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DoubleTake: Tales of Xillia 2/Tales of Hearts R

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Posted on April 22, 2014 AT 08:00am

A Tale of Two Games

Ray, you and I may be the most sports-infused, testosterone-laden members of the EGM Crew (though, admittedly, that’s not saying a whole lot, particularly in my case!), but we do have our softer sides. For example, we’re both really into Bandai Namco’s anime-styled Tales series of RPGs, and at the company’s recent Global Gamers Day in Las Vegas, we got a chance to see two games in the series headed our way in 2014. We’d already known that Tales of Xillia 2 will release in North America later this year, but we also got a surprise: Tales of Hearts R, an enhanced Vita remake of the 2008 Japan-only DS entry, will hit Western shores sometime in winter. Of the two games, which are you most excited for, and what was your impression of the two titles in general? Andrew
Ray This may surprise you, Andrew, since I’m not the biggest proponent of the Vita, but the idea of Tales of Hearts R coming to the West was a much more important announcement for me. Bandai Namco’s been pretty consistent over the past few years in bringing Tales games here after their Japanese counterparts hit shelves, but Tales of Hearts was one of those games we missed out on. Like you mentioned, it came out in Japan six years ago and never had a Western release. This gives me hope that a lot of other Tales games we missed could be remastered in the future for both Japan and North America. As for what I thought of each game, I’m excited to see the universe of Xillia through the eyes of an Elympion instead of someone from Rieze Maxia like in the first game, but Tales of Hearts R‘s Kor Meteor seems more like my kind of protagonist with his Soma Sword. How about you? Which one are you most excited for?

Tales of Xillia 2, and it’s all about three words: Rollo the Cat. Various Bandai Namco staff were holding this plushie at the event, and all I was thinking throughout was: Who cares about the game?! I want that cat! Seriously, though, I’m interested to see where Tales of Xillia 2 takes the story. From all import reports, it’s supposed to be better than the first (which I certainly enjoyed), just a bit darker. The last time Tales went to a dark place resulted in Tales of Vesperia on the Xbox 360 back in 2008—my favorite entry in the series—so I’m intrigued to see if Xillia 2 can capture some of those elements that made Vesperia work so well. But unlike the original Tales of Xillia, this game won’t have two main characters. Instead, protagonist Ludger Kresnik (Really? Who comes up with these names?! Though it’s not quite as bad as Kor Meteor, at least!) will have dialogue choices that pop up during cutscenes, which will apparently shift some in-game events. Or so Bandai Namco says—we’ll have to see how polished this element is in the final game). Ray, will you miss the dual protagonists, or as a Mass Effect fan, are you looking forward to having a bit of dialogue choice in Tales? Andrew
Ray I have to admit, that cat is pretty damn adorable. As for the dual protagonists, I think sticking with one is definitely the way to go. While Milla was a great companion for Jude in the first Tales of Xillia, her story wasn’t nearly as interesting as the would-be physician’s. Sticking with one character and building a full story and well-developed character arc in an RPG as big as Tales is a huge task, so there’s no reason to detract from that one core experience by splitting the writers’ attention. And even though I’m a Mass Effect fan, this leads me to worry about the choices in Xillia 2. The dialogue options for Ludger can take him down a different path, making him almost like two completely different characters. Unlike Mass Effect, though, your choices here won’t have nearly as monumental an effect most of the time on your party and the world around you, so I’m worried that some of his choices will be the “true” answers, and that the others won’t be as fleshed out or as interesting because he may not have been written to have two personalities in the first place. Regarding names, though, I wonder if Ludger’s somehow related to the all-important Lance of Kresnik from the first game. I think that’s too big a coincidence to not have been done on purpose.

Oh, I’m sure they’re related somehow. Tales isn’t exactly known for its subtlety. And speaking of lack of subtlety, after playing through about an hour of Xillia 2 and making a few choices, they mostly seemed to fall into “kiss someone’s ass” or “be a dick.” I chose the dickish options, of course—and I likely will in the final game, too, since I’m apparently the one guy who likes to play through Fable the evil way. (All that work you did was for me and me alone, Peter Molyneux!) Still, I appreciate that they’re mixing things up here. It was interesting to choose between two protagonists in the first game, but once was enough. I played through Xillia as Milla, and to be honest, I’d probably have scored the game half a point higher if I’d played through as Jude—at least this time, if the story happens to break down, it’ll be through my own choices and not some character I arbitrarily chose at the start of the game. Getting back to Hearts for a moment, though, I’m seeing a few fans online upset that we’re getting Hearts R instead of the original DS incarnation. They claim that the DS version is superior due to its 2D combat (Hearts R uses 3D like most modern takes on the series), and that we’re being saddled with an inferior product. I played through some of the DS version in Japanese back when it released (I used it to pass the time during my license renewal at the DMV, and I just renewed my license again, which shows how long ago that was), and Hearts R doesn’t look like a downgrade to me. Sure, I’d love another 2D Tales game released in the West, but with the rampant piracy on the DS, we just weren’t going to get Hearts here—it’s a fate that befell lots of Japanese DS titles, sadly. So, what’s your take? Would you prefer the 2D version, or are you all-in for the 3D version of Tales of Hearts R? Andrew
Ray I think it would’ve been interesting to see the 2D version for sure, but as someone who’s spent all of his Tales time in a 3D realm, I think it’s what I’m most comfortable with, and it’ll make it easier for me to jump into. Honestly, my only concern with Tales of Hearts R is if they’ll localize the voice acting or just put in subtitles (I’m available, Bandai Namco, if you’re looking for someone to play Kor Meteor!). But no matter what they do, more Tales is a good thing, and I think I speak for a lot of folks when I say I can’t wait for Tales of Xillia 2 this fall and Tales of Hearts R this winter.

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