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Japan Review Check: Soul Sacrifice, Tales of Hearts R

A quick look at the highlights among the games coming out in Japan this coming week, courtesy the review pages of Famitsu magazine:

Soul Sacrifice (10/9/9/9, 37 points): The best-rated portable game of the week, perhaps indicating that Keiji Inafune's got a treat for U.S. gamers when this comes out over here in late April.

"The game uses the motif of reading a diary to depict the life of a sorcerer who sacrifices himself as he fights," wrote editor Reona Ebihara. "It's a really original storytelling method! There's a large variety of magic, including a lot of support skills that come in handy with multiplayer, so it's fun to set up fights and build new tactics."

"The story's deep and rewarding to read, and the battles feature a ton of variety," added reviewer Daichi Baba. "Throughout the game, the player's asked to make heavy decisions between being a savior or a mere sacrifice. It's basically a 'hunter'-type game, but content-wise, it's packed with originality. Multiplayer is also uniquely fun, and gets to be more so with more people you get involved."

Tales of Hearts R (9/9/8/8, 34 points): Originally released on the Nintendo DS in 2008, the new PS Vita port of this JRPG is an almost 100-percent remake, complete with full voices and two new party members.

"The battles have evolved to become more exciting," Ebihara wrote. "The flashiness of the moves, as well as the exhilaration of chaining all of them together, is like nothing else. The controls are simple enough that they let you pursue a flying enemy with a single button; it's well suited for portable systems and I like it. The newly-introduced characters get involved completely naturally with the story, too, so even experienced players can enjoy this."

"The visuals and animation have changed a lot from the original," wrote Baba, "but it still feels like a Tales game at the core. The system's easy to understand, but still belies a very broad and rewarding depth, something that series newbies will get into right away. The new features fit in perfectly, too, so old fans can still get a fresh take on the game."

Far Cry 3 (9/9/9/9, 36 points): Japanese gamers had to wait three months from the U.S. release for a localized version of Ubisoft's latest FPS, but Famitsu, at least, seemed to think it was worth it. "The adventure and fights take place on a vast, and extremely charming, open world," wrote editor Atsuhiro Fujiwara. "Things get heated up really quickly from the moment you start playing, which I like. It's a very violent game and therefore not for everyone, but there's no doubting its high quality."

"Things start at a fast pace and you've got the clear objective of rescuing your friends," added reviewer Ranbu Yoshida, "so it's easy to get sucked into the story. I like the battles, and the way you've got many options for defeating your foes. Being able to mark enemies from long distances is really convenient, letting you take them down one by one."