During my time with Bandai Namco at E3, Tales of Xillia 2 was not the only game I got to check out. Just like its console brethren, I took a look at another upcoming game in the series, Tales of Hearts R.
The demo threw me right onto a desert overworld at a presumably late part of the game. The player takes control of Kor, a curious young man with a great interest in the world around him. As with the Xillia 2 demo the character cannot be changed in battle or on the field, and I was left using the protagonist.
Combat is mostly standard ARPG fare, utilizing artes as typical of the series. However, movement works slightly different as far as controls go. The analog stick is used to free-run around the battle screen, while the d-pad is used to move on the same 2-D plane as the targeted enemy. This can get cumbersome as directional-based artes may be delayed while free-running due to the odd finger placement.
Considering how useful the free-run option has been in the series, this makes the executing of artes inconvenient and potentially problematic against a particularly tough enemy. There may be a way to alter the controls in the final game, but the demo did not give such an option.
The L button activates the "Spiritia Drive", which appears to be a standard power-up comparable to the "Over Limit" command utilized in many Tales games. That might imply its activation is required to use Mystic Artes or something equivalent, the strongest character-based attacks in the series.
As it had already been confirmed the western release will not have an English dub, the voices were all in Japanese unlike the Xillia 2 demo.
Echoing back to a previous JRPG staple (and thus present in older entries of the series), the game utilizes random encounters rather than on-screen encounters in dungeons, fields and the overworld. While the mechanic itself does not have the best reputation, the encounter rate seemed to be relatively unobtrusive.
Fans of the Tales series will know what they're getting into as far as combat and exploration go. Standard but fun, it seems to be a worthwhile entry to the franchise in spite of some arguable shortcomings on the surface.
Tales of Hearts R is set to release in North America on November 11 and in Europe on November 14. The physical version of the former will be exclusive to Gamestop.