Nintendo brings yet another Japanese RPG to the North American market - but will it stand out above the rest, or silently fade into the $5 dollar bin at Gamestop?
Zeus, we hardly knew ye
Although Glory of Heracles is new to the North American market, like many ports from Japan, this is actually the fifth game in the series. It was originally released in 2008, so some of you importers out there might have already picked it up. It takes place in Ancient Greece and you'll get to hang out at some of the gods’ favourite haunts, like Mount Olympus. Any of you Greek geeks out there will probably get a kick out of the plot and setting of the game. Right off the bat you wash up onto shore and wake up to discover you have amnesia (how original), and soon meet your first friend - a gender confused individual named Leucos. You quickly discover that you are both immortal and decide to go off on a trek to discover the true meaning of your everlasting lives. The story in this game isn't the greatest, but there’s enough humour throughout it that it at least makes it enjoyable.
After waking up, you soon get a chance to try out the combat system, which is of course, very J-RPG in nature. It follows the standard Attack, Magic, Skill, Item, Retreat, etc, formula. There are a few interesting add-ons however. Both you and your opponent have a front row and a back row. The front row allows you to attack the enemy with melee weapons. Each character has two weapon slots, which can consist of a second melee weapon, a shield, or a ranged weapon like a bow. Characters with ranged weapons can attack from the back row, without worrying about getting hit with melee attacks. Casters can also attack from the back row, so it’s a great place to put your magic users. When you cast magic, one of three mini-games starts up. If you're successful in the mini-game you can greatly increase the power of your attack. They consist of tapping numbers in a certain order, or quickly tapping in the center of a circle. I found these mini-games to be incredibly tedious and boring, but they were necessary in order to down enemies quickly.
A better system would have made the fights much more enjoyable. I got so tired of it, that a lot of times, I would just set certain party members to auto-attack so I wouldn't have to endure it. I actually won a ton of fights this way. This game is incredibly easy. I didn't die once, though there were a few fights here and there that were challenging. If you want to get any sort of challenge out of this one, then don't grind at all, and equip the "Sibyl's Balm" as soon as you get it, to lower the number of random encounters. Ultimately, I liked some of the ideas the combat system presented, but the game wasn't hard enough to make me have to think strategically about how to use it.
Don't forget to follow the one true path
Another thing that may upset RPG fans is that this game it completely linear. There are absolutely no side quests and the game doesn't offer you any chance to explore the world around you. If you're the kind of person that likes RPG combat, but hates travelling around searching for secret items or locations to enhance your character, then this may be the game for you - I just wanted to warn you, this game has one path and one path only.
There are at least towns in the game that you can explore which allow you opportunities to learn new spells and buy new items. They also all have the standard inn and tavern for you to get drunk and pass out in (maybe that’s just me). One thing that really boggled my mind was the way the camera works in town (which may have led to the passing out). I definitely prefer to use the D-Pad to move around when the option is available, but as your doing so the camera rotates. It will often rotate a full 360 degrees and is very disorienting and causes pressing left on the D-pad to on occasion move you in a different direction altogether. Using the stylus to move is much more precise in this case. I wish they would have balanced it out so either control method would be useful.
Pretty as a Pixel
When you start the game up you're treated to a great anime opening sequence. Once you start playing however, the graphics aren't so special. The game designers opted for a cel-shaded look, which I love, however I'm guessing that due to the limitations of the DS, everything looks really jagged. The colours are great and the design of the environments is fantastic, but they just didn't blow me away.
The music in this game isn't great either. Turn the volume down on your DS before you even load it up and blast some tunes on your iPod - you'll have a much better experience. I tried to get into the music, but it just wasn't happening for me. It’s just a little stale and repetitive.
The Glory of Heracles is a decent attempt at an RPG. Some of the right elements are there, but they aren't used well enough to make this game a must-have. If you're an absolute die-hard J-RPG fan, or a fan of the series, then you'll probably get something a little more out of this title. Unfortunately, the low level of difficulty and linear nature of the game made me want to put this game down far more times than I wanted to pick it up. The game length is decent - I got about 25 hours out of it, but I couldn't help but feeling that I could have been using those hours to play a much more satisfying game.
Gameplay:7.0, Graphics:7.5, Sound:6.0, Innovation:6.0, Mojo:6.0 Final: 6.5 / 10
Reviewed by Mike Baggley | 02.26.10