|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: GungHo||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Aksys Games||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 15, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Adam Brown
If there's one genre on the DS that already has more than its fair share of great entries it's strategy RPGs (SRPG). With titles like Final Fantasy Tactics A2, Luminous Arc 1 and 2, Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon, Advance Wars: Dual Strike and Days of Ruin, and Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor already available, a new SRPG really needs to stand out in order to be successful in the face of such stiff competition.
While Aksys's last game, BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger, managed to offer a unique experience in the console fighting game genre, their latest release of Hero's Saga Laevatein Tactics (HSLT) just doesn't distinguish itself enough from the pack. The result is an unremarkable SRPG that ends up feeling somewhat like a flawed copy of the better SRPG games that have come before it.
To begin with the story is about as textbook RPG as you can get. You'll find many of the stereotypical RPG staples are here including a mysterious, armor-clad female character with a veiled past, a hot-headed prince who is always looking for a fight, and a super powerful yet still power-hungry empire looking to take over the world. As a member of one of the few countries that managed to survive a somewhat recent war with this evil empire, you and a band of rebels you'll pick up along the way must use your new found power (in the form of wielding Vaettir Arms) to put an end to their tyranny. There's just not much here worth getting excited about because we've all heard very similar stories numerous times before.
The gameplay found in HSLT is also about exactly what you'd expect from a game in the SRPG genre. Players will move from location to location on a fairly bland-looking map screen, getting into battles whenever there are enemies present at these locations. Some of these encounters will involve furthering the game's story, while others are just optional side-quests that can help you collect more money and experience to help you down the road. Fights are never a one on one affair, unless your party and enemies have been severely depleted during the course of a battle, instead they have you and your party going up against several enemies on a map.
Each character in your party will only be able to equip certain weapons such as swords, spears, bows, etc., which can provide different strengths, weaknesses, strategies, and elemental affiliations. As you can imagine, bows and spears can allow for ranged attacks without the fear of reprisal, while attacking with a sword will have you and your enemy swinging away at each other in turn-based fights. The element associated with your weapon including fire, lightning, water, and earth will help to determine how effective your attacks will be against your opponents who also have elemental weapons. Lightning beats water, water beats fire, and so on, which can help to create advantages on the battlefield.
Aside from your weapons' ranges and elemental properties, there are also a few other ways to gain the upper hand on your opponent. The simplest way to create an advantage is with high ground. Being at a higher elevation than your foe on the isometric battlefield will make your attacks more effective and your opponents less so. There are also small buildings located around each battlefield that can be captured and leveled up which provide a boost to any nearby units as well as heal whichever unit happens to be standing directly on it. However, the healing process is a long one which can lead impatient players, or ones looking for a higher XP bonus, to not bother waiting the numerous turns it would take for full recovery.
Of course, unless you are in a direct confrontation with an enemy, you'll have all the time in the world in which to heal. On every battlefield your enemies will be scattered about, usually near these buildings so that they can gain an early advantage on you. Even if they clearly have you outmanned and outgunned most of the time, the A.I. seems content to wait in their predetermined groups of two or three until you decide to engage their cluster. You can be barely hanging on in a close battle within range of other nearby enemy units and they'll just sit back and not lend their teammates a hand in finishing you off. If you do survive, then you can just stick around as long as you want healing up without having to fear being attacked.