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July 2019


Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4
Genre: Role-Playing
Publisher: XSEED Games
Developer: FuRyu
Release Date: Fall 2019


Switch/PS4 Preview - 'Heroland'

by Thomas Wilde on June 21, 2019 @ 12:15 a.m. PDT

Heroland is a 2D adventure that brings together quirky heroes for a new take on classic RPG-style combat.

XSEED might have been the company at E3 2019 with the broadest spread of genres at its booth. It came to the show with party games, a remastered Rune Factory 4, a 2D one-on-one fighting game, a couple of shameless fan service spectaculars, and most relevantly, Heroland, a game that defies easy categorization.

I almost don't feel like playing it on the E3 show floor did it any service, as it's actually rather complex. Heroland is a weird sort of 2D role-playing game, except you play as a tour guide for a group of AI-driven adventurers on an island full of lucrative dangers β€” and by "lucrative," I mean the enemies usually drop things like plush toys and secondhand furniture. The developers, FuRyu, have a long history, but I know them best from 2014's Lost Dimension, a PlayStation 3 visual novel/RPG that was just about as weird as Heroland is, albeit in a much darker way.

Originally released at the end of 2018 as Work X Work, Heroland is a Switch game with a script by Nobuyuki Inoue, who directed the infamously never-officially-translated Mother 3, and a soundtrack by Shin Megami Tensei composer Tsukasa Masuko.

You play as Lucky, a part-time tour guide who's signed up at the Heroland theme park to support his family. His first customer ends up being Prince Elric, a spoiled heir to the throne on a quest to put himself back on top of the line of succession. Together, they end up with a ragtag bunch of misfits at their back and a quest to uncover the secrets behind Heroland.

Notably, Lucky isn't a hero or even a fighter. He's still just a tour guide. You can assemble teams of up to four park guests to embark on adventures into dungeons in search of treasure, and you can equip them as you see fit before you set out. However, once the fighting begins, each of those characters will act more or less on their own, according to their own internal logic and capabilities. They can be set up with classic dungeoneering roles, such as a heavily armored fighter type up front to absorb punishment, and can generally handle rank-and-file enemies by themselves.

You can't take point as Lucky, but what you can do is whisper in their ears. Once in a while, Lucky can encourage one member of the party to take a specific action on their next turn, such as healing a specific member of the team or hitting with a particular attack. That's Lucky's one ability to contribute to the battle, which has a fairly short cooldown timer. Beyond that, Heroland just about plays itself.

Each dungeon can drop an assortment of loot, such as toys and furniture. The latter can be used to customize Lucky's sad little shack on the island, adding bureaus, tables, and flaming braziers to start with. There were teaser shots in the E3 demo that made it look like the real reward for taking Heroland up to high levels is the ability to turn Lucky's room into a glam-rock paradise with vaulted ceilings and a chandelier.

So Heroland is… a hands-free affectionate parody of JRPGs with a lot of known talent behind it, a fantasy furniture simulator, some kind of theme park game except the "theme" of the park is "dungeon crawling," and a weird 2D-meets-3D game where all the characters are flat, rotating pixel sheets. It is vast and contains multitudes. Having played Lost Dimension, I'm also not convinced there isn't going to be some dark, shocking swerve by the end, like it turns out there's some evil creature fueled by interior design, and you've been powering him up this whole time.

Whatever else I can say about it β€” and I don't feel like a 10-minute play session was enough to get anything close to a handle on it β€” Heroland is at least unique. It doesn't look or play like anything else I saw at E3 this year, and there's a weird fascination to winding up an adventuring party and watching it go. I'm looking forward to getting to play a more complete version of it on my own time to see if I can figure it out a little better.

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