…AKA “Take the internet away from me, or else I’ll end up impulse-buying games at 3AM.”
Anyway. Are you ready to hear another story about me and my gaming history?
The time when I first got my Nintendo DS was a quite magical. It was my first gaming system period. It was a new dimension of gaming for me. I set off for a search of games I wanted to play. Everything was fresh, new and exciting. While nowadays I usually turn towards well known, critically-acclaimed titles, I didn’t have similar reservations back then.
…Partially because I buy my games now, while back then I mostly acquired them by… less legal means.
Also, I didn’t know Japanese back then. So in my search, I ran into quite a few titles that basically made the Western fanbase go: “Why didn’t they bring these over here?” I also remember looking at these games wistfully, wishing I could play them. That was six or seven years ago…
And today I’ve got two of these games right here.
The first of them is Soma Bringer, an Action RPG by Monolith Soft. If the name “Monolith Soft” rings a bell, that’s because they’re also responsible for, among other things, Xenoblade Chronicles. You know. That massive Wii RPG? One of the most critically acclaimed modern RPGs?
But I digress.
Soma Bringer is the brainchild of Tetsuya Takahashi, the person who directed the aforementioned Xenoblade Chronicles. Add to this the music by Yasunori Mitsuda (of Chrono Trigger fame), and you have a recipe for, if not a masterpiece, then at least a damn solid title.
At the very least, the music is excellent.
The story appears to be pretty standard jRPG fare, with an optimistic, young protagonist, an amnesiac girl and a mystical energy going off balance, threatening to destroy the world. Even the game itself doesn’t really give the story that much focus, instead putting more importance on gameplay.
Soma Bringer is a top-down action RPG, and a lot of people have compared it to Diablo (as I haven’t played Diablo, I can’t really say if this comparison is accurate), while others have gone as far as to call it the portable precursor to Xenoblade Chronicles. The combat is fairly customizable, as you can pick one of the eight characters to play as, one of several classes as well as their skills and stats. The game also puts emphasis on its multiplayer capabilities, but I won’t be checking that out, since I seriously doubt I’d find anyone who also owns this game around here.
Yet, despite all of the above, and the fact that this game was quite well received in its home country, it was never localized. Why? Your guess is as good as mine.
That said, a translation patch does exist. It translates everything aside from the extensive in-game library dealing with the game’s world and history. And while it sure would be nice to read, it’s not necessary to complete the game.
The second game I got today is Tales of Hearts (the anime movie edition.)
Now, this one is a bit of a weird case. There are two main-series Tales games that have been released on Nintendo DS – Tales of Innocence and Tales of Hearts. Both of them have been ported to the Vita and of these two, Tales of Hearts R got its much-awaited English release (although I heard it suffers from a quite wonky translation.)
The original DS version has never seen the light of day in English, however. And neither did the DS or the Vita version of Innocence, for that matter. That said, Tales of Innocence at least has a complete English patch courtesy of Absolute Zero, but though there used to be rumors of a possible patch for Hearts, it has never been completed and any possible effort towards creating one was halted by the announcement of Tales of Hearts R’s upcoming localization.
While the Vita version might seem like the definitive one, I was curious about the original game for two reasons. For one, less people have played it, at least in the West. Two, while Tales of Innocence was a 3D game to begin with and the Vita port could technically be just a straight graphical upgrade (though I’m sure they also changed more stuff), Tales of Hearts was originally a 2D game. Which means, among other things, a completely different battle system.
(Left: DS; Right: Vita)
And… okay, the DS version is also much cheaper.
Interestingly enough, both of the games I’m talking about today revolve around something called soma. In Soma Bringer it’s a kind of magical energy that exists in the world’s atmosphere, lets people use magic and powers machines (think Tales of the Abyss’s fonons, or just the concept of mana in general). In Tales of Hearts, “Soma” is a special kind of weapon made from… human psyche? Or something like that, anyway.
I’ll be honest – after the first 30 minutes, I’m, frankly, thrilled to play more. The game is beautiful, the battles are fast-paced and exciting (even though I suck at them) and the story seems… well, Tales games usually really get started around mid-way, so it’s hard to say yet.
Some more trivia:
In the English version of Hearts R, the protagonist is called Kor Meteor. In Japanese, his name is Shing Meteorite. Keep in mind that the English version wasn’t dubbed, so it still has the original Japanese voices…
There are two versions of Tales of Hearts DS. Like Pokemon, right? There’s one version with traditionally animated cutscenes and one with CG cutscenes. That’s… it. That’s all the difference between them. Perhaps they did it, because they were thinking of switching to CG cutscenes, a’la Final Fantasy, but wanted to test out the audience’s reaction, first? You can watch the CG opening here. It’s not bad, but it’s just not what you’d expect from a Tales game.