The much anticipated ティアーズ・トゥ・ティアラ / Tears to Tiara was recently released, and I braved the summer thunderstorms in a foray to Ikebukuro to pick up a copy; much to my surprise the kind folks at Bic Camera also saw fit to provide me with the preorder goody box, despite having not preordered or even bothered to buy the collector’s edition. Having had a chance to get into the game, I offer my impressions.
On to the game itself; I can say I am surprised in several respects, mostly pleasantly. Firstly, I was expecting an SRPG with strong story elements: in fact it turns out the game is a full blown, gorgeously illustrated visual novel with some RPG trappings.
Normally, I would be nonplussed, but my immediate impressions of the story is that it is excellent, it grabbed my attention and seems set to develop in novel and entertaining directions, having already happily done away with several possible clichéd story paths for a much more engaging turn.
The story and universe in question, without giving anything away, follows a quite similar vein to the excellent Utawarerumono, with a strong dash of Odin Sphere, with the protagonist being a likable character thrust into the bosom of a variety of comrades, after a long and mysterious sleep through a golden age into a degraded era of relative savagery.
This sort of science fantasy post-apocalyptic universe is probably a familiar theme to you by now, but in this case things seem to have been done somewhat freshly. The story is the most important element of a game like this, so the fact that it is present and correct, and immediately engaging, is crucial.
The voice actors seem well cast, and plenty of experienced hands are there; in particular I thought the variety of male characters portrayed were very well carried off, which is nice to see. This is not to say there is anything lacking in the appealing females, either.
The 3D gameplay graphics are fairly bland and none to skilfully carried off. The copious event and character CG are, however, fantastic. The character design is also exceptional; the designer of Morgan really deserves some kind of award (unfortunately, I’m far from the famous tentacle scene, I fear).
Such beautiful and high resolution CG really blow away the sort of thing visible in most adventure games and eroge; hopefully the bar is set for next generation visual novels, though it would be nice if this level of quality were to slip into the largely technologically stagnant world of 2D PC eroge and the like.
Speaking of the graphics, the anime cutscenes are also rather well done – they look gorgeous. Hopefully, the anime, due 2009, will come close to this level of visual quality.
And the SRPG part of the game? It seems good enough, for what there is of it; I probably spent fifteen minutes out of the first three hours of play in the SRPG part, the rest was in events. Long, detailed events, full of beautifully voiced and written dialogue, fine CGs and interesting exposition. With this kind of balance, it is the gameplay parts which start to get in the way of the story.
The complete opposite of a game like Disgaea, and perhaps the better for it.
In short, it is shaping up to be extremely promising, though I think it a misnomer to call this an SRPG – it is a visual novel (formerly an eroge of course), and an excellent one at that, from what I have seen so far. Those looking for some game with their story might do better to check out Persona 4 instead.
I think we can expect to see a lot more of Tears to Tiara soon; the most appropriate comparison is probably to Utawarerumono, which was a great success and is easily recommended – my suspicion is that Tears to Tiara can surpass even that potent franchise.