If you’re wondering what happened to the first game in this series, it was never released outside of Japan. Starting as an adult-oriented game, it earned enough of a reputation as a decent game that it was eventually retooled and re-released on PS3 and PSP with its adult material removed. Tears to Tiara II went straight for the relatively family-friendly release on PS3, and is the first title to be released in English.
In this turn-based tactical RPG you play Hamil, son of the late lord of the Canaanites. You and your people’s rights have been slowly eroded in the seven years since your people lost the war that cost your father his life, and have been living under slavery since. You and your fellow Canaanites face regular beatings and other misdeeds from overly-evil soldiers, who further drive home your place in the world by having you tear down your old gods’ (Ba’al’s) temple to use its stones to build a temple for your captors’ worshipped god (Watos). Despite all this, you are an easygoing simpleton on the outside, a wise move since your oppressors keep a close eye on you, given your relationship to the former lord who fell by their hand; making a lot of noise would almost certainly not end well for you.
An upcoming religious festival is marked as a turning point for both sides; your captors see it as a chance to revoke what little rights the Canaanites have left, while rebel forces likewise see it as an opportunity to take a grand stand and drive off their oppressors or die trying. Meanwhile, a mysterious girl shows up, claiming to be your people’s long-lost goddess Astarte, but alleges that having taken human form has limited her “godlike” powers. Suffice it to say that wacky hijinks ensue, and elephants are involved.
Personally I enjoyed the story, although it’s somewhat trite anime “underdogs against the over-the-top evil forces” and has plenty of anime clichés as well (although is fortunately reserved on the more “Senran Kagura“-like clichés, despite the first game’s adult origins; I occasionally caught glimpses of moments that looked they were going in that direction and the game may in fact have been setup this way just in case, but that may be my crotchety old man brain). It is also extremely well translated and adapted to English; the audio remains Japanese only, but in the English text, characters speak with a vocabulary befitting their personalities. Atlus did an excellent job here.
Bear in mind, however, the game is mostly story and takes an incredibly long time to get to the proper “game,” and my impressions from the first chapter (which took quite a few hours of on-and-off playing) were completely different as the game continued in subsequent chapters and ramped up in challenge and game complexity considerably. The first chapter is something of a drawn-out tutorial, about a half-dozen nearly-unloseable battles that are over in mere minutes and will probably require no more than 4 turns or so, interspersed with storyline cutscenes explaining the world and the characters in it.
Although Chapter 1’s ending almost makes it a self-contained story, Chapter 2 immediately introduces some new characters, introduces shops and an overworld map, and the first battle is large enough to potentially require more turns than every previous battle up to that point.
As for the game itself, for the most part it’s a fairly straightforward tactical RPG, and in fact it doesn’t even teach you the basics as far as moving units and attacking initially, assuming you’re already familiar with earlier games in the genre. From the second fight onwards an optional tutorial teaches you elements specific to the game, like how the rock-paper-scissors relationship of elements plays out, QTEs for chaining attacks à la Super Mario RPG, and the various unit types and their advantages and disadvantages, with other tutorials introduced as the need arises. Fights are individually ranked based on how well you do, and you can also rewind up to 20 turns penalty-free, although the RNG works in a way where “random” things will nonetheless play out the same (e.g. rewinding because you missed an attack will still miss again if you re-do the exact same actions).
Failing a battle and getting a game over also gives you the option of starting the fight over from the beginning, but keeping any experience points you earned in your failed attempt (although everything else, such as items earned and used, are reset, and you are penalized in rankings for having overleveled characters). I played on Normal, and things started to require a bit more careful thought for the first chapter’s final battle and the game just got harder from there. Individual units can easily get overwhelmed and killed in a single turn if you’re not careful, and I imagine hard requires further careful planning because I could see that going badly quickly, although the difficulty can be adjusted on the fly if needed. Grinding to a certain degree will almost certainly be required, especially on higher difficulties.
Overall this is a game I would mainly recommend for story-focused individuals, especially visual novel buffs. That said, if you’re a fan of tactical RPGs, this is an incredibly long game available for less than most new titles, so if you’re looking for several hours of gameplay this should be right up your alley.
Tears to Tiara II is still available in our own Rice Digital store right here.
If it’s a lighter, less tactical RPG you’re after then why not check out Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth which comes out on Friday? As with Tears to Tiara II we have it available right here. Our bundle includes a free Chie’s Badge Set and a Double Teddie Keyring.