Heroland is the latest JRPG title from FuRyu, featuring an all star team behind it, Heroland is here to put a spin on the tired JRPG formula. Does it succeed? Line up and find out!.
As mentioned the team behind Heroland involve Takahiro Yamane (Fantasy Life), Nobuyuki Inoue (MOTHER 3, Legend of Mana), Nobuhiro Imagawa (MOTHER 3, Legend of Mana) & Tsukasa Masuko (Shin Megami Tensei), after seeing that list I was already sold on Heroland.
After some time with Heroland I can say it really wasn’t the experience I was expecting for good and bad!. Heroland puts you in the fantasy boots of Lucky, starting his first day at HeroLand, a theme park designed to give its patrons an epic RPG experience.
Lucky isn’t at HeroLand too long before he ends up brutally indebted to the company and has to slave away as a tour guide to earn enough park currency to pay his debts and walk free.
It’s not long before you get drawn in to the crazy cast and the antics that ensue, 18 is a great example, he was the next in line to his county throne but has dropped to 18th, his quest is to defeat the Dark Lord of HeroLand and gain acclaim to regain that top spot.
The writing in Heroland as you would expect from the pedigree is top notch, you’ll laugh more than you expect from the game, it breaks the 4th Wall enough to be fun but doesn’t rely on that too much, think Earthbound/Mother series and it’s just a little more than that.
All the enemies in Heroland are played by staff and thus are credited as Cast Members in this game, as you fight them you’ll unlock bios for them, all which really drive home the fact these aren’t the monsters they seem. The game will poke fun at enemy re-colours and even claim “EX” enemies are due to budgets. There are even staff meetings before a “dungeon” where the cast will tell you what to anticipate, it really adds to the fact this is a theme park and these are the employees.
Graphically Heroland uses sprites that bend and contort to show animation, like cut outs of SNES sprites, charming and effective but may not be to everyone’s tastes.
The gameplay of Heroland is where it all comes off the rails, this isn’t your standard JRPG by any stretch of the imagination. Heroland doesn’t have you actively participate in battles, you’re a tour guide, you just advice, guide and hopefully profit!.
How this works is your party are A.I controlled, you have a metre which builds over time, once done you can get involved to direct attacks, request specific moves or provide items to the party. If the party are successful in their quest they gain happiness which levels them up & gives you more “Starfish” to buy more items and eventually your freedom.
As you don’t have direct input in these battles they can tend to drag, fortunately you can speed them up and slow it down when you need to get involved. This is ok in small doses but not ideal for longer play times as it can get quite boring, fortunately being on Nintendo Switch the gameplay does lend itself to a more mobile arena.
In terms of exploration, well there isn’t any. The main map shows the theme park and you move the cursor to different areas for character interactions, shops and the like. In dungeons you jump from node to node, occasionally tackling a branching path, the nodes can be story, shop or battle. Much like the combat it isn’t the most involved or engaging way of going about it, remember you’re the guide, not the hero!.
The other activities involve shopping and decorating your room, the latter means you can cover your room in the spoils from the dungeon if you haven’t given them to the guests to get that happiness meter up.
This hands off approach suits the narrative but will struggle to keep you engaged in the game, the writing does the job to draw you in and is funny enough to keep you but the gameplay at times can be a detriment to the title. Heroland isn’t a bad game, there is an abundance of love and charm here, the issue lies in that the idea is much stronger than the execution.
Heroland plays more like “JRPG Manager” than an actual JRPG, something the game never tries to hide. It’s brimming with clever writing and charm and it’s just a shame the gameplay or what little there is here, isn’t more fun. I’m not opposed to menu management style games but this seems to have been done in a “lite” style. It is an ideal game to play while traveling around or for a quick burst but it’ll get tiresome very quick in longer bursts.
I did really enjoy my time in Heroland but I felt there could have been more done with how the game plays, everything else is the game I pictured when I heard the names behind it. It’s a curious title and one you may have to watch some gameplay of before you fully decide if you want to take the dive otherwise there isn’t anything here to turn heads.