Set in the lands of Hispania, a country overrun by a vicious neighbouring ruler whom has claimed the land in the name of the Divine Empire, deeming Hispania unsafe and enslaving the population, from farmers to the regal royalty that used to rule. The sole remaining member of the royal lineage, Hamil, is struggling to keep his people together, his hidden strength veiled by a fear of getting his people unto a war they do not want, not wishing to rock the boat but still managing to suffer at the cost of severe corporal punishment, receiving numerous lashes of the whip for disobeying and causing trouble. It is after one of these brutal punishments that he meets a strange girl; initially thought of as a fever dream, Tarte believes she is actually a goddess, one of the few gods that the people of Hispania worship, though apparently she has lost all of her powers since becoming earthbound. Though Hamil is desperate to hide away from the troubles he is soon caught up in a huge quest to save his people in a very, very long story.
Since this is mostly a visual novel you do need to expect lots of talking between the characters and for most of the time Tears to Tiara II handles it well, the full Japanese soundtrack backed up by subtitles that for the best part are translated well with only a few grammatical mistakes; impressive considering the amount of translation this game required. The well drawn anime characters in the foreground of the screen and the occasionally well drawn splash screens will please most fans of the genre however in the background are the very same characters acting out the same scenes but in very cute looking 3D rendered models, with most of the characters bearing little resemblance to their better drawn anime counterparts.
The Adventure Section requires little interaction other than sitting back and enjoying the story as it unfolds by tapping the X button to progress, however when the action heats up the game then moves to a Simulation Section with Tears to Tiara II taking on an enjoyable tactical role playing game approach. Here the game drops the anime style and focuses on the 3D style that was previously in the background and whilst it does mnt compare to the beautifully drawn anime, it does make sense as to why the characters look like this.
Fans of turn based tactical games will feel truly at home here with the battle elements of Tears of Tiara IU playing very similar to other games of a similar ilk. Split into phases, each faction gets a chance to move all of their units before it is the enemies turn. With the battle arena split into grids it is very easy to work out the range of characters movement and weaponry, utilising each of their unique skills from archers, swords masters and magicians each having a vital role on the battlefield to work as a team that is pushed further with the ability to select a leader; each character having a special ability that can influence those around them from healing all allies in close proximity to boosting elemental damage.
With an inclusion of the ability to ride certain units, being joined by an elephant and chariot that allows you to alter your units on the field during battle and a Chain Stock special attack that builds as each unit deals or takes damage and the tactical element of Tears to Tiara II are well worth working through the hours upon hours of story interludes if you do not fancy that element of the game. The Simulation Section also enables you to rewind previous moves, letting you rectify previous mistakes or even try an alternative tactic in the field, trying numerous different ways to alter probabilities of the battle; a great idea that will allow newcomers some breathing space and also for more advanced players to refine their tactics. Aside from the story and tactical elements there is also a a more classic RPG element with the organising of equipment, lots of shops to visit and crafting of new items.
In the end Tears to Tiara II: Heir of the Overlord is a niche title that may surprise many gamers, managing to offer both an enjoyable story and a deep and rewarding tactical adventure that will entertain for a very long time.
Words by Ash Buchanan.
(Version Tested: PS3)
+ Well drawn Anime characters
+ Plenty of classic Tactical RPG elements
- The two different art directions are distracting
- Save points are not conveniently placed considering the length of some story sections