Developed By: Shinyuden
Published By: Ratalaika Games
Category: Adventure, Role-Playing, Arcade
Release Date: 01.25.19
Indonesian developer Shinyuden arrives on the Switch with their first release, Heroes Trials, with the help of indie publisher extraordinaire Ratalaika Games. Heroes Trials is an attempt to strip the action-RPG down to its barest elements, to produce a game that’s all killer, no filler. Providing an alternative to the sometimes-bloated modern RPG formula is an interesting idea, and certainly one worth exploring. Unfortunately, Heroes Trials is not the game that will make that idea work.
A Trial to Become Heroes
Siblings Zoel and Elia wake up late the morning of their final exam to become heroes. They stumble through a few dungeons, there are some mild twists and turns, and, no spoilers, but… just look at the title of the game if you want to know where it ends. The story is pretty barebones, and doesn’t do much to build its characters, establish stakes, or flesh out its world. The writing is a little flat and doesn’t do much to imbue the game with any kind of personality. Unfortunately, this becomes a bit of a theme for Heroes Trials.
Sword and Sorcery
Zoel is a swordsman, and Elia is a mage. You can switch between the siblings at will to solve puzzles and fight enemies. Zoel can swing his sword, guard with his shield, and eventually gains the ability to throw bombs. Elisa just has her magic, but you unlock several different elements to give her magic attacks throughout the game. Zoel is melee only, whereas Elia’s attacks are all ranged. For the most part I preferred sticking to Elia except where the game’s puzzles required otherwise because her ranged attacks were much safer than getting in close as Zoel. You can use their attacks to solve some simple puzzles scattered throughout the game’s dungeons, such as buttons that need to be hit with a certain elemental magic or lava that can be frozen to form a bridge.
Overall, the combat is fairly simple but it has some issues. Aiming, especially with Elia, is a bit imprecise. The camera angle is fixed, which isn’t a huge problem in and of itself, but it does make it really hard to see any enemies or projectiles coming from the bottom of the screen. Zoel’s guarding can be a bit finicky too; projectiles can go around you and hit from the sides, sometimes. It seemed somewhat inconsistent as to when the shield would block something from the side and when it would let something through. This isn’t really combat related, but the loading screen shows you the controller layout. It shows the R button can be pressed to run; it does not mention that you need to buy the boots before you can do so, however, leading to me thinking that maybe there wasn’t really any running at all.
Time to be a Hero
The game’s plot plays out in a series of timed missions. As soon as you finish one mission, the next one begins. On one hand, it ensures that players will always be moving forward in the game. On the other hand, it takes a lot of freedom away from the player. Since all missions are timed, there really is no chance to explore… not that there’s much worth exploring. That’s listed as a feature, but are there any RPG fans out there complaining about the depth and complexity of modern game worlds, or that they wish games would rush players through the experience? In attempting to streamline the experience, the developers have only cut out any sense of adventure from the game.
Heroes Trials’Graphics are PSX-era inspired, but not in a good way. The best retro-styled games take the general aesthetic of the era they wish to homage, but add modern detail and smoothness that wasn’t possible on older hardware. While the gameplay is fairly smooth, the graphics look about the same as the average PSX game, and not in a good way. Many retro-styled pixel games that homage the 8- and 16-bit eras create aesthetic styles that remind one of gaming’s past, but in a way that would not have been possible on past consoles. Hyper Light Drifter may be rendered in pixels rather than 3D models, but it is unmistakably a modern game. Heroes Trials just looks outdated; it doesn’t do anything to bring its graphical style to the present. The soundtrack is probably the strongest area of the game, if only by virtue of not having any obvious weaknesses. It is intrepid during adventure sequences and intense during action sequences, making for a pleasant aural experience, at the very least.
Heroes Trials has no touch or motion controls, so it can be played either docked or undocked according to personal preferences. Personally, I always prefer using my Pro controller due to a greater comfort factor, but you know… that’s me. The combat mostly just comes down to mashing the attack button as fast as possible, anyway, so there’s no need to stress out over the efficiency of your controller choice like I do.
TL;DR: Generally lackluster Action-RPG