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Video Game: Tales of Hearts

Sleeping princess in the Forest of Thorns, princess dreaming for a thousand years
Long is her hair of emerald, like rose crystal are her cheeks
Sleeping princess in the Forest of Thorns, never awakening from her slumber
Damned by the poisonous thoughts of the devil with scarlet hair
Within the spines of the Forest of Thorns, dream forever and ever as the world ends

Tales of Hearts is a 2008 video game, the third entry in the Tales Series to be released for the Nintendo DS, and the first to be worked on by Namco Tales Studio - and it's a masterpiece. Gorgeous graphics produced by Production IG, a score by series veteran and genius composer Motoi Sakuraba, and a combo-centric battle system in the vein of the remake of Tales of Destiny.

In the distant past, parasitic monsters known as Zerom ravaged the world, feeding on the hearts and emotions ("Spiria") of all living things. To defend the world, weapons called "Soma" were developed, allowing weapon-masters to physically enter the Spiria of an infected victim and eliminate the Zerom directly.

Centuries later, in the quiet country village of Shibul, enthusiastic teen Shing Meteoryte trains to become a Soma Master under the tutelage of his grandfather Zex. Meanwhile, two siblings- Kohaku Hearts and her elder brother Hisui- are on the run from a mysterious sorceress called Incarose.

Not long after the Hearts wash up on the shore of Shibul and meet Shing, Incarose catches up to them, killing Zex and cursing Kohaku into a deep sleep. With no other way to save Kohaku, Shing takes up Zex's Soma and enters her Spiria. There he finds an infection of Zerom, encounters a beautiful emerald-haired girl straight from a famous nursery rhyme, and witnesses the Spirtune that forms the core of Kohaku's Spiria shatter into pieces.

With Kohaku reduced to an emotionless doll, Shing takes responsibility and embarks on a worldwide quest with Hisui to track down the missing pieces of Kohaku's Spirtune and restore her to normal, one emotion at a time. Of course, it's never as simple as that: a new wave of Zerom infection is sweeping the world, several factions from the local Empire and Church are fighting against Shing and each other over the pieces of Kohaku's Spirtune, and just when it looks like everything might turn out for the best, the story takes a hard right turn and reveals another Big Bad whose plans extend to the origins of the Zerom themselves.

Shing, Kohaku and Hisui are joined by a few others on their quest: Beryl Benito, the team's Token Mini-Moe who dreams of becoming the Imperial Painter; Innes Lorenz, an enigmatic Soma saleswoman with inhuman strength; and Kunzite, a humanoid robot with an artificial Spiria. Then there's Chalcedny Arcome, an elite agent of the Valeia Church tasked with preventing the restoration of Kohaku's Spirtune.

A remake, Tales of Hearts R was released on the Vita, featuring a graphical overhaul from 2D to 3D, and promoting Chalcedny to playable character. And it's going to be released in the West for Winter 2014.


This game provides examples of:

  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: Estrega's sewers are downright huge and have a handy ladder connecting them to the castle. You visit them more than once.
  • Alien Sky: Standing on the "white moon" Quartzia, the sky is the same, but with a blue "moon" instead.
  • Animal-Eared Headband: Richea loves cats and wants to pet them, but she's highly allergic to them. Kohaku's solution: put cat ears on Hisui and then make them an attachment!
  • Anime Theme Song: "Eien no Ashita" by DEEN, previously responsible for the Tales of Destiny opening.
  • Arbitrary Headcount Limit: Like the other DS titles in the series, the limits of the console brought the active battle members down to 3. The Vita version adds a fourth member and there are points in the story where you have around 12 people accompanying you.
  • Ascended Extra: Chalcedony, from NPC to party member. Just like Flynn.
  • Beach Episode: Added in the Vita, along with a visual novel-style picture. It unlocks the first swimsuit set, while a second one is separately available as DLC.
  • BFG: Byrocks' Soma; Hisui's Hi-Ougi, as well as Incarose's; the effect of the Flame Gun and Aqua Gazer spells.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Shing's timely entrance to thwart Chalcedony's public execution and have him finally join the party.
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation: Hearts R's localization seems to be headed that way.
  • Bonus Boss: Plenty, in both games.
    • The DS version has a bunch of cameo bosses from previous games, including the Kraken, Vassago, Vepar, Glasya-Labolas, Halphas, Guy and 4 Gentleman monsters designed after other Namco Bandai franchises. And then there's the Proto-Zerom Rishia Cattleya, final boss of the bonus dungeon and toughest optional boss in the series.
    • The R version removed most of the above and instead added two Grim Qigaru palette swaps, Soleil Levant, Ultime Des Rose, a Volga Jaws palette swap, and a hidden boss with a ridiculous iron stance.
  • Captain Ersatz: Compare this Creed to this Creed. They even share the same voice actor, who uses the exact same voice for both.
  • Combination Attack: Different variations in both games:
    • The DS version has the Combination Artes, where a supporting character can be called in with the command panel and synchronize their artes with somebody from the active party to initiate a combined arte. Most of them were made regular artes in R.
    • The Vita version has the Cross Chase and Cross Link mechanic. During a succesful Cross Chase, a character can help you deliver a finishing strike by touching their portrait. There are also a few Dual Mystic Artes, accessible by raising the relevant characters' Soma Links to rank 7.
  • Doing in the Wizard : Everything up to and including the Power of Friendship is something the Quartz made.
  • Dolled-Up Installment: Namco released a year later Keroro RPG, which is a cartoony Tales of Hearts clone which is good in its own right. It even has a better camera system. Namco has a habit of making good licenced Keroro games: the first DS game which is based on the fourth movie, is also a quite good Klonoa clone.
  • Doting Parent: Hisui and Kohaku's aunt, the very strict leader of Norquin. The loss of her sister has made her overprotective of her nephew and niece.
  • Dual Boss: What was originally a really badass cutscene in the DS version became a Dual Boss in R. Solo Chalcedony taking on two of Incarose's bodies. The first will barrage you with physicals and the other casts dark magic. Unfortunately, they have little HP and the battle ends as soon as you defeat one of them, so the "wow" factor is somewhat diminished.
  • Dub Name Change:
    • The translation patch renamed Kohaku and Hisui as the literal translation of their original names (Amber and Jadeite). When Kohaku reappeared in Tales of Graces F, dubbed, she got her name changed to Amber as well.
    • Several other names get changed in the official localization (i.e. Shing becomes Kor). The kicker? Amber goes back to her original name. The real kicker? The game isn't even getting a dub!
  • Dungeon Shop: Added in R. Most prominent ones are in Rignatol lab and Estrega sewers. The latter mysteriously disappears after the first time you go through the dungeon.
  • Empathic Weapon: Variant. Somas don't have their own feelings, but they are the vector for the Power of Friendship, Soma Link. In a skit right after the player's first experience with Soma Link, Hisui tries to take Asteria so that he can experience Shing's Soma Link with Kohaku.
  • Expy: Possibly. There are two characters that share quite some similarities with Super Robot Wars' Lamia Loveless. Richia shares her voice, green hair and slightly Stripperiffic outfit. Kunzite shares her Artificial Human elements (and ridiculously human look), combat capabilities (this seems to mirror Aschen (another of her Expy) from Mugen no Frontier more) and her Tin Man to Become a Real Boy development.
  • Fairytale Motifs: The game's locations are named after writers and fairy tales. A picture book with the story of a sleeping princess is central to the events of the story.
  • Flower Motif: Zerom have a general plant motif, some of them flowers. Richea and Flora also have obvious flower influences on their designs.
  • Foreshadowing: The game has some subtle and not-so-subtle hints about Galando's identity. First, one of his introductory scenes has him do something to the seemingly invulnerable Grim Qigaru, which lets the party fight it normally. Kongwai's introsuctory scene in Innocence R is almost exactly the same. Second, the glyph that appears when Galando casts spells is different from the one everybody else uses. He shares said glyph only with Kongwai, suggesting they are both from the same world.
  • Fun with Homophones: The Necoronomicon, a legendary dark organisation that worships the cuteness of cats all over the world, is named after the Necronomicon.
  • Good Morning, Crono
  • Gotta Catch Them All: The premise of the game: gather Kohaku's fragmented Spirune pieces so she can return to normal.
  • Gratuitous English: Ameth's speech patterns are reminiscent of Yeager inserting random english in his sentences.
  • "Groundhog Day" Loop: Possible with the Mechanoids' Artificial Spiria. Clino-Seraph uses it to trap Richea into his Spir Maze and have her experience an eternal repeat of the day Quartz was destroyed.
  • The Heartless: Zerom, mindless monsters from the Sleeping Princess's fairy tale that dwell within dreams and eat people's Spiria.
  • The Hedge of Thorns: Present in the story of "The Sleeping Princess" as an obvious reference to Sleeping Beauty, but with a twist: the Forest of Thorns is a codename used to identify an ancient control unit known as the Cinderellion. It also happens to be the Flying Whale worshipped by the church and the place where Richea's physical body has been preserved in stasis.
  • Hidden Elf Village: Norqueen village, home to Kohaku and Hisui. The village is protected by a special stone rendering it impenetrable to any outside influence. The barrier was put in place to protect Richea, resulting in a few eccentricities in the village's culture and speech.
  • Hot-Blooded: Hisui's hat, to the point where "Nekketsu Heart" is a title for him; Shing does it too, Chlorseraph takes care of it for the villains, and even Kunzite gets in on the action at times, even predating Hisui with his own title of "Hot-Blooded Guardian Knight".
  • Hot Springs Episode: Multiple events that raise Soma Links are available there, though sometimes you may see more than you bargained for.
  • Innocent Innuendo:
    • An event you can trigger at the inn has a rather...heated event between Shing and Kohaku. The subject is actually pickling a cucumber with miso for Beryl.
    Shing: Kohaku...so this is your...
    Kohaku: It's...the first time I've shown it to a man. I'm a little embarassed...
    Shing: It smells so nice...let me see!
    Kohaku: W-wait, Shing! You can't just put that in so suddenly!
    Shing': Oh, so that's what it's like in the inside! I think I can can pull this out now...
    Kohaku: You can't, Shing! It's still not ready!
    Beryl: STOOOOOOOOOOOOOOP! I won't allow this to continue!
    • A pair of skits entitled "Totally Huge!" with the ostensible subject being Innes' Gag Boobs. The first turns out to be about her Big Freaking Axe and visibly amuses Innes; the second is her pie-eating abilities, and by then she's getting flustered and annoyed.
    Kunzite: In addition to size, the shape, elasticity, and performance are the highest recorded in my memory banks.
  • Lethal Joke Weapon: The joke weapons return, but it in the R version, they have decent endgame stats and give out 12 TC when equipped, more than any other weapon. Shing gets a wooden sword, Hisui a pair of kitties, Kohaku a squid, Chalcedony a rose bouquet and Beryl gets a brush made of Gentleman monsters.
  • Lethal Lava Land: Brahmel volcano, home to the dragon Volga Jaws. Sadly, no lava puzzles are present.
  • Limit Break: Hi-Ougis.
  • Meaningful Name: Word of God says Shing's name is meant to mean "heart weapon". Soma have their own names, like "Asteria" based on Greek for "star" or "Elrond" being short for "Elpis Rondo", which means "dance of joy". To say nothing of the evolved Soma names, like Asteria's being named after stars, comets, and constellations, Gale Arc's after winds and mythical birds, etc.
  • Moment Killer: Poor Hisui. He has a sweet moment with Richea on the eve of the final battle, but when the rest of the party come tumbling out of their hiding place...
  • Morality Pet: Spin and co. for Peridot, Lapis for Silver.
  • Mythology Gag: Beryl's Crazy Comet, its extensions and requirements are taken from an earlier eccentric spellcaster with a high-pitched voice and a strange selection of clothing.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Kunzite fights the party because Hisui lied to him about Byrocks breaking Kohaku's spirune instead of Shing, except Kohaku wasn't telling the party that Richea, not Shing, broke the spirune.
  • Power Levels: Said to be Kunzite's ability to scan them. Through a hilarious skit, he discovered that an angry Kohaku's power level is 18500 giga-sugo. Giga is a billion. We don't know how big a sugo is though.
  • Power Glows
  • Power of Friendship, Power of Love
  • Poke the Poodle: Beryl sucks at taking hostages.
    Beryl: I'll get her face all sticky! The paint won't wash off for a week!
    Hisui: Okay, so she's not evil...
  • Previous Player-Character Cameo: The Combination Blaster attacks can summon a character from the Tales Series to provide a quick helping hand. They can even summon villains and characters from other series entirely, like KOS-MOS!
  • Public Execution: Chalcedony is sentenced as a traitor in exchange for sparing the rest of the Crystal Knights. To drive the point home, Byrocks's Soma is used to carry out the deed.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: The Seraph twins; possibly Hisui and Kunzite; Shing/Chalcedny and Peridot/Byrocks both have the actual colors down.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Quartz and Mechanoids by default; the three living Quartz in the game have had their bodies in suspended animation since the destruction of Quartzia 2000 years ago, and most of the robots have been in storage and/or asleep. In particular, Richia strikes up a relationship with Hisui in the latter half of the game.
  • Relationship Values: The game never misses a chance to raise them, from minor skits to important plot points; characters get "X's Soma Link with the party has gone up" to wrap up their character development scenes, and particularly awesome moments are capped with the notice: "Everyone's Soma Link has gone up."
  • Shout-Out: A huge list of cameo Link Attacks from other games in the series and even other titles produced by Namco.
  • Space Whale: The Great Winged Whale is the deity of the Valeia church and the Mobile Crystal Castle Cendrillion.
  • Spell My Name with an S: Oh boy... just ask if a "u" is needed at the end of "Kohaku"'s name.
  • Sufficiently Advanced Aliens: The Quartz
  • Title Drop: Richea says their connected feelings have carved the way to the "Eternal Tomorrow" for their planet on the eve of the final battle.
  • That's No Moon: 3 times, no less.
    • The black moon is the hibernating form of the giant Queen Zerom Gardenia.
    • The white moon is the planet Quartz, frozen in a crystallized stasis after drained by all its Spiria.
    • At the end of the game, the floating Cinderellion supporting the link between the two planets is described as an emerald moon.
  • Theme Naming: Rocks. Lots of rocks. Zerom are also all named after plants; Gardenia Core's parts take names from plant parts and organs. The locations in the game are a mashup of fairy tales and children's authors.
  • Tohoku Regional Accent: Kohaku and Hisui's home village, Norqueen, which is hidden within the mountains. And then Hisui and Kohaku start imitating it for massive hilarity.
  • Wake-Up Call Boss: R adds Grim Qigaru, an early boss in the Forest of Twilight. While Chalcedony helps with his light-elemental attacks, you only have one piece of darkness protection at that point and the guy's multi-hitting moves are deadly. Combined with the limited TC early on and the fact that the boss is accompanied by an incredibly annoying scythe that automatically revives after a minute or so, you have avery frustrating early boss.
  • Whole Plot Reference: The first arc can be best summed up as Tales of Princess Tutu
  • Years Too Early: Used as a gloat by Peridot if you lose to her in her solo fight.
  • You Gotta Have Blue Hair: You'd think it would keep it normal when hair color is a plot point twice (Richea and Creed), but Peridot and Byrocks have hot pink and bright teal hair for no good reason. Most of the other Celreid have normal-ish hair, the weirdest being Marin's dark blue, Innes' platinum, and Chalcedony's bleach blond.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle: Right as the final Spirune is returned to Kohaku.

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