Thanks for reading my review! :D
I've only played about the first 5 hours of the game before dropping it. It was mainly because I had a lot of difficulty reading the text. I didn't understand how to build my character and a sense of progression was lost to me because the leveling felt too linear (or that I didn't know exactly how my character was being improved).
Levelling just does some basic stat increases for you. It's the Soma Build that really builds your character up. There's an option in the main menu where you can improve your weapons (Soma). By picking the green, blue, or red upgrade you'll get more artes, support skills, or stat boosts respectively. Shing, for example, I find generally benefits from a mostly red upgrade with a few green levels thrown in here and there. Where I found Beyrl to be more useful with a bigger range of spells through using green and blue. It all depends on how you want battles to pan out. There's not really any right or wrong choice. Though going pure blue might be a bit of a challenge...
If you ever feel like picking it up again, check out this walkthrough:http://www.gamefaqs.com/ds/950188-tales-of-hearts/faqs/55254
It gives pretty good info on each segment of the story and great info on how the game works. It doesn't go line-by-line in the script or anything, so having decent Japanese language skills is highly useful still, but it gives you a better feel of what's going on if your Japanese isn't great. I referred to it from time to time when something confused me.
My other gripe was the combat system. I just could not understand why I am mashing my special attack button 16-20 times in a row and stun-locking my enemies. It felt... like cheating. It felt like there was no strategy to it. I must have been playing it wrong. I don't know.
If you've only played about 5 hours, you're still pretty early on. Overall, it's not a difficult game anyway. But in the first part of the game it's especially easy. You'll find, as you go, that those abilities your using now won't do enough damage to enemies soon enough. You'll be then forced to assign new ones which require more EG to use. Once your EG bar runs out, you're basically a sitting duck while you wait for it to refill. So you have to be careful about using your best skills all the time.
Bosses can be especially hard. The second half of the game has some surprisingly challenging bosses that will wipe the floor with you unless you understand what attacks you're using and which ones link well together.
I do agree with Andrew though on the story. The characters were pretty heart-felt to me. Early in the game you quickly realize that this is serious.
I adore most of the characters. I never really felt that much love for Innes or Beyrl, but the rest (non-party included) I thought were pretty damn good. At only five hours in, the best is still to come! :)