I am the Hero
Reviewed by Shaun (@reviewsbyhughes)
Developer: Feiyu & Mongoose
Publisher: Ratalaika Games
Category: Arcade, Fighting, Action, Adventure
Release Date: 30.11.2018
A modern re-interpretation…
After what feels like a recent resurgence in Nintendo Switch titles bearing resemblance to the cult classic, Streets of Rage, it seems more important than ever to draw comparison with the new competition than to revel in the old. As a proud owner of beat ’em up fighting games such as ‘Raging Justice’ and ‘Mother Russia Bleeds,’ I feel well equipped to delve into the latest offering by Ratalaika Games, ‘I am the Hero.’ Does it hold its own in the ring or does the scorecard suggest better training was required? Find out here at The Switch Effect.
Advertised as a self-proclaimed ‘love note to retro gaming’, it seems the developers have stylised ‘I am the Hero’ on 2D arcade side-scrolling fighters from yesteryear. This is most evident in the pixel art deployed, which is bold, beautiful and deceiving. Underneath all the talk of the developers’ childhood memories and nostalgia-filled design is a game that is as much about the here and now as it is the past. Referred to as ‘a truly modern re-interpretation of classic gaming,’ I have to say I fully agree for a number of reasons.
Beginning with the combat, which naturally plays the largest role in this games success, it can be described as frantic, fast-paced and smooth. Focused on developing a combo – signified by the counter on the right-hand side of the screen – ‘I am the Hero’ rewards the player for executing moves in a speedy fashion. This is the first, and the most important, indication that ‘I am the Hero’ is prepped for the modern times. The game begins by sharing different control combinations which produce devastating moves to be used on the enemies, shown on billboards as you make your way through the first level. What I particularly enjoyed here is that not only would the ‘tutorial’ show you a new move in a clear and concise manner, it also demonstrated how you could link moves together. The fluidity with which this is achieved makes for a highly enjoyable experience and at no point did it ever feel cumbersome or dull.
The other element of the combat which deserves a special mention is the ability to switch between two characters at any point in-game. Reminiscent of ‘Tekken Tag Tournament’ back on the PS2, a quick press of ‘R’ tags out your first character and brings in a second. This was an inclusion I was extremely grateful for as it allowed me to experiment with different characters and move sets to find the right balance. It was also great to be able to change this after each chapter, as I would select my second character based on the attributes they possessed: some are slow yet powerful, others quick but weak. With over 15 playable characters, there is a lot of variety and being able to feel the differences when controlling each one made this much more than just a content filler – something I was pleased to see. It also meant that at the end of each chapter, the dilemma of selecting either a new fighting move or a new character was much more difficult. Although not a keen advocate for collectables, I had to select a new character each time just to see how they handled. For all the experimentation I did, however, I found myself going back to the main protagonist time and time again. Fortunately, he is always one of the two playable characters and therefore had to be utilised.
To progress through the chapters in the main story mode, playable either by yourself or via local co-op, you must defeat every enemy on screen. Sometimes appearing in waves, or descending upon you all at once, you must fight your way through them to reach your destination. Standing in your way are a large variety of strange beings, from secret agent lookalikes to over-sized zombies who at any point can spawn a smaller zombie from their mouths. I was often amazed by the attention to detail and creativity displayed by the developers, and reveled in the possibility that my next character unlock may be one of those I had battled previously. That is how the character unlock works in ‘I am the Hero’, you gain access to the enemy characters for you to then use in the fight against them in the next chapter.
Evident from the screenshot above, the top left-hand corner indicates your health and energy. Keeping both of these stocked up is essential, and naturally is done in the only way 2D fighting games know, by eating food and drink dropped by enemies upon their death. These can also be obtained by battering vehicles left at the roadside: pizza delivery mopeds and enemy vehicles are just a few worth mentioning. The ‘energy’ and EX-skills can be used to fight off the hordes, and at any time you can be reminded of the key press combinations by accessing the ‘Hero’s guide.’ This proved to be an excellent aid whilst I got to grips with the game, and it even shows videos of your character completing the move.
Wave after wave
Outside of the story mode, ‘I am the Hero’ also offers challenges in the form of a ‘Workshop Fight’ and ‘Challenge Fight.’ The workshop offers the opportunity to hone your skills against hordes of enemies which appear in waves. There is nothing ground-breaking here however it is a nice touch. The latter, the challenge fight, provides an enemy and a timer. Defeating the enemy in the quickest time is the aim of the game and one you and a friend could have lots of fun competing over.
As previously mentioned, the 2D pixel art style is rather beautiful. I have truly come to love games portrayed in this way as it offers a certain level of charm and allows developers to present their imagination and originality. Unfortunately, with so many games now doing so, you have to offer a little more to stand out from the crowd and ‘I am the Hero’ hasn’t quite managed to do that in the way other games have. ‘Mother Russia Bleeds’ is a prime example, with the backdrop moving whilst you go from one scene to the next. This would have been excellent if deployed here as it would have limited the monotony of some of the repeated corridors and walkways.
Unfortunately, at the time of writing, ‘I am the Hero’ suffers from a rather painstaking dip in framerate when there are many enemies on screen. More noticeable in the latter parts of the game, it can become a challenge to persevere with it as you try to progress. The developers have released a patch in the hopes of fixing it, however this has not corrected it. With Ratalaika Games aware of it, I am sure it won’t be long before this is corrected.
‘I am the Hero’ is a creative, well-curated and challenging 2D fighter that does just enough to warrant a place alongside other fighting games in your switch collection. With three levels of difficult, 18 different characters to unlock, new moves, and many in-game collectables to find, there are many reasons to replay ‘I am the Hero’ once the two to three hour long campaign is complete. The art style will pique your interest, the combat will convince you of a purchase, and the local co-op will keep you playing long after the credits roll. Enjoy!
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