Developed By : FuRyu
Published By : XSEED Games
Category : RPG
Release Date : Dec 03, 2019
The titular Heroland is a theme park where customers can become heroes, though the game’s protagonist doesn’t get his share of the spotlight. Instead, he must guide parties through the park’s various attractions for minimal pay and even less respect. Thrown straight into work, Lucky (though that’s not actually his name) finds himself guiding one of the land’s princes, as he attempts to defeat the Dark Lord. Said Dark Lord might not actually exist, but that won’t stop him from trying.
If the initial premise didn’t make it clear enough, Heroland is not the most serious of RPGs. In fact, most of the game is spent parodying RPG tropes, from sprite recolours to silent protagonists, nothing is safe from the game’s writers. Heroland’s writing is consistently excellent, full of witty dialogue that is always enjoyable to read. The most surprising part about the game is that it doesn’t just parody RPGs. Behind the cute visuals and comedic story, there’s an overarching narrative about the exploitation of workers for profit.
The heavy focus on less serious storytelling is helped immensely by the game’s main cast of characters. While Lucky only talks through 3-choice dialogue options (or 2 if he’s feeling especially adventurous), his fairy sidekick Lua is always at hand to cover for him. Furthermore, Heroland’s employees and guests are a varied bunch. There’s the aforementioned price, known as 18 due to his position in line for the throne, along with Lucky’s masked co-workers and even a dog. It’s fun to see who’ll show up next, though many characters end up being of little importance to the main story.
Tying together the story is the games overall presentation. Characters are represented as 2D sprites stuck onto flat 3D panels. It’s a quirky way of doing things that actually works quite well. While each character only has a few sprites, the actual 3D models are quite energetic, bouncing around and bending in different ways. This visual style makes Heroland stand out even more than if they just stuck with 2D sprites only, though even then this wouldn’t be a bad looking game.
It’s a good thing that the writing and visuals are so good, because the act of actually playing through Heroland is often a chore. Since it’s Lucky’s job to guide guests, he can only watch battles from the sidelines most of the time. This means that the party of 4 you take into an attraction will automatically attack and use skills, often sub-optimally. The only way to affect what happens is to wait for Lucky’s assistance meter to fill. Once full, he can use items, direct a single party member or use different flags to change the entire party’s strategy.
While this battle system does fit into the game’s theme, it doesn’t take long for boredom to set in. With how limited your input is, there’s not a whole lot to do most of the time. Even when offering assistance, it’s usually just to use a healing item since the AI will often heal targets near full health instead of ones near death. Most of the flags end up being pretty useless, with the guard flag being the only outright necessary one for harder boss fights.
As if the lack of interaction wasn’t bad enough, you’ll also have to constantly grind for levels between main story tours. Levelling up doesn’t take insanely long, it’s just that you’ll be running through the same areas just to get to some new story content. There’s also the fact that you’ll need to level up a lot of characters during the game, and the amount of XP non-party members get is far from adequate. Lucky’s friendship levels with each guest, which unlock side quests, also only increases when those guests are in your party. This adds even more grinding if you want to see everything.
In an attempt to pad out the game further, items and weapons you use during tours must be bought with the currency you earn during work. This wouldn’t be so bad, if it wasn’t for the fact that all but the most basic of weapons have a chance to break after a tour finishes. This ends up being another thematically appropriate mechanic that doesn’t really add anything to Heroland. Weapons have a higher chance of breaking if their special skills are used often during a tour, so it’s often cheaper to just make guests hold off on skills and heal them through each fight with items instead.
It’s hard to rate Heroland, as it’s a very uneven game. From a purely visual and narrative standpoint, it’s an incredibly charming game that’s full of character. On the other hand, tours and the battle system are utterly dull, being a slog to get through from start to finish. If you can put up with this though, you’ll be treated to a unique story that can’t be found elsewhere.
*The Switch Effect was provided a code for this game*