It’s time to look at what is likely my first Rogue game. The genre is definitely pretty interesting since it’s so unique compared to others. Here if you die you lose everything. Forget about keeping things like items, level ups, money, etc. If you die you start from scratch with nothing to show for it. It’s an interesting dynamic. Honestly I think I would prefer it if you got to at least get level ups or something since you would eventually be able to power your way to the end. Still, it’s steady stream of quick levels can be pretty addicting and you’ll find yourself wanting to keep playing “1 more round” over and over again.
The plot is pretty basic. There are a group of heroes who used to be quite impressive back in their day. Unfortunately for them they have grown old and people barely even remember them anymore. Well, they’ve been given one last mission. They have to escort these two princesses over to another kingdom. That should be easy enough but the world is overcome with monsters so maybe this won’t be quite as easy as they thought. Don’t worry about the plot much though as it doesn’t return again until you’ve beaten the game 6-7 times as you get the true ending. The rest of the endings don’t even finish the plot as they just unlock another character.
The gameplay uses a 3 lane system. You have a hero on the top lane, middle, and bottom. Each one can attack when his gauge is full. This is how you drain away at enemy’s stamina and then their health. You have to time it just right so you finish off the stamina and then damage the opponent in order to chip away at the gauge. Otherwise you won’t be making a whole lot of progress in the fights. It’s a very interesting system for sure and a complex one. Throw in the spells and then you’ve really got a lot to think about during the fights. Fortunately you can pause the game to think about your options but pause too often and you’ll just be taking up too much time. That’s the way I see it at least.
One nice thing about the game being so complex is that you can feel yourself improving as you go through the game. I lost my first 10 games before finally reaching one of the endings. From there it took me about 5 more tries to get the 2nd ending and then another 3 or so for the third one. There are 12 endings but if I kept up that pace maybe it wouldn’t have taken much longer. At the same time, it’s like Pac-Man as the more endings you get the longer the game becomes. That’s because the levels stack on top of each other so at first the game is 3 areas long, then 4, then 5, etc until it reaches 8. Naturally you can see why losing when you’re at area 6 or 7 during a late playthrough can be pretty rough. The bosses shuffle each time so you never really know who you are going to be up against.
There is also some luck involved as the shops and chests change each playthrough. On my final victory playthrough I got a good line up as I got the mind control spell, 2 water spells, and 2 little minions who would help me blast the enemies. On other playthroughs I just didn’t have enough money to do much of anything so I ended up falling behind the curve. My best recommendation is to fight as many battles as you can on the way to the boss to stock up on money so you can get as many items as possible. If you run out of money then you’re basically sunk. Always have a plan when going into a boss fight as well and don’t be afraid to pause if necessary. How you start a fight could very well determine how you end it. For my tip of the game I would recommend getting any spell that does direct damage to the opponents like the water blast. It’s incredibly different and can make all the difference in a fight.
The graphics aren’t bad. I like the illustrations we get for each ending. There was a reasonable amount of skill put into the drawings. The actual animations during gameplay aren’t anything amazing, but it looks pretty clear. You can usually tell what is happening. The only exception is the status effects that play whenever you hit a villain. There are way too many words and they go too fast so you can’t really tell what they are saying. That seems to maybe be intentional but certainly worth mentioning. The soundtrack is actually quite solid though. It has a good variety depending on the levels and is soothing enough to enhance the gameplay experience. The later levels seem to decline a bit based on the tracks I heard online, but it’s still quite good all around.
Naturally there is a lot of replay value here. If you want to get all 12 endings prepare to be here for over 20 hours. It depends on how quickly you get used to the gameplay and learn the tricks of the trade of course, but I wouldn’t expect to get the hang of it too soon. I can’t stress enough that this is a pretty difficult game. It’s no walk in the park by any stretch of the imagination. You’ll learn best through trial and error. There are also bonus modes like Challenge Mode, Seed Mode, etc. Getting through with everything will take a long time. I believe I got this game for around 10 bucks so that’s a lot of value for that price.
Overall, Has-Been Heroes is a pretty fun game. The story certainly takes a back seat as this is the kind of game that barely even has a plot, but the gameplay is the main thing here. The gameplay is smooth and a lot of fun. It may not be the most enjoyable experience at the very beginning if you just don’t get what you have to do, but as soon as you figure it out the sky’s the limit. I’d be up for trying more Rogue games out, but I still believe that they would be more fun with some actual progression. I want to feel like I’m getting closer to the goal with in-game features as opposed to just mastering the style more and more. It makes the whole experience just feel more rewarding.