Upon first inspection, I could not figure out exactly what Has Been Heroes actually was. On one hand, the map in the bottom right told me I would be exploring the world by picking which direction to travel. On the other hand, I simply could not figure out how my characters were going to fight the enemy units. In fact, the only thing I did know (thanks to the game’s description) was that my band of heroes was going to be tasked with escorting the twin princesses to their academy. This (arguably) flimsy plot is thickened rather greatly soon after the game opens up. In fact, the story opens the most near the end of the tutorial. Although, the plot is put to the side for the sake of gameplay, it will return as the driving force for one of the game’s biggest draws.
To start my dissection of this game, I’d like to cover the gameplay and why it fails as much as it wins. First off, Has Been Heroes sports a unique style of combat that sees three heroes taking up three lanes and being forced to figure out which hero should be in which lane to be the most effective. While this uniqueness is endearing, it comes with the issue of being rather confusing and a little hard to understand. For example, attacking enemies when a hero’s meter has filled makes plenty of sense while having to match the number of attacks to the enemies exact number of stamina blocks seems redundant considering the fact that attacking more times than the enemy can block seems just as effective as using one hero to break an enemy’s guard and then another to actually attack them. Another cool thing about the gameplay is how heroes can switch lanes after a successful attack from any hero. While this is fun and interesting, it can’t be done at any point meaning heroes will often be in incorrect lanes when it really matters.
Luckily, switching lanes and perfectly dwindling down every enemy is not the only way to deal with the hordes that will block your path. With the addition of magic, players will have various abilities at the fingertips such as throwing fireballs, double the number of attacks a hero will do, or even pushing all the enemies back to the far right of the screen. While these magic spells are very useful and powerful, getting new ones can be rather frustrating. The only way I have managed to get new spells was by encountering people on the map that gave me the chance to buy them. These new spells were lost once I reached the end of my playthrough however and I had to start my new playthroughs with the starting 3 spells. After reading all of this, it may feel like you have a pretty good handle on what to expect, but the issue is that the game seems to go against itself when it comes to key things such as stamina and health. What I mean by this is that the times I was defeated, I didn’t think I had lost any health before getting hit and it seemed like while I had to slowly chip away at countless enemies health bars, they simply had to hit me once in order to defeat me. If this was explained in the tutorial, I must have missed it since none of this makes sense to me.
Either way, the game’s main goal makes plenty of sense and is easy enough to explain. Using your 3 heroes, you will be tasked with keeping the princesses from harm by getting to the other side of various areas and defeating the bosses that await you. Players will have to choose their path through these areas and will be met with various events and battles along the way. Once again, this comes with pros and cons. The biggest pro is that exploring the maps is fun and exciting by nature, making the time between battles that much more entertaining. Unfortunately, the biggest con is how the game’s candle system does not seem to be explained at all. From what I can gather, moving so many spaces eventually uses one candle and moving too many spaces without a candle will cause an instant game over. Finally, the boss of each area is the climatic end and is equal parts difficult and frustrating. On one hand, these bosses test players skill and make for great challenges to keep players on their toes. Although, this comes with the remarkably long fights that feel tense from beginning to end. These battles don’t always feel fun and become boring and repetitive when played for too long.
One aspect of Has Been Heroes that doesn’t come with a negative side is the art and sound. The game has wonderful art and the music/sound effects are pretty good as well. The game’s unique art style is endearing and helps create an interesting world to explore. It’s a good thing the world is so fun to explore since players will be asked to explore it several times before ever getting anywhere really important. It is important to note that each playthrough of Has Been Heros has the potential to unlock new items which (I believe?) can be found in future playthroughs. This is another mechanic that simply lacks explanation yet seems to be a really interesting and important mechanic to understand. Being forced to play the game over and over again is made a lot nicer since the maps change each time and don’t end up feeling exactly the same every time.
All in all, I can easily say that Has Been Heros is confusing more than anything since it has several mechanics that aren’t explained well at all. I feel like there is a great game here, but it is hidden behind a lack of communication between the game and the player. Unfortunately I don’t see players being willing to test various things in Has Been Heros in order to fully understand them like they might in larger games (Dark Souls comes to mind). With how pretty the game is and how much fun some of the battles can be, I’m actually bothered by how hard the game tries to keep its players from the more useful mechanics. I can say that I had enough fun with the game to keep playing it but it is simply too confusing for less patent players to get anything good out of.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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