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Dual Hearts
Review By:  Jared Black
Developer:  Sony Computer Ent.
Publisher:  Atlus
# of Players:  1
Genre:  Adventure/RPG
ESRB:  Teen
Online:  No
Accessories:  Memory Card
Date Posted:  10-9-02

Atlus has long made a living bringing to North America quality Japanese titles that we wouldn't otherwise see, and that tradition of quality continues with their latest PS2 title, Dual Hearts.

Dual Hearts is an adventure/RPG that borrows a lot from other sources. Rumble, the game's hero, is a Ruinseeker who's come to Sonno Island in search of the legendary Dream Stone. It's here that he meets up with Tumble, a Baku from the Dreamworld who's task it is to recover the legendary Holy Instruments in the "real" world through the use of various keys. Tumble stumbles and loses these keys, which then fly off and take up habitation in the dreams of various residents of the real world. Thus Rumble & Tumble team up, entering a number of different dreams to recover the lost keys and gain valuable treasures.

From here on out Dual Hearts plays out in typical adventure/RPG fashion. Rumble can equip multiple weapons at a time and use them to defeat enemies (including the ubiquitous lock-on function), flip switches, and solve various puzzles similar to Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Tumble has a number of different powers and functions to aid in the quest. By eating various Esamons freed by cutting down bushes (sound familiar?), Tumble can restore Rumble's health, perform several types of attacks, and dash. As new powers and abilities are unlocked, players can then backtrack to previous dreams and access new areas and power ups.

While the gameplay may follow other examples already set in the genre, it's the rest of the presentation that really makes Dual Hearts stand out as an unique title. The graphics are very cute, and clearly aimed at younger characters. However, they never get too cute for older gamers and the clever character design and dream sequence layouts help to keep the experience fresh. Since each main level takes place within a dream, Dual Hearts features a wide variety of environments to traverse in. The designers really did a great job of making each dream a twisted and trippy reflection of that character's personality. I know I've had some rather strange dreams in my lifetime, and the dreams here are presented in a manner that the player would think that character could actually have that type of dream. On a technical level the graphics are pretty simple with low-poly models and a bright color palette, but that's done intentionally. Dual Hearts is a great example of how a game doesn't have to feature all of the latest graphic tricks to still look great.

Just as important in the overall presentation of any adventure/RPG is the dialogue. The quality of the dialogue throughout remains well written and funny. Each character has his/her own manner of speaking, and there are plenty of jokes and insults to keep the dialogue moving.

Sound follows a similar pattern. The music is alternatively breezy and tense, and always fits the current mood properly. Sound effects are subtle and somewhat sparse, but accurate and complimenting to gameplay.

HIGHS:

  • Likable characters make playing the game a joy rather than a pain (*cough*Squall*cough*)
  • A long quest that'll keep the player busy for a while and never gets too dull.
  • Simple, yet challenging gameplay that slowly maximizes the use of all the controller's buttons as new weapons and abilities are discovered.

LOWS:

  • Borrows the dream jumping from Alundra, Tumble is similar to every other Japanese monster sidekick, and the gameplay is straight out of Zelda. Admittedly these aren't bad sources to borrow from, but it prevents the game from feeling completely fresh.
  • Obviously aimed at younger gamers, as the quest is pretty easy to complete and the graphics are simple.

FINAL VERDICT:

Dual Hearts is an enjoyable adventure/RPG romp, and a nice change of pace from this year's flood of traditional RPGs on the PS2.  It's definitely worth checking out, especially on the PS2 where there's no Zelda.

Overall Score: 7.9

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