Instead of being set in a fictitious world like most Japanese RPGs, Glory of Heracles is set right here on Earth in ancient Greece. This means you will be knee deep in Greek Mythology faster than you can say, “This is Sparta!” Normally there would be nothing wrong that, but almost everything about this game makes it incredibly mediocre instead of the epic mythic tale it should be.
One would think that Glory of Heracles would borrow and expand on an already existing story from Greek mythology. Instead the story is brand new and it starts you off playing as Heracles, or at least an immortal man who thinks he is Heracles. Along with the other members of his party, including another immortal who thinks he is Heracles, he loses his memory and is on a quest to Mount Olympus to find out who he is. This plot is quite boring and I was constantly disappointed when finding out that everybody’s reason for visiting Mt. Olympus is the same memory loss ordeal instead of something unique that would set the characters apart.
There are two things that make the story uninteresting from the very beginning. The first thing is the cast of characters. Every one of your party members is a stock character seemingly pulled from the book of RPG archetypes. Whether the character is a cocky ladies man, or a witch child who happens to be really powerful, they all seem to be very run of the mill and unoriginal. They have some funny lines from time to time, but that’s about it. The second thing is the constant setbacks. To lengthen the story, the party encounters many setbacks on their way to Mt. Olympus and this happens so often that you will probably lose what motivation you had to get to Olympus in the first place.
As far as the graphics go, there is good news and bad news. The good news is the animation for all of the character and monster sprites are fluid and detailed. Instead of just walking around with the intensity of a wooden board, you can see the character’s entire body in movement when they walk and the battle movements are just as good when the characters perform their special attacks. The bad news is the characters and environments themselves look sub par. The cel-shaded style looks okay for larger enemies, but it is sometimes difficult to tell what smaller characters and enemies look like. As far as the environments go, almost every town looks exactly the same, and the dungeons are always a straight shot from beginning to end, which is disappointing considering the architecture of the setting.
The audio was enjoyable at some points, but overall it was nothing special. There is a sweeping over world theme, mildly intense battle themes and a calming town theme among others present in the soundtrack. The music was enjoyable enough, but you definitely don’t need your headphones for this game. The sound effects are standard battle sounds like sword slashes and explosions, and there is no voice acting to speak of.
Glory of Heracles follows in the traditional Japanese RPG’s footsteps down to the letter. The progression of most of the game follows the “town –> dungeon –> town” formula and it rarely strays from that path. The combat is turn based, which can be pretty fun at times, and there is little to speak of in terms of side quests.
Throughout most of the game you will be traveling from one town, to a dungeon, to another town and so on. This gets old fast since all of the towns look the same and the dungeons are all bland and lifeless. You can save at almost any time, but there are some points where you cannot and these moments are usually tedious. For example, at one point I had to fight four bosses in a row using only two of my characters. These situations are never very difficult, but the thought of having to start that all over always gnawed at the back of my mind.
One aspect of this game I have to give props to is the combat system. It is turn-based, but with a twist. There is your usual fare like HP, MP, magic and special attacks, but there is also a new element called ether, which dictates the spells you can cast. There are different types of ether on the battlefield for each element and if there is not enough ether to cast a spell, your character takes residual damage. There is usually more than enough ether on the field in regular battles, but in some of the longer boss battles you might be forced to switch up your strategy from hammering the enemy with magic to using some of your other special moves. To get ether back you can either wait until the end of the turn, or you can “overkill” enemies, which you do by attacking them for a set amount of damage after they get knocked out. If you don’t overkill them, they usually disappear at the end of the turn.
There are also different mini games you can play during battle to power up your magic and special attacks. At first I thought this was going to be another case of “forced stylus use,” but they actually work out well and never feel like they’re breaking up the pace of the battle. Also, these games are just about the only parts where you are required to use the stylus, which is a plus, and you have the option to skip them if you know the attack is already going to kill the enemy.
Unfortunately this semi-innovative battle system is played to death. Throughout the majority of the game you will be running into random encounters and the encounter rate is set pretty high. The battles are never too hard, but getting into a new battle every few steps bogs the game down and makes the dungeon crawling aspect of the game slow and monotonous. If this isn’t bad enough, you start encountering other immortal enemies a couple hours in that can only be defeated by dealing enough damage to get overkill. If you don’t, they just pop right back up at the end of the turn making the battles even longer.
Whenever you’re not fighting enemies in dungeons or elsewhere, you are in towns upgrading your equipment. There are a lot of weapons and armor pieces to choose from and you can equip your characters with different combinations to enhance specific abilities. However, this usually isn’t necessary and most of the time you can get away with just equipping the strongest weapons and armor to each of your characters.
In addition to buying your equipment, you can find it in dungeons and forge it from materials obtained from enemy battles. The equipment you find in dungeons will usually be rusty and you will have to go to a polisher to find out what they are. You can also add abilities to equipment to help you in battle, which has the potential to be very useful. For example, the ability “Dispatch” randomly lets a character attack an enemy that is almost dead even when it is not their turn. Overall the equipment system can be fairly in depth, but you are never forced to take it to that level.
Glory of Heracles had the potential to be an epic title, but it fell into the depths of mediocrity. The game is not bad by any means, but the less than inspirational story, bland graphics and tedious fighting make it far from being noteworthy. The battle system and the detail of equipment management are definitely high points in this game, but since the story is told in an incredibly linear fashion and players are constantly bogged down by too many random encounters, most will probably be tired of it before the half-way point.
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Published by: Paon
Developed by: Nintendo
ESRB Rating: E for Everyone 10+
Release Date: January 18, 2009
Genre: Turn-based RPG