Dual Hearts is a new action RPG for the PlayStation 2 from Atlus that bears no relation to the other recently released "Hearts" game, Kingdom Hearts. It seems strange, if not downright coincidental, that two action RPGs with such similar names could come out just a couple of weeks apart, but that's exactly what has happened. This fact is unfortunate for Atlus, because Kingdom Hearts' attachment to the Square and Disney names means it will far exceed Dual Hearts in hype, sales, and attention. Dual Hearts may not have such an impressive pedigree, but it does have a fanciful quest, endearing characters, and solid Zelda-style gameplay, and this should more than satisfy true fans of the genre.
Dual Hearts casts you in the role of Rumble, the game's token spunky treasure hunter.
Dual Hearts casts you in the role of Rumble, the game's token spunky treasure hunter. Rumble has journeyed to Sonno Island to find the Dream Stone, the ultimate in hard-to-find relics, and while searching for the shiny rock, he runs into Tumble, a piglike creature called a baku. Tumble is from a world made up of dreams, and like all baku, he can enter anyone's dreams at will. He has traveled to the real world to protect nine keys that seal an ancient, nightmarish evil away inside a temple, but as fate would have it, he loses track of the keys and they are dispersed across Sonno Island. Tracking down the keys is made a bit more difficult by the fact that they are hidden not in secluded areas of the island but actually inside the dreams of its inhabitants. Tumble needs help finding the keys, and Rumble sees in the quest an opportunity to find the Dream Stone, and so the game begins.
Initially, you'll notice that Dual Hearts is set up very much like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on the Nintendo 64. Sonno Island is the game's overworld, which you'll traipse around during a built-in day-night cycle as you look for the residents whose dreams have captured the temple keys. Unlike in Zelda, you don't do any fighting in this overworld--your weapons aren't even available there. You can interact with townsfolk, however, and visit a variety of locations looking for new characters to talk to and items to collect. When you find a sleeping person whom Tumble suspects has a key, you can use his powers to enter that person's dream and search for it. These dreams are what make up the game's dungeons, or action stages.
Once you've entered someone's dream, you'll encounter the combat-oriented part of Dual Hearts, which is the real meat of the game. The dream stages are also set up mostly like the N64 Zelda games in terms of controls and objectives, but there is also a healthy dose of Mario 64-style platforming and item collecting thrown in. The primary goal in each of the main dreams is to locate the key hidden therein, and to do this, you'll have to fight enemies, solve puzzles, and complete some platforming challenges. At the end, you'll battle a boss monster, also in the Zelda spirit, for possession of the key. In true platforming spirit, however, the dreams contain a lot of items to collect, such as rings, dream energy orbs, and other such tokens. The game keeps track of the percentage of items you've recovered from each dream, and true platforming completists will of course want to revisit each dream to find every item.