In the grand feasts of the deathless gods on high...
So first thing's first: You've fallen off of a cliff and hit your head, causing amnesia serious enough that you can't remember your name. Which works out well enough, since a few nearby wood nymphs remember you, and let you know that you're Heracles, the son of Zeus! How lucky for you, eh? Being the son of a god, you're immortal, the kind that can't be killed (which explains how you can come back from losing a battle, I suppose). But unless you're planning on being mobbed, you and your friends keep your real identity a secret. And for some reason, the blessing/curse of immortality looks to have spread, as you quickly find yourself in a party surrounded by walking gods.
[image1]That's Heracles for ya. A stumbling, clumsy little sunuva... god.
Glory of Heracles is actually the fifth game in a Japanese series that, until now, hasn't seen a release Stateside, but it's here now. This is the kind of game that hardcore gamers cry and yell about never being localized: Something "popular in Japan" (four sequels generally means something's gone well) seems like it should be an easy sell for an American translation, with potential mass appeal since it stars a legendary Greek hero (with a name very, very similar to another, more famous legendary Roman hero), and yet for some reason, it's only now making it's way over. Better late than never I suppose: They've been sitting on something good here... provided they know how to handle it.
And on that, I gotta hand it to Nintendo; their translation staff is one of the best in the business. Every character is unique with his or her own style of speaking and dialogue, which is very nice to see. One of my biggest pet peeves with traditional RPGs is the feeling of similarity between all of the main characters, despite what their “designation” might be (you know, “bad boy out for revenge”, “whiny little stuck-up punk”, “I have a big gun”, and the rest), and thankfully that doesn't happen here. Even the smallest guy (or girl) on the team – you'll figure it out – is their own person, with their own attitudes and their own method of bickering with teammates outside of battle.
[image2]And speaking of battles, the system here is... standard fare: turn-based action, with two rows for both enemies and allies alike. Each side can move to either the front or back, which might adjust how much damage they take, what attacks they can use, or how to handle healing the party and keeping stats up at their best. It can add some strategy to the normal, single-row, menu-based fights, but not enough to stand head-and-shoulders above any other TRPGs.
The spells are elementally-based, and absorb ether in order to cast, which can make for some fun strategic moments. If you try to use a spell without sufficient ether reserves, the spell will make up the difference with some HP from the caster. It can make you think twice about using a powerful spell in a drastic situation against an army or a boss (especially a powerful, self-replicating boss), but when it's not necessary, the battles really have little dramatic flair to them.
The graphics are beautiful and right up the DS's alley. For comparison, it's almost a cross between Dragon Quest V and Scribblenauts: slightly small characters, but it's animated so smoothly that a few rough edges just blend into the backdrop. From the towns, to the overworld, to the actual in-battle scenes, every figure on the screen moves fluidly and never comes off as awkward. Remember, this is published by Nintendo, and they usually don't let anything go out with their name on it without a fair amount of polish attached.
[image3]It's well put-together and pretty and all, but the story isn't very interesting. The main objective is simple – get to Mount Olympus to help out the disguised-to-the-public Heracles – but it feels more like a quest of wandering as opposed to a tough journey toward the destination. Everyone in your party seems to just be there, though not for any clear reasons. They have nothing in common, and yet, they're hangin' around you. Maybe because you're a legendary hero? Is it ancient Greek celebrity/hero worship? Which also begs the question, is there some Greek version of the Kardashians or Paris Hilton? (I guess Helen of Troy, but... *shrug*)
That being said, Glory of Heracles a very nice addition to the DS library. While it's not up to the standards that Square-Enix have set in the past for the genre, Paon and Nintendo have a solid RPG on their hands.