Glory of Heracles is the latest game in a series centering around the legendary Greek hero, but the first to make it outside of Japan. From what I understand, usually Heracles is the primary character, and while that’s technically true this time around there are two other characters in the game who are claiming that name as their own as well (one of them is a party member, the other an NPC). This identity confusion is coupled with a group of amnesiac characters who are all immortals but none can remember why they are so blessed/cursed. Their journey of discovery is an interesting one, and there are several twists along the way to keep you guessing.
The combat system used in the game is as much of a throwback as the source material, but it too has some interesting tweaks that . You give all of your characters their commands and targets for the round up front, and they are generally locked into those choices even if circumstances change during the turn. Sometimes this means that they are attacking already-incapacitated enemies, but the game actually has an “overkill” system that rewards this with replenished MP; if a character’s target is overkilled prior to his action then he will randomly select a new target if any are available. Complicating things a bit are front and back rows for each side, and different weapons have different reaches. There are also various skills (both active and passive) that can be employed for more impressive attacks than basic blows; some of these skills are learned via leveling up after praying at various temples, but a good deal of them are granted by whatever you have equipped. Managing the skills of your gear is a key part of the game’s strategy.
The real attraction to the combat, however, is the magic. The magic bestowed by Prometheus (who famously stole fire — aka magic — from the gods and gave it to man), uses five flavors of ether, indicated by meters at the top of the screen. Usually ether is converted from fire/water/earth/air into “dark” or vice versa. If there is insufficient ether to power the spell when it comes time for you to cast it, you will suffer a backlash loss of hp that is usually pretty significant. You can also intensify your magic (and some skills) via QTE-like touch screen microgames, which keeps your attention on the action instead of just mindlessly mashing the A button. The effects themselves are over-the-top and crazy; you have the option of full, brief, or no animations, but even if you’ve selected to watch them you can always skip them, which is very welcome.
Overall, I enjoyed Glory of Heracles over most of the 32 hours I put into it; there are some camera issues in the 3D towns, but you just learn to deal with it. There’s also a New Game+ feature, but you don’t actually carry over any skills or equipment; you get to skip the tutorial and some other options are unlocked, but I didn’t really explore it that deeply. It’s a fun adventure and worth your time; nothing really ground-breaking and must-own, but Glory of Heracles is unique enough to stand out in the crowded DS RPG library.