Based solely on the title and the cover, you can probably decide whether or not Tears to Tiara 2: Heir to the Overlord is the kind of game for you. Do you enjoy Manga? That’s a good start. Do you enjoy sprawling strategy RPGs with a compelling turn-based battle system featuring over 80+ hours of gameplay? Even better. Do you mind if over half that amount of time is devoted to watching cut scenes? Yeah, that’s where I thought I might lose you.
Tears to Tiara 2: Heir to the Overlord is half turn-based strategy RPG, and half visual novel. The story takes place in the nation of Hispania, whose people are currently under the rule of the Holy Empire, and are subject to abusive slave labor and the forced destruction of their temples and traditions. You play as Hamil Barca, the heir to the noble house Barca, and next in line for the throne. At the beginning of the game, Hamil is a daydreaming slave who feels the best way to overcome his daily struggle is by using a smiling form of stoicism and taking his whippings as they come. Soon after, he meets Tarte, who claims to be a goddess manifested by Hamil’s own desire. When the Empire discover her and attempt to burn her at the stake, Hamil finds his true power and routs the surrounding army, and the pair continue on with a group of resistance members to free their kingdom from enslavement.
"Even better. Do you mind if over half that amount of time is devoted to watching cut scenes? Yeah, that’s where I thought I might lose you."
The story to this game is enormous, and that is just the tip of a very ponderous iceberg. The tale is told through a combination of gorgeous painted—but not animated—2D cut scenes, and the much less gorgeous in-engine 3D scenes. The entire story features Japanese voiceovers, which is impressive given the amount of story being told, but ultimately, distracting as an English speaker. The option to turn off the voices was a welcome addition, as was the option to turn on only certain character’s voices, as some are a little more grating than others.
Combat in TtT2 takes place over a grid, where you and your opponent take turns moving your various pieces over the map, and then attacking, using magic or special techniques, as is generally the case with games of this type. Tears does manage to set itself apart from the rest of the pack with a few nifty features.
"Tears to Tiara II does manage to set itself apart from the rest of the pack with a few nifty features."
Chain Stocks, for example, function like you might expect a hyper gauge might work in a 2D fighter. Build up your Chain Stock meter, and you can unleash combos with melee combatants or charge your magic spells for additional effects. Each unit has what is called a Zone of Control, which limits an opponent’s ability to move around that character’s threatened space. There is an elemental matrix which means some characters and spells are more effective against others (water douses fire, fire engulfs wind, etc.), and there is the ability to rewind combat back as many as twenty turns just in case things take a turn for the worse.
All in all, the combat works very well. It requires skill and tactful thinking, and it’s rewarding to see a melee opponent unable to get to your archer because of the way you used your units’ control, just as much as it is to unleash a fully stocked technique. But unfortunately, between every battle, you are thrust back into the story. If you were able to just let the game run without having to pay much attention, that would be one thing, but the player is required to press the X button to advance every other sentence of dialog. After more than an hour of pressing X, it didn’t matter how detailed the painted characters were, or how clever the dialog was. I simply wanted the scene to be over. The scenes that took place over the 3D engine were even worse, as the 3D models feature fewer animations than a corpse.
"While the combat features a few nice twists to the formula, the story to gameplay ratio is imbalanced enough to frustrate even the most patient gamers."
If Japanese visual novels are your thing, check out Tears to Tiara 2: Heir to the Overlord, without a doubt. You will find a lot to like from the densely populated story and beautiful painted characters. If you’re more into strategy or JRPG titles, I would skip over this one. While the combat features a few nice twists to the formula, the story to gameplay ratio is imbalanced enough to frustrate even the most patient gamers.
Review by: Nick Walge | Reviewed on: Playstation 3