There is no such thing as a game that exists in a vacuum. No matter what kind of title a developer may be working on, they would be well-advised to take into consideration that other titles with a similar feel almost certainly exist. The result is not unlike putting a race horse into the running: If you want people to bet their hard-earned money on you, you'd better bring something special to the field. Nothing less than your "A" game will do, and the more populated the field, the more impressive you're going to have to be if you want to stand out. Glory of Heracles is the new horse in this race, and while it can run just fine and even give a good sprint, it simply doesn't measure up to the faster, smarter, better-looking steeds out there that take home the prize money time and time again.
Fans of Greek mythology might find this to be a serviceable entry simply because of the subject matter. You play the role of Heracles, a hero who's lost his memory and is trying to figure out who he is and why he's immortal. You travel a wide range of locales in your quest, visiting a bunch of places that will really get you going if you're a mythology buff. This is standard Japanese role-playing game (JRPG) fare, and you'll spend a lot of time fighting random encounters and visiting towns while trying to expand upon the plot. Unfortunately, many of your cohorts are a little one-sided, and none of them are particularly memorable; every single party member could easily be lifted by the hand of Zeus and transplanted into different role-playing games, and there would be little to no disruption of the narrative. In this singularly Greek game, there is very little information about the characters that links them irrevocably to the time period or location. That's a real shame when one considers the depth and breadth of potential wasted by failing to adequately explore an atypical theme.
As a Nintendo DS game, Glory of Heracles is entitled to the same leeway that every other DS title gets when dealing with presentation: with a screen that small, there's only so much that can be done. With that said, it would not be an exaggeration to say that Glory of Heracles is one of the ugliest games that I have played in recent memory. The sprites are blocky and indistinct, and the textured backgrounds fail to make up for the fact that my character looks like he's been soaked in turpentine. Granted, much of this has to do with the odd perspective, a sort of one-quarter overhead view from the side that must have made perspective an absolute beast to work with for the game designers. Similarly, while the music isn't too bad, it's not even remotely on theme. You won't find anything here that says "deep personal mystery," "Greek," or anything other than, "You could dump this music into a bunch of different games and no one would know the difference."
For the most part, gameplay is adequate. Sure, you can just keep pressing the A button to spam your basic weapon attacks, and you'll spend a significant portion of time doing precisely that, but there's a massive layer of complexity to the system that invites the player to try a little harder to really plumb the depths of this title. There are a variety of weapons and abilities and skills to try out, and finding some kind of synergy in combat is wise so that your team is more effective. A plethora of items exist as well, and finding out how (and when) to use them is similarly crucial.
Unfortunately, the gameplay is cursed with Unnecessary Stylus Love. Glory of Heracles wants you to use the stylus for absolutely everything, ranging from opening doors to talking to characters to determining the power of your spells. Expect to play simple, repetitive minigames to boost your spells because everybody wants to drag and drop icons into furnaces to cast a simple fire spell. Role-playing games did just fine for a very long time without a stylus, and — especially when your game is hearkening back to an aging standard — it's not wise to fool around with that formula. Titles like Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy didn't feel the need to drag the stylus into things when they got remade for the DS, and Paon probably should have taken that cue.
Overall, there's very little that can be said about Glory of Heracles that sets it apart from the pack. Sure, it has an interesting and worthy theme, but it doesn't spend a lot of time exploring that theme in a way that couldn't easily be transplanted into another title. It has a deep combat system, but it's bogged down with irritating minigames and tiny menus that demand overuse of the stylus. It also has nice background art, but the blocky character design looks like it's straight out of the Super Nintendo era — and I mean early Super Nintendo. Glory of Heracles and its tepid qualifications just can't compete against world-class RPGs.
More articles about Glory of Heracles