Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Tears to Tiara II: Heir of the Overlord (PS3) Review

Tears to Tiara II is a story of historical fiction, where the last of the Barca family, Hamil, rallies his supporters to rebel against the Empire.  The whole story is actually pretty interesting, and contains some obvious real-world influences (the game is set on the peninsula nation of Hispania... wonder what it's supposed to be).  There's some religious themes, too, so it might bother some people, but again, no problem with me.  Each character's dialogue artwork and the special CG scenes are really well done.  Battle models are 3D chibi versions of the characters, which seem a strange contrast to the sometimes dark and bleak nature of the game.

The game is billed as a hybrid of visual novel and strategy RPG.  Story sections are obviously the visual novel half.  There is a lot of dialogue, with nicely done character portraits and the occasional full-screen image.  Yes, other games, notably RPGs, do this too, but Tears to Tiara II earns the "visual novel" distinction because it is much more in-depth with the story and dialogue.  There is a lot of it.  It wasn't too much for me, but there are large chunks where there is nothing but story.  The first 90 minutes of the game had one short fight in it.  While it could be a bit much, it didn't seem out of place.  The dialogue and situations flowed pretty naturally, so it wasn't just lots of dialogue or story for the sake of padding the playtime.  So if you are someone who skips through dialogue to get to the fights, you might want to steer clear.

The battles are fairly standard SRPG faire, with the field divided up into a grid.  You get better damage and accuracy from the backs and sides of opponents, different weapons have different ranges, strengths and weaknesses... you know how it goes.  Tears to Tiara II adds a few things into the mix, the first being Awakening.  There are certain characters that can transform into a stronger form for a few turns, once a meter is filled.  When it wears off, their stats drop dramatically and they can only move 1 space for their next turn, so be careful when and where you use it.  It's pretty cool, but isn't super new.

The second thing is the Quadriga.  One of your units is an elephant, who can move and attack, and also carries around the Quadriga behind them.  This cart can reclaim units and put out another.  It's similar to the base panel in the Disgaea games, but mobile and can be attacked and destroyed.  The third is the Chain Stock.  There are bubbles at the bottom of the character window that can be used to attack extra times, or boost magic attacks for more greater effect.  Extra attacks are always nice when making sure to finish off your opponent.  You do have to hit a button with correct timing to do them, so it's entirely possible to mess up.

The fourth, and most unique addition is the rewind function.  You can turn back any turns you have done, up to a maximum of 20, if you need or want to do something over.  This is very useful.  Sometimes you make the wrong choice of where to move, or who to attack (or even waste your chain attack on a chest...which I've sadly done more than once).  Now, you can rewind and make a better choice.  There's no limit to the amount of times you can do this in a battle.  If you lose a battle, you can use this function to go back a few turns and try to fix any mistakes.  However, as they state, doing the exact same thing (like attacking the same enemy from the same angle) will still produce the same result.  So if you missed an attack, you won't hit it by trying it again from the same angle.  Attack from the side or the back, and it has another chance to hit.  It makes the game a lot more forgiving and a little easier to play.  It's still far from an auto-win, so it won't make the game too easy.

At first, you have to take battles as they come along, but eventually you will be able to re-do some battles for extra money and experience.  Granted, it takes about 7 hours (!) to get to that point, but thankfully you can do some grinding if you want to.  Most fights also include bonus objectives that give extra rewards at completion.  These are nice, and it's hard to resist trying for all of them, but they don't note which rewards are from the bonuses, so I don't know if they are worth getting.

The game is touted as being an 80 hour game, but it's closer to 50 or so for a first run through the game.  After beating the story, there is an optional dungeon and even a new game plus.  Many of the trophies will be obtained just by making your way through the game.  Each battle has a trophy, and there are ones for beating the game on each difficulty.  Thankfully the new game plus helps with that.  If that's not enough, you can buy some extra characters to use in battle.  These are crossover characters from another game, so they aren't selling you things that should have been included.  It would have been nicer if the PSN pages for the characters actually showed them, or said what their weapon is, to make it easier to cherry-pick which characters I might want.

While it's not going to be for everyone, I like Tears to Tiara II: Heir of the Overlord.  It has a good mix of visual novel and strategy RPGs, which gives a lot of story and character development with fun grid-based battles.  There is a lot of story and dialogue, so if you want people to shut up and get to the fights, you should probably stay away.  The rewind function is unique, useful, and makes the game more forgiving.  You might not take the proposed 80 hours to beat the game, but you should get your money's worth and fans of SRPGs should give Tears to Tiara II a try.

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