Hey, guess what? You know that ever so elusive video game console otherwise known as the Nintendo Switch? Well I got one! Now I can play Zelda in my bed, and in my pajamas! But first, a review of a game I've been enjoying a bit that got some really unfair criticisms.
Has-Been Heroes is an indie game that is a strange hybrid of strategy and roguelike, made by Frozenbyte, who is most famous for creating the Trine trilogy... Which I never even heard of prior to reading up on the development of this game.
The story of Has-Been Heroes follows the (final) adventure of two brave heroes who, as the title of the game itself humorously points out, are well past their prime. Early on they recruit a young rouge/thief/assassin/insert speedy knife wielding archetype here on their last EPIC quest... To escort the King's twin daughters... to school! It's very obvious that Has-Been Heroes doesn't take basically anything seriously in the story department, which is a nice change of pace for a roguelike, since games in this particular genre have a tendency to be either ridiculously edgy, or filled to the brim with nightmare fuel, or both.
Now one of the most common criticisms of Has-Been Heroes is it's too difficult. Is it a challenging game? Yes. Yes it is. Is it as difficult as say, the Dark Souls franchise? No. Besides, Has-Been Heroes is a roguelike, a genre where the ENTIRE POINT OF MAKING A ROGUELIKE IS TO MAKE THE GAME AS CHALLENGING AS POSSIBLE.
However, Has-Been Heroes has what can be best described as fake difficulty. Out of the 30+ runs I had trying to get all the characters and endings (of which there are TWELVE!!!) every time I died and got a Game Over was not because of a challenging boss (the bosses in this game are, in my opinion, kind of a pushover) or running into particularly nasty enemies, but mostly came down to the sheer randomness. You see, every time you start a new game (you'll be doing this a lot since dying resets your current party's progress) the kind of events you can do on the path to the princesses' school are randomized. Sometimes you have to fight a horde of enemies (how many enemies spawn in is also random), other times you can visit stores to purchase new abilities. On one play through that I fondly remember, I ran into to not one but three spell venders selling magic spells that were ridiculously overpowered and literally cheesed my way through the rest of the run using just those spells. On another playthrough I didn't encounter a single store (or even any treasure chests), leaving my party terribly under equipped and getting expectedly curb-stomped by a horde of skeletons.
That is perhaps the reason why so many people complain about the difficulty of this game. After all, nobody likes losing because of sheer dumb luck (or RNG Gods, depending on your faith). But if you can put up with sometimes getting royally (geddit? Cause you're escorting princesses? I'll see myself out now) screwed over by sometimes dumb luck/RNG Gods, then you'll find a surprisingly good game.
The combat in this game is rather difficult to explain, but basically, each member of your party of heroes occupies one of three lanes, like in a tower defense game. A hero can attack any enemy as long as they are in the same lane (example, if the young thief is in the middle lane, and there's a skeleton in that lane, the thief can run up to the skeleton and slash away with her knife). However to make things trickier, most enemies have a green gauge next to their health, which is basically an armor rating. Attacking these kinds of enemies enough times will stun them, letting you follow up with a combo. Speaking of combos, every time you do attack, the game auto pauses so you can A) get your bearings, B) plan your next move, and C) swap the heroes in and out of lanes. You'll be doing the latter frequently, since you can effectively juggle enemies if you keeping swapping the heroes in and out. However, a bit advice for stunning enemies, and I cannot stress this enough, MAKE ABSOLUTELY SURE that the number of blows to a specific enemy matches the armor rating and whatever you do, DO NOT GO ABOVE THAT NUMBER. The reason for this is because and enemy won't count as stunned unless you take away ALL of the armor points, and THEN attack with another hero. Otherwise, the enemy will still take damage, but they will not get stunned and the first law of playing this game is ALWAYS stun enemies, as it will make most battles much easier on yourself. Furthermore, there are some spells that actually auto stun enemies, such the Warrior's Hot Potato ability. Taking all of these mechanics into account makes the combat both hectic and exciting, and keeps you on your toes the whole way through.
Something else I like about Has-Been Heroes is that this game as ludicrous amount of collectables. For instance, every time you complete a "run" (i.e. an attempt to successfully reach the school), you will unlock a new character for your troubles. For example, for beating a run for the very first time, you will get the Bard (a more offense focused version of the Monk). My only gripe with the collectables is how you cannot (to my knowledge) pre-equip your party with the spells and items you find before starting your next run. If you could, then this could probably alleviate the oh so frequently mentioned gripes about the difficulty, as you could just pre-equip some decent gear and spells to give your party a head-start.
As for visuals and sound, I like the artstyle, which is somewhere between looking like a fairy tale and a comic book. Sadly there is (to my knowledge) not a whole lot of variety in enemy types, since the majority of them are differently colored skeletons and the occasional zombie or ghost. As far as music goes, Has-Been Heroes sadly has some really generic sounding tunes that wouldn't sound out of place in a Saturday Morning Cartoon. Except the boss music. The Boss Music is by far the best part of the soundtrack, but considering it's the ONLY song from this game that doesn't sound boring and generic, that's really not saying much.
Overall, I really wish people (especially quote-end-quote "professional" game journalists who have already written reviews on this game) would stop whining about the game's high difficulty when it actually isn't really that hard. Also, why is it that everybody loves the Dark Souls franchise to pieces in spite of (or perhaps because of) that franchise's almost legendary difficulty spikes, but when a small indie game inspired by roguelikes and strategy games tries to be challenging, everyone hates it? It makes zero sense! Anyway, I give Has-Been Heroes a 7/10. If the game wasn't as random and you could pre-equip unlockables or heck, make the music better, then the game would be much more enjoyable. That said, if you can put up with randomness and sometimes sheer dumb luck/RNG Gods, then I recommend this title for you.
P.S. The first Nintendo Switch game I reviewed also happens to be available on basically every current-gen console (PS4, XBox One, etc.) lol.