Hero’s Saga Laevatein Tactics Review for Nintendo DS

Hero’s Saga Laevatein Tactics Review for Nintendo DS

Not So Super Moves

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.

Hero's Saga Laevatein Tactics screenshot

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.

Hero's Saga Laevatein Tactics screenshot

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.

Hero's Saga Laevatein Tactics screenshot

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.

While most of this gameplay is rather standard, or sad in the case of the brain-dead A.I., I do have to commend HSLT for a few of its gameplay elements. One is the abilities that different weapons can bestow upon their carrier. Each character will have an ability that they can use up to a specific number of times during a match. These can range anywhere from healing a nearby teammate or yourself to boosting a character’s movement ability, allowing for more steps to be taken. Since they are limited, you’ll really have to think about when to use these abilities, but they definitely come in handy if you make good use of them.

Hero's Saga Laevatein Tactics screenshot

Another thing that HSLT gets right is its combat. Instead of just having one character wail away on another once engaged in battle, each character has its own little army. Players can choose from different formations, each with their own specific strengths and weaknesses, in order to try to take out the opposition. For example, choosing a charge attack will potentially increase the damage you do to an opponent, but it’s also less accurate and leaves you more open to damage while the phalanx formation will lessen the amount of damage you deal but will put you in a better defensive position. Even more strategy is added by your ability to target either your main enemy or his soldiers, which seems to be the best course of action most of the time, since it helps to make your real opponent weaker.

Unfortunately, while the rest of the gameplay may work for the most part, and in some cases fairly well, HSLT has one more feature that pretty much breaks the entire experience. I’m speaking of what the game refers to as your Valhalla gauge, which fills the longer you’re in battle. Once full, you are granted a super attack that can wipe out an enemy and his entire army when used. Sounds great right? Not so much when your opponents have this ability as well. So, if you are systematically beating the life out of one opponent, but they happen to survive with one hit point and no soldiers, it is very possible that they’ll walk up to your strongest unit on their next turn and obliterate them from the map. This gets extremely frustrating very quickly, especially since the scenario I just described isn’t exactly an oddity but more of a common occurrence.

While Hero’s Saga Laevatein Tactics has a few good things going for it in the gameplay department, the extremely cheap one-hit-kills super moves take much of the enjoyment out of the game. Add this to the terrible A.I., the cookie-cutter RPG storyline and characters, and the host of better SRPGs already available on the DS and there’s just not much of a reason to pick up HSLT. However, if you’ve already played through all of these other titles and don’t mind having to replay through several long battles because you get wiped out by some overpowered super moves, then you might get a kick out of the tiny army-based combat. Either way, HSLT should definitely not be high on your list of DS SRPGs to play, but not necessarily at the bottom either.

This game isn’t visually impressive, but the artwork is decent and the up-close battle scenes look nice. 2.6 Control
The controls are fairly sluggish since you’ll need to maneuver about using the D-pad rather than the stylus, which would seem better suited for this type of game. 2.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
What’s there sounds alright, but there isn’t much variety to be had in either the sound effects or music department. 2.7

Play Value
There’s a lot of gameplay to be had here but without much variety. The cheap one-hit-kills super attacks will also likely make you want to put the game down and never pick it back up.

2.8 Overall Rating – Average
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Once More Unto The Breach! Command your forces into one of several formations, each with its own strengths and weaknesses.
  • Harness The Power of The Einherjar! Collect all the Vaettir Arms (180+ Arms to find!) scattered throughout the game and strike fear into the hearts of your foes with the awesome power of the Valhalla Break!
  • Ad-Hoc Goodness! Using the power of ad-hoc wireless connectivity you can trade items with your friends, rent out your heroes to aid friends in need, or battle them for fame and glory!
  • Create An Unstoppable Army! Equip different weapons to change the class, abilities, and appearance of your soldiers! Choose wisely to unlock the legendary secret class!

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