointing, it is at least more forgivable then with the soundtrack. Despite how few of them there are, the new areas are nice, and had I not seen them all before, I would have been equally impressed with the returning ones, it’s a very pretty game. Also, this could just be me, but the character models seem in much better scale with the world then they did in Xillia, where they just seemed a bit to big.

 

Ranking within the series:

Vesperia > Symphonia > Xillia 2 > Xillia > The Abyss > Eternia > Graces F > Symphonia : Dawn of the New World

 

Overall:

Xillia 2 is an excellent game, and if you played Xillia, I would definitely recommend picking it up. If you haven’t played Xillia, I would still recommend it, though I would recommend playing Xillia first if you wish to derive the most enjoyment from it.