Tales of Hearts R is a role-playing game in which players set out on a journey to restore the Spiria of a young girl named Kohaku. A crystalline source of a person's emotions (or essentially, their heart), poor old Kohaku's Spiria was accidentally shattered and flung to the far reaches of the world - and it's up to you to get it back. Of course, what starts out as a simple enough quest soon ends up taking a turn for the worst, as some nefarious folks set their eyes on the Spiria shards' mysterious powers, and what was once a simple fetch quest turns into an adventure to save the world.
Most of your time in Tales of Hearts will be spent travelling from town to town, and dungeon to dungeon, battling enemies in random battles, as they explore the caves and outer reaches of the land, tracking down each of Kohaku's shards of emotion. Battles are simple, button mashing affairs, where you and up to three other members of your party beat up groups of enemies with two different sets of attacks - physical, sword slashing combos, and 'artes'. Powered by a separate "magic meter" style bar, artes let you fire off a range of more powerful attacks, from magical fireballs, to healing spells, or simply fancier weapon attacks that deal more damage. Using a mixture of the two is usually for the best, as some enemies are more resistant to one type of attack than the other, but the learning curve is suitably shallow, making this nice and easy to pick up and play.
Battles occur randomly as you wonder around the world, and it is possible to get a "Game Over" (which resets you to your last save point) should the enemies get the upper hand - although, like many of the other games in the Tales of series, the difficulty is low enough that it shouldn't happen too often. Luckily, you can't get "Game Over"s on the game's boss fights either, as instead you'll simply be given the option to restart from the beginning of the battle.
Where children are more likely to stumble is the sheer amount of reading the game involves. Being a very story-driven game, there's tons of cutscenes and conversations to sit through, the majority of which are key to understanding where you need to head next. It's also worth noting that the game has no English voices - the dialogue is all in Japanese - which means this game is almost exclusively the territory of confident readers, particularly those who like a slightly slower paced game with lots of story.
As a role-playing game, much of your time in Tales of Hearts R is spent battling bad guys and fantastical beasts - combat isn't especially gory, with no blood or guts shown, and enemies simply fade away when defeated. Occasional cutscenes show people stabbed by swords, or with insignificant splatters of blood, but it's pretty infrequent. Utterances of bad language are also very few and far between, with the odd "ba**ard" being as bad as it gets. Some conversations between party members involve innuendo however, with talk about a female companions "jiggling" bags that she swings "around for the whole world to see" (they were talking about bags of money, apparently), as well as a strange obsession with a man's "peanuts" - although your average innocent youngster will likely think nothing of such conversations.
Format Reviewed: PS Vita