By Phil Schipper / October 28th, 2014
|Title||Tears to Tiara II: Heir of the Overlord|
|Release Date||October 14, 2014|
|Genre||Visual Novel/Strategy RPG|
|Age Rating||T (ESRB)|
You might know AquaPlus as a developer that focuses mainly on visual novels, whereas Sting is best known for its strategy games. So, what could they be doing collaborating on one game? Quite simply, each company is playing to its strengths, to produce the dual-genre mammoth Tears to Tiara II: Heir of the Overlord.
In the first seven to eight-hour chapter of the game, you’ll meet Hamilcar, the high priest of Hispania. His religion is being slowly crushed at the hands of the Divine Empire. Although his father died rebelling against the Empire, thus leaving Hamilcar as the successor to the revolution, he seems to want nothing to do with it. He would rather suffer terribly and die than let his people start a bloody revolution, since he believes only calamity can ensue. He humbly takes everything the Imperial soldiers are going to dish out. It appears that he is too stupid to learn strategy and too weak to swing a sword — a shame as a leader.
When he meets Astarte, a goddess of Hispania that descended to Earth and lost her powers, things begin to change. She seems too childish to be considered a goddess, but insists on being treated as such anyway. Hamilcar (Hamil, for short) discovers that, in her care, he is finally able to start healing, both physically and on a psychological level. It seems that he hasn’t believed in his gods for some time, but Astarte’s love for life and nature inspires him to feel true happiness. In fact, although the Divine Empire threatens to enslave all of Hispania, it’s not until they are about to sacrifice her that Hamil finally stands up.
At that moment, he reveals that he has been preparing for this day for the last seven years, storing up magical energy and covertly taking actions against the Empire. He transforms into another of his gods, the great berserker, Melqart, and slaughters all of his enemies. From this point on, the revolution of Hispania begins, and all of its people rise against their oppressors. With the help of his goddess — now a bit stronger herself with the people believing in her–he takes the lead and commands those who have been preparing over the years to go into battle and turn Hispania into a strong country.
For most of this very early part of the game, you’ll be experiencing the story from the visual novel side, with only a handful of battles sprinkled in. You may watch the drama, humor and action play out for at least a couple of hours at a time, though there are frequent stops to allow you to save. You can choose to fast-forward, turn on autoplay and scroll back through previous dialogue easily, with tons of options as to how to handle these features. You can even re-listen to the all-Japanese voiceovers of a previous line when you go back to it. One interesting (though optional) mechanic is that voiced lines don’t cut off unless the next one starts playing, which means you can end the dialogue box quickly and listen to them speak during actions or while the scene fades out.
Later on, you’ll start to actually get into the strategy. Hamil’s army consists of a handful of characters from the story, usually between six and 12, depending on the stage itself. While each has specific skills, techniques and spells, most of the characters can essentially be broken up into melee, ranged and magic types. Melee fighters can only attack directly (although spear users will hit a second space beyond their normal attack), but they automatically counter other direct attacks and techniques. Ranged attackers need at least one space between them and their targets, but different weapons allow them to attack even further away as the game progresses. Finally, a magic user can hit one or two spaces away, although they lose the ability to hit more than once per turn.
Attacking consecutively like this is made possible by using up Chain Stocks, meters that slowly fill as characters deal and take damage. Chain Stocks can be used for this purpose or to use certain ultimate attacks or joint attacks with other characters. They also allow you to boost any spell you cast for various effects. Many just increase their damage output, but others get an increased range, area of effect or become usable after movement (as each spell may or may not be normally).
There’s also an Awakening meter that fills similarly. Only Hamil and Tarte (that is, Astarte) have these, but other characters’ actions also have a slight effect on them. Filling these up allows each of the two characters to transform into his or her god form, increasing their stats immensely and giving them a completely different set of techniques and spells. Tarte’s goddess form can cross the battlefield in a single turn and rain death on large groups of enemies, and, when Hamil becomes Melqart, he is capable of insane amounts of damage that can make even many bosses a trivial matter. However, after two turns, they enter an exhausted state that kills all of their stats and reduces their movement to one for a turn. In addition, Melqart can become berserk and start blindly attacking anything around him.
One more unit that has a special status in the group — and, in fact, is required to be present in almost every battle in the game — is Noa the elephant. Noa takes up two spaces and pulls a chariot, making it an unusual task to maneuver her if you want to keep up with the group. At any time a character can enter the chariot to rest, thus freeing up a slot in your battle team. The chariot can then send someone else out, or let the previous fighter come back on a later turn. This can also be used to fill in if someone is defeated in battle, or simply because you didn’t use all of your party’s slots the first time. However, if the chariot is destroyed it can’t be used anymore, and if Noa is defeated the chariot will disappear with her.
What really figures into every last decision you make, though, is the elemental system. Every character and monster has an assigned element, as do most spells, many techniques and even basic attacks. They may be from the traditional four (fire, water, earth and air) or the spiritual three (arcane, dark and holy), which are separate systems that give advantages within themselves. Each turn, one from each of the two categories is considered “favored,” which means that characters and monsters of that element get overall stat boosts, and any attacks of that element become more powerful. This means that one turn, it may be a waste to bother attacking a certain enemy, while the next, you have the chance to do a lot of damage.
To make things even more complex, every unit has unique skills, including one that only activates when that unit is the leader of that side. It’s important to choose the best skills for your party members to use, but it’s often even more vital to check those of enemies. They can make certain units or abilities much less effective or heal themselves and their nearby allies each turn. One boss even has a skill that negates all damage when his element is favored, making that battle’s element cycle even more dramatic than usual.
The good news is that if you make a mistake in managing one of these many factors, there is a rewind feature that lets you go back to the beginning of your turn, up to 20 turns. The catch is that any randomized events are predetermined — so, if your attack misses or Melqart goes berserk, for example, you can’t just retry the same exact thing and expect a different result. However, you can take the knowledge that this will happen and choose a different action that might be more fruitful. Sometimes you can try hitting an enemy from behind to increase your hit percentage, find an attack with a higher hit rate, or just target another enemy entirely. While this means redoing other characters’ actions for the turn, it’s often worthwhile. You can also, of course, use it to change things up if you just find your general strategy was weak.
Think you’re in over your head already? We’re not done yet! Click here to go to page 2 of the review.
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