E3: Glory of Heracles Impressions
A surprise JRPG localized and published from Nintendo.
06.03.09 - 2:08 PM
Last year, we ran a story that Nintendo, through developer Paon, was resurrecting a Japan-only RPG series from Data East: Heracles no Eikou. Known unofficially among fans (and importers) as "Hercules' Glory," the four-part series (two NES games, two SNES games) told the stories of Greek mythology, focusing on Heracles and other Greek heroes, and their trials and tribulations trying to reclaim their identity as heroes as the gods toy with their world and, even, their memories.
Yesterday, Nintendo announced that the game would come to North America in 2010, under the title Glory of Heracles. A ten minute playable demo was available on the show floor. Here's what we gleaned from the short gameplay.
In the story, the gods decided to give all the heroes (immortal humans) a wicked case of amnesia. Eventually, however, the heroes do find one another, as they share the common trait of immortality. In the demo, the game starts with the group of heroes stranded on an island town. They wish to travel to Olympus to learn more about what has happened to them. So, in the demo, you have a chance to play around in a town, and then hop a boat and experience some simple battle sequences.
The game's exploration looks and feels like the Nintendo DS Dragon Quest titles. An overhead camera follows the player on a 3D field, with L and R controlling camera rotation. The bits of text that we saw suggested that Nintendo is planning on packing a fair bit of humor (some subtle, some tongue-in-cheek) into the game. Indeed, the game itself is looking to mock some conventions of RPGs. For example, have you ever taken an item out of someone's house in a village and thought nothing of it? Not anymore! After stealing herbs and other simple items from townspeople, one of your party members says "does being immortal give us the right to be thieves?" And then, you get a message saying "the party feels less lucky." So it seems there may be stat penalties in battle for taking items in an unethical manner. Fortunately, whenever you open a cabinet and there's an item there, you have the choice whether or not to take the item. Perhaps gamers will be better off not pillaging villagers' homes for stock items in this particular RPG.
The demo featured two battles, on the ship from the island to the main land (towards Mount Olympus). Here, the game shines. The bottom screen acts as interactive, graphic-heavy menu, and the top screen shows the battle take place. There is a strong emphasis on stylus usage, though D-pad and buttons can be used for most menu navigation. On the bottom screen you see a 4x4 grid, with a line through the middle. On one side, you can place your characters (front or back row, and lined up from left to right). The enemies also appear in any of these eight grid spaces. The basic menu commands are "attack," "magic," "skill," and "item." All magic consumes mp; some skills consume mp, while others do not.
Some of the magic and skill attacks can be charged up through minigames involving the stylus. I saw three in the demo alone: one where you tap the center of the screen while a large circle gets smaller and smaller (and if you tap outside the circle, the magic's power bonus is lost). Another has three circles bouncing around the screen and you have to hit all three as close to the center as possible. A third mini-game had four circles in corners, with roman numerals I through IV on them. You'd have to hit them, quickly, in order, and then a new pattern would appear. The more you complete within the time limit added bonus damage to the magic/skill used.
This sort of touch screen novelty adds action to the game, but we hope there are a lot of them to learn so that gamers don't get tired of repetitious mini-games to boost their attacks over and over.
The battles are turn-based in a very traditional manner. Your whole party selects actions, and then the turn plays out.
The graphics feature very smooth battle animation, but the exploration scenes show a very pixelated, and somewhat dated, look to them. There is an intro anime cut scene, however, that did not fail to impress.
Again, Glory of Heracles is scheduled for release some time in 2010. More details will be made available in the coming months, and we're definitely looking forward to this cute, quirky, mythical JRPG.