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Platform

DS

 

Genre

Role-Playing

 

Publisher

Nintendo

 

Developer

Paon/Studio Saizensen

 

ESRB

E +10 (Everyone)

 

Released

January 18, 2010

 

 

- Well written localization
- Big variety of skills, spells, and status effects
- Oldschool RPG system with tried and true mechanics

 

 

- Generic visuals do little to bring Greek setting to life
- Skill learning and spell casting system both drag on
- Constant tutorial system frequently interrupts gameplay

 

 

Review: The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks (DS)

Review: Nostalgia (DS)

Review: Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon (DS)

 

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Glory of Heracles

Score: 6.0 / 10

 

the glory of heracles          the glory of heracles

 

Petty Gods, vengeful humans, towering structures and tragic tales of Greek mythology make for compelling set pieces, while the weapons and magic spells found in these classic stories can also result in compelling gameplay. Most gamers should be well aware of a certain trilogy of games revolving around a Greek theme, but for the underage players looking for a bloodless, God-killing alternative, there is Glory of Heracles, the first in a long-running RPG series to make its way to North America.

The story of Heracles starts with a literal kick to the head; the main hero (who remains nameless at first) suffers an injury to the head from someone landing on top of him. Assuming to be dead from the impact, the accidental assailant leaves his body behind, but it turns out the protagonist is an immortal, a human incapable

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of dying. Immortality doesn’t protect from amnesia, however, as the fall has caused the hero to lose his memory, but also gain an ally in Leucos, a reverse-Bridget whose hiding her gender for unexplained reasons. The two get lost in a typical monster-laden forest before gaining assistance from a trio of nymphs who immediately recognize the nameless hero as the legendary Heracles. Tasked with retrieving his memory, Heracles

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sets out for Mt Olympus to have a chat with his father Zeus, king of the Gods, while other immortals join the group for various reasons.

Despite the stirring variety that can be taken from Greek mythology, you wouldn’t know that Heracles has built its setting around it. Aside from townspeople with an affinity for toga attire, there’s nothing in the game’s visuals that indicate its unique alternative. The anime-style designs and cut-and-paste locales make the game appear like any other bland RPG, while the concept of immortal party members is never fully fleshed out like with underrated RPG opus Lost Odyssey, even from a gameplay perspective (characters can be killed in battle regardless of immortality). Main hero Heracles is also your typical silent protagonist, but is even more devoid of personality than the likes of Link or Crono; often he’ll just stand around while other characters engage in expositional dialog, often speaking for him with no indication or care of how he feels.

As for the gameplay, you’ve seen it all before; you and your party members walk around a world map filled with towns, forests, and other trite locations where enemies will randomly draw you into battle. Heroes and enemies each take a turn to attack one another using a variety of attacks, spells, and items.

Each party member has a variety of skills that diversify their usefulness, from Heracles’ hard hitting melee attacks to Leucos’ speedy and swift strikes, with future characters offering magic spells that heal allies and punish enemies with elemental attacks. All skills and magic cost MP to utilize (called “ether”), which can be replenished a variety of ways, but the most useful strategy involves “overkilling” an enemy, which is done by attacking an opponent already knocked down.

 

the glory of heracles          the glory of heracles


The mechanics of the battle system are simple enough to learn quickly, even with the large variety of status effects and ability buffs, but the game’s tutorial system is designed in such a way that it becomes a long-term nuisance, even after several hours of playtime; during battle, for every spell, ability, or status effect that is used for the first time, a message explaining how the effect works will be displayed, halting the action until players close it. This information system may seem helpful for gamers who have never touched an RPG before, but even the most ignorant player can figure out most of the spells or attacks without a long-winded explanation that constantly interrupts the gameplay. This heavy hand-holding applies outside of battle as well, from learning how to move your character, to the purpose of each shop vendor in town, to even opening a treasure chest. “Excessive” doesn’t begin to cover it.

As persistent as the tutorials may be, the overall gameplay generally holds up, mirroring the standard mechanics acceptable for most RPGs. For every change to the classic formula, however, there seems to be a catch involved. To learn new skills, for instance, characters must locate and pray to various statues of the Gods found in temples. A simple button press to each statue will unlock a number of new spells and abilities for characters, but they still cannot actually use the abilities until they’ve sufficiently leveled up, making the hunt for the temples feel like an unnecessary step to becoming more powerful. Another example includes the inclusion of the stylus in battle; when casting certain spells, the option to use magic circles becomes available, which is essentially a short mini-game involving the manipulation of onscreen circles (including tapping the center of a circle, dragging Roman numerals to the corresponding circle, and so on). Successful completion of the mini-game results in a more powerful spell that can even damage enemies who are otherwise immune to the chosen element, but ultimately this system just makes battles last longer than they need to.

Camera angles are somewhat off-putting as well, making it tricky to navigate towns, but the real problems occur during the battle segments; rather than displaying both party members and enemies under one screen, a map grid in the bottom screen is used to select and target enemies...only when one side engages the other does the camera pan back to showcase both groups, which can be infuriating for those who would rather gauge the targets in front of them rather than using a separate screen.

While it may appear that Glory of Heracles is overridden with negatives, it still equals an overall solid RPG adventure, with a well written localization that helps establish its charm when the graphics fail to do so. The problem is that the DS has been established as a console filled to the brim with quality RPG games, leaving Heracles forced to walk alongside the common folk while other portable titles take the throne of RPG godliness.

 

- Jorge Fernandez

(April 29, 2010)

 

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