Why did I play this?Why did I play this?

Posted on Jun 25th 2021 at 12:00:00 PM by (SirPsycho)
Posted under RPG, nintendo, ds, rpg

Data East is a company most known for their arcade games, but like many Japanese developers, they made sure to get in on the lucrative role-playing game market of their home country. They would start their flagship RPG franchise all the way back on the Famicom, and this series was called Heracles no Eiko or Glory of Heracles in English. The series, as of 2021, includes six total games with five of them being in the main series and one of them being a spin-off released for Game Boy. The first four main titles would see two releases on Famicom and Super Famicom each. Data East would go bankrupt in 2003 and a chunk of their staff would end up at a developer called Paon at the time, now called Paon DP after a merger in 2015. Paon would buy the rights to some of the Data East properties, with Glory of Heracles being one of them. The fifth main game in the series, Heracles no Eiko: Tamashii no Shomei, would be developed by Paon with assistance from Studio Saizensen, known for developing Umihara Kawase and Code of Princess. Heracles no Eiko: Tamashii no Shomei would be published by Nintendo and release for the DS in 2008 in Japan. This would also be the first and only game in the franchise to see a release outside of Japan, being released as Glory of Heracles in North America in 2010.

True to its name, the Glory of Heracles series is set in Ancient Greece and heavily features characters from Greek mythology and the Homeric epics. Everything from main characters, important side characters, architecture, monster design, geography, and scenario design would draw inspiration from classical Greece and even further back to the Bronze Age era of the Minoans and Mycenaeans. The story follows a series of amnesiac immortals who go on a quest to find out the truth of their past and the reason for their immortality. The game starts in a forest of Crete as the player takes the role of a silent protagonist who joins up with a character named Leucos. The two make their way to Cnossos, meeting another immortal named Axios on the way. The trio set sail for mainland Greece and find another immortal claiming to be Heracles locked up in prison. A bit later, the final permanent party member, a young girl named Eris, is met just as the main threads for the game's overall story start to come together.

Glory of Heracles is a rather standard linear narrative RPG with turn-based combat and random battles. The party grinds to buy items and equipment upgrades over the course of the game. The game does do a good job of differentiating between larger cities and smaller towns and villages. This world-building and focus on details also means that not every town has every shop. The game is heavily built around its weapon, armor, and spell systems. There is a bit more depth to each of these than your average RPG. Weapons and armor can come with skills attached to them, however some are hidden and require a visit to an alchemist and payment to unlock. Having some of the skills that randomly activate gives a huge boost to combat prowess. Monsters drop items and materials that can be used to craft and upgrade weapons and armor at a blacksmith. Some items are found as rusted junk and need to be polished up at a polisher in order to be used, however some turn into scrap that is used for new weapons and armor.

The game features a grid-based row system, and the position of party members can be fully customized within it. Back-row characters take less damage but also have fewer offensive options. A decent number of physical-based skills happen automatically in battle, and while they are helpful in killing enemies, they also have a tendency to slow the overall pacing of battles down. Magic and permanent skills are learned by visiting the various temples in the game. Most of these have a little touchscreen-based minigame that can improve damage output. Even by its Japanese release of 2008, a lot of these tacked-on touchscreen features had been tried, and gamers did not really like them. It was fine to build your game entirely around the touchscreen, but having such a small percentage of the features making use of it was just deemed a distraction. These touchscreen features of Glory of Heracles are also on a timer, so if the player is too slow in pulling out their stylus to use, then the game automatically skips the feature and goes back to default damage. Players can just choose to ignore this feature and only ever do full damage, but there are a few more difficult boss battles that are made more difficult by ignoring this feature.

The graphics are quite nice for a DS game of its time. Glory of Heracles is a full 3D game with fairly detailed character models given the DS hardware. The animation is some of the highest quality found on the DS. Both party members and the enemies they fight against have fully animated attacks, skills, and magic spells. Exploring the overworld and towns is actually one of the game's weakest parts. There is slowdown and frame rate dips every time the player presses a button while exploring, especially the A button to search for any hidden items or treasures. The music is fine but also has this strangely familiar feeling to it, as if the music and sound design is something that's been heard in other games. Some of it does feel rather unique, but it also seems fairly forgettable. Like most RPGs, it has a range of themes ranging from more upbeat to darker and oppressing. As the game progresses, the darker themes and atmosphere take more precedence.

Glory of Heracles is a fine and often overlooked and forgotten RPG of its era. It's likely the result of heavy competition in the role-playing market, even on the aging DS. Most of the hype for handheld games was likely being taken by the impending news and release of the 3DS in 2011, with the PSP also still going very strong and arguably being at its height for RPG releases. Glory of Heracles is just a generally good game with some unique systems. However, it still feels like it's a bit behind the curve. The two-year delay between the original Japanese release and North American release likely only made that feeling even worse. The game is also fairly poorly documented online. This does mean that players will have the opportunity to test and try most things out for themselves in the game. It's largely easy but does experience some sudden difficulty spikes that are often alleviated by using skills and spells. Glory of Heracles seems to have sold quite well on release, but it's also not a collectible title either. Copies are flooded onto the market, with brand new, factory sealed copies regularly being sold for less than $20, and even complete in box used copies can be found for less than $10.

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Good write-up. I picked this up a while back, when I stumbled across a copy at Goodwill. I haven't played it yet, however. Seems like it might be a decent late night game to play on the couch while I'm winding down for the evening. I might have to charge up the 2DS and give this one a go.

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