Originally published in The Daily Toreador.
For fans of RPGs and Greek mythology, “Glory of Heracles” for the Nintendo DS seems to have a lot to offer. After all, Nintendo is known for publishing some fantastic games on their handheld, and the “Heracles” series has been around in Japan for some time now (although this is the first game to make it to North American shores).
The story begins when a young boy washes up on the shore of Crete, with no knowledge of his past or even his name. However, he soon discovers he is immortal and bands together with a few other immortals to try to discover why they all seem to have been gifted by the gods of Olympus. The story can be incredibly generic at times, but it also has some nice touches of humor, and the mythological setting could appeal to a lot of gamers.
The gameplay is competent enough, boasting a rather typical turn-based system with a few twists thrown in as an effort to differentiate itself from other RPGs. At the start of each round of a battle, you select actions for each of your party members to perform &- be it simply attacking, using a magic spell, etc.
This is standard RPG fare, but the way magic works is a little different. In addition to a character’s person pool of MP, you must draw on a set amount of ether that is present in each battle. Different types of ether relate to different types of elements (fire, water, etc.) and the ether totals change as magic is used and the battle moves forward. If there isn’t enough fire ether to cast your fire spell, for example, you may pay for it with a serious blow to your health bar.
In addition to this, you have the option of playing a sort of mini-game every time you cast a spell. These are extremely simple exercises that use the DS’s touch screen and stylus, and mostly relate to you tapping symbols in a specific order or furiously hitting a circle in order to charge up power. Successfully complete a mini-game like this and your spell will be more powerful than normal.
These sorts of touches can be interesting and provide some good depth to a fairly technical combat system. However, much of the first half of the game is so easy that a lot of it feels moot. It isn’t until later that the difficulty ramps up &- particularly in boss battles &- and you find yourself really needing to watch things like ether levels.
But “Glory of Heracles” has a rather major flaw in that it doesn’t do a good enough job of standing out amongst the RPG greats that the DS is populated with.
Even as a big fan of Greek mythology, I often found it hard to care about the story. And although the gameplay does its job, it doesn’t feel fresh enough to keep me coming back. I found that when playing it, I would sometimes get addicted to leveling up my characters and optimizing their equipment, but after I set it down, it was hard to convince myself to pick it up again.
The problem isn’t really with “Glory of Heracles” itself. The game does a lot of things right. But the DS market is so full of great RPGs, many of which are also published by Nintendo. “Mario and Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story,” for example, was one of last year’s top games across all platforms. And with the promise of more huge games, such as a new “Golden Sun” title coming soon (hopefully by the end of this year), it’s as easy as it used to be to care about RPGs that are anything less than superb.
“Glory of Heracles” feels a bit average, but there’s still some stuff to be liked here. If you’re a huge fan of Greek mythology, or if you absolutely need a handheld game to satisfy your RPG lust, this should satisfy you. But if you’re looking for one of the best RPG experiences you can have with your DS, this probably isn’t it.