A little look at… Tuned Heart

Another update, and another fun Japanese computer game to share! First released in 1996 by System Soft you may know them as the people responsible for the Master of Monsters series - and recently (hey, 2012 is recent in my book!) re-released under Project EGG’s digital distribution service, Tuned Heart is a fun little “one shot” SRPG about a crime-fighting gang of cops.

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Tuned Heart’s rather fantastic mix of date-the-cute-girl SRPG with a slightly strange helping of gun-nut on the side is probably what sets it apart from the crowd more than anything else. You see, while you get to experience events such as taking a cute Russian police officer out shopping at certain points in the adventure you also get to watch them turn biker terrorist gangs into Swiss cheese with a wide selection of real-world weaponry too. This is all still presented in the game’s exceptionally cute way, but some quick Googling that could potentially have you marked as a “person of interest” to your local government will reveal that all the handguns, sniper rifles and shotguns used are in fact visually recognisable and relatively accurate to their physical counterparts. They went even further with the vehicles, which are officially licensed Kawasaki’s with a Tuned Heart paint job.

But in spite of all the mechanical nerdery on display this SRPG’s actually quite stat-lite: there’s just enough numbers to give you the opportunity to tweak characters how you like them (or, more sensibly, to the current battle) but not enough that opening the character screen unleashes a flood of statistics and counters that’d make Excel cry as some games of this type tend to do.

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Which is good because battles are where you’ll be spending the vast majority of your gaming time, so I found Tuned Heart’s way of doing things a good balance between exhausting all your energy fretting over equipment versus actually blowing things up. There are no pre-battle prep screens by the way; everything must be found and fitted during your fight, with the benefit of this is being that you can tweak and fiddle as you go, equipping an interesting new part as soon as an enemy drops it or switching a defensive bit of gear for something more aggressive as the situation requires.

This equipment is split between the two vehicle types – motorbikes and cars. Characters are stuck with a set vehicle and weapon type throughout the game, with both of these automatically upgraded at set points in the story. While that doesn’t sound too thrilling you can augment three parts on each vehicle – engine, defense, and “option”, and these can effect anything from move range to shot power and weapon clip size, as well as the expected HP/defense and so on.

The other interesting twist Tuned Hearts has up its sleeve is a limited ammo system – this professional police unit apparently thinks to kit their officers out with M870 shotguns and PSG-1 sniper rifles but never with any more ammo than the weapon can hold. Luckily the Japan that exists in Tuned Heart has service stations absolutely everywhere and they all offer full ammo refills and a good health boost to anyone (friend or foe) that ends their turn in one. Weaponry can also be refilled at liberated police stations and using officer Rumi’s special skill, although that has an absolute maximum of just five uses per battle so it’s best to save that one for tight spots if possible.

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Overall Tuned Heart is one of those retro games that’s actually enhanced by being played in a modern setting – having the game sitting in a little window with quick save/load never more than a mouse click away turns what could be a rather tedious (the game is sadly pretty slow to resolve conflicts/move NPCs even with as many graphical bells-and-whistles turned off as it’ll allow) and rather simple SRPG into a nice “coffee break” game that you can stick on for a few turns and come back to later with nothing lost – this is ignoring the final battle which inexplicably turns everything on its head and swiftly becomes an exercise in save-scumming cheapness just to survive to the end.

But while Tuned Heart ends up feeling far more “safe” than the other PC-98 RPG I’ve actually finished (Elmknight), it is another retro computer RPG that still looks good and is accessible to a modern audience without requiring players to drag out graph paper or do some sort of “It’s good – for the era” mental gymnastics every time the game goes on.

Fancy buying it for yourself? Head on over here!