Nintendo gives North American gamers their first taste of the long-running Glory of Heracles series with the franchise's DS debut. The traditional, perhaps to a fault, Japanese RPG follows the adventures of a nameless hero who washes up on a beach with no memory of his past as an immortal being, a child of the gods. Leading a revolving quintet of humans and immortals on a quest to reach Mount Olympus, our forgetful protagonist and his similarly foggy-headed friends engage in magic infused turn-based battles against mythological beasts.
Towns are visited, friendships are formed, items are acquired, equipment is... equipped, and enemies are KO'd on the battlefield as players venture through Greek mythology and enjoy a bit of self-discovery. Sound glorious to you?
Battle Tactics: There's accessible depth to Glory of Heracles, thanks to its robust magic and combat systems, which also take into account battle formations and elemental magic attributes. Players can choose to fight it out hand-to-hand, throw magic back and forth or utilize battle skills that enhance defensive and offensive moves. It's all relatively stock stuff, but with these various systems and options layered upon each other, the strategic elements of Glory of Heracles start to shine a few hours into the game. Add touchscreen based mini-games that can enhance your magical spells, with increasingly challenging technique modifiers that players can learn from Nymphs, and the battles can be entertaining.
The Ether System: As all characters have the ability to use magic, Glory of Heracles balances a reliance on spells (or one type of spell) with the Ether system. Ether's basically spell fuel, which recharges over time and with the help of Overkills. And that's the post-knock out attack that players can perform on downed opponents which turns enemies into rewarding Ether, part of the tactical considerations that serious players will have to think about, as ether and Magic Points aren't always easy to come by.
The Upgrade System: Glory of Heracles loot and reward system reminds me, in some small way, of Diablo II's with an item crafting and equipment upgrading system that's simple but compelling. You'll occasionally find scrap metal, crystals and other raw materials on the battlefield, which can be forged into new weapons at a blacksmith or will add new skill attributes to existing ones at an alchemist. There are also rusted items players will find, which must be taken to a polisher to reveal their true nature. There's a bit of excitement provided by these mystery items and materials, ensuring that a visit to town will make for some new discovery in your inventory.
Noob Friendly: If you're put off by the terms and mechanics laid out so far, fear not. Glory of Heracles does a good job (perhaps too good of a job) explaining just about every tactic and term. There's a game-stopping description of just about everything and a handy glossary for players to reference. And it's not much of a challenge, for better or worse. The better, for casual RPG fans, is that much of the game can play itself, with an Auto option during battles to let the AI take over. Those looking for light RPG fare will find it here.
Another Great Localization: This goes for just about every Nintendo published RPG these days, but Glory of Heracles peppers its dialogue with great attitude and humor, plus a few requisite in-jokes for long time Nintendo fans.
Linear To A Fault: With little in the way of side quests or diversions, don't expect much beyond walking slightly out of your way to get to the next entrance or exit. You'll always be told where to go and what to do next—even if finding your bearings isn't always easy—if that's the sort of thing that turns you off. That feels somewhat out of place with Glory of Heracles tactical depth, but the story is at least told fairly well. After the adventure ends, the option to play a "new game+" adventure feels quite unnecessary.
Dull Edges: Here's the worst thing I can say about Glory of Heracles—it is incredibly repetitive. Random enemy encounter after random enemy encounter in linear dungeons punctuated with the occasionally too-long boss fight made my playthrough of the game feel far longer than the 30 hours I played it. It is slowly paced, generally monotonous and simply too easy for the first half of the game to inspire much enthusiasm to wrap up the second.
Eye Soar: Though it is animated beautifully, the pseudo-cel-shaded characters and enemies do not make for a visually pleasing cast of characters. They scale in and out roughly resulting in an unattractive presentation that does no favors to the original character designs. The rest of the world is visually bland, not the best example of what the Nintendo DS can do with 3D environments.
Glory of Heracles is a safely inoffensive, mechanically solid role-playing game in the Japanese style with plenty of Greek mythology to keep fans of the genre and setting satisfied. But it is far from the best of what the Nintendo DS has to offer the current RPG fan or the devout follower of Nintendo published offerings. While the story is well doled out and the battle system interesting, it is an unremarkable adventure rife with repetitive gameplay.
For the mortal who doesn't mind a dose of ordinary, turn-based dungeon crawling or for the RPG shy DS owner looking for the shallow end in which to swim, Glory of Heracles will do fine. More versed RPG fans may want to seek glory elsewhere in the handheld's library.
Glory of Heracles was developed by Paon and published by Nintendo for the Nintendo DS on January 18. Retails for $29.99 USD. A copy of the game was given to us by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Played game to completion.
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