Tears to Tiara II: Heir of the Overlord

 

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Review by · November 26, 2014

I’ve played a few games in the past that tried to cram too many mechanics in, did none of them well, and suffered as a result. With Tears to Tiara II, however, this is the first time that I’ve played a game that put too many things in, did them all well, and the game still suffered for it. Tears to Tiara II is both a visual novel and a strategy RPG, and although it’s good at both, I wish it had stuck to one or the other.

The first Tears to Tiara was an adult game that was later censored for rerelease, but never made it to the English-speaking territories. Thankfully, this sequel doesn’t seem to require any knowledge of that game, and it wasn’t developed as hentai, so it had nothing to censor. (There is one brief “sexy” scene, but it’s played for laughs and doesn’t go too far.)

Tears to Tiara II tells the story of Hamilcar, head of the house of Barca. The Barcas were once the rulers of Hispania, but Hamilcar’s father was deposed and killed when the Divine Empire conquered their country. As the game begins, Hamilcar has spent his adolescence and young adult life living basically as a slave for the Empire. But there are those around him who have spent that time preparing to stage a rebellion and try to gain Hispania’s independence. Students of ancient history will appreciate the many references to people and places from the nation of Carthage and its fight against the Roman Empire in the Punic Wars (something I only know about thanks to the History According to Bob podcast), but such knowledge isn’t required — those who aren’t into history will just think the names are strange.

The story continues through to the end of Hispania’s rebellion, and it is quite good. Unfortunately for those expecting a strategy RPG instead of a visual novel, there’s quite a lot of the latter. At least three times, a story scene went on so long that I had to leave it paused on a line of dialogue, turn the TV off, and leave for work or errands. In the first five hours or so, there were two (relatively brief) tutorial battles. I spent the rest of that time reading dialogue, and it would have taken longer if I had waited for the voice cast to finish their lines. The voice acting is only available in Japanese, but the actors do a very good job as far as I can tell.

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For those like me who were expecting a strategy RPG, the story-to-gameplay ratio is made all the more sad by the fact that Tears to Tiara II’s battle system is unique, interesting, and well-balanced. My favorite feature is the “rewind” capability, which allows you to rewind any battle to the beginning of any turn and replay it from that point forward. This gives you the freedom to try risky strategies without fear that you’ll be stuck trying the whole battle again if they fail, or even just to take a turn again if you hit the wrong button and make a mistake. Any action that you take the second time around in exactly the same way you did the first time will have the exact same result, which removes the temptation to simply try an attack with a low chance of success over and over until it works. I also like the way the system lets you pick one team member as the leader for each battle and get a specific bonus for team members close to them. This might be HP or MP regeneration, an increased chance to hit, or a number of other things. The leader skills improve as your characters level up, and they make a real difference in battle long before the end of the game.

The issue is that, compared to the time spent in battle, there’s so much story that the game starts to drag. I found myself blazing through the story as quickly as I could in order to get to the next save point before a battle. And by the time I was 2/3 of the way through the game, I even changed the difficulty level to Easy so that the battles would keep moving along, because I only have so much gaming time available to me, and I was spending most of it reading dialogue. As I said earlier, both the visual novel and strategy aspects of Tears to Tiara II are good, but they both suffer during the focus on the other. Players who come to the game hoping for a visual novel will wish they didn’t have to bother with the fights, and those who come to it hoping for a strategy RPG will wish that there were only about half as much story as there is. Between story battles, you can take your team and participate in free battles for experience and money, but it’s really not necessary, and it won’t help you reach the end of the game any faster.

The music is excellent, and it includes a lullaby that will stick with me for a long time (in a good way). The battle themes, the menu music, and the few vocal pieces are all worth hearing. We will almost certainly be providing a full soundtrack review at a later date, so for now, I’ll simply say that it’s one of the game’s high points.

Really, Tears to Tiara II’s only weak point is its graphics, which hearken back to the early days of the PS3 rather than stepping up to the standards laid down by the many games that have come before it in the system’s eight-year lifespan. NPC animations in cutscenes are particularly limited, and the PCs aren’t a lot better, appearing to stick closely to what they can do in battle. Still, the visuals aren’t so ugly as to actually detract from the game — they just don’t stand up to the rest of what the game brings to the table.

It’s always frustrating when a game turns out to be less than the sum of its parts, especially if its parts are all good, as is the case in Tears to Tiara II. The greatest enjoyment can probably be found by those looking for a good visual novel, who can turn the battle difficulty down to Easy and simply enjoy the story of Hispania’s rebellion. Those who want a good strategy RPG will appreciate the battle system, but may find themselves growing weary of the lengthy story scenes. Still, fans of both genres will find something to like in this game. Maybe they’ll even grow to appreciate a genre they weren’t looking for.


Pros

Good story, unique gameplay mechanics.

Cons

Feels like two good games smashed together to make one less good game.

Bottom Line

A game perhaps best played by visual novel fans on Easy, despite the success of its battle system.

Graphics
70
Sound
85
Gameplay
80
Control
80
Story
85
Overall Score 75
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John Tucker

John Tucker

John officially retired from RPGFan as Managing Editor in 2017, but he still popped in from time to time with new reviews until Retirement II in late 2021. He finds just about everything interesting and spends most of his free time these days reading fiction, listening to podcasts, and coming up with new things to 3D print.