The roguelike genre is a game genre I’ve never bothered to explore. There was just never a game that caught my eye. Admittedly, Has-Been Heroes was no exception. The trailers didn’t stir much interest in me and my initial demo of the game turned me off even more because of a control scheme I felt was confusing at the time. Now, with over 10 hours of gameplay under my belt I have to admit that Has-Been Heroes has become one of my most recommended titles for the Switch.
The gameplay to Has-Been Heroes is the only reason to recommend the game as it is the game’s strongest point. It’s not something that will be easily understood to someone who puts in 10 minutes into the game, struggles with the controls and sees the game over screen almost instantly. The game requires a little more patience with it to truly appreciate what it has to offer.
Let’s start off with the controls which are one of the game’s most unique aspects, for better or for worst. Throughout the game, players control the positioning and attacks of 3 characters each assigned to a lane. When entering a battle, randomly generated enemies will begin marching across the screen towards your heroes. Should they reach a hero, they will inflict significant damage. Something you don’t want to see happen as having 1 character die will result in a Game Over screen. Most enemies have a stamina bar which gets depleted every time you attack them. Before knocking away at an enemy’s HP, you’ll need to knock out their stamina bar to stun them. To make things worst, the stamina bar fully recharges once you’ve landed a hit against a stunned enemy.
Your arsenal of attacks include melee strikes and elemental plus non-elemental spells all tied to their own cooldown. Aside from that, you can also change your character’s lanes when one hero is out attacking an enemy. This is where Has-Been Heroes’ strategic gameplay shines. Determining which combos to chain in order to stun enemies and maximize damage is key to winning battles and progressing through the game. Luckily, players can pause the game at any time to plan out their strategy. The game even auto-pauses every time a hero lands a strike ensuring players can properly plan and execute their strategies.
One shortcoming of this battle system is the fact that everything is randomly generated. This means that a battle could spawn a large amount of difficult enemies all in one lane which makes it impossible to win at times. It’s not something I encountered too frequently but it happens enough to be a recurring cause of death. It’s frustrating but at the same time, death is an integral part of the game. Every time you die, you’ll unlock new items and spells that become acquirable giving you more chances to buff up your party.
In each run you try to make it as far as you can using whatever spells and items you pick up along the way. Death will result in unlocking more items and spells while victory will result in unlocking a significant amount of new features. These include new heroes, locations, enemies, elements, spells etc. Every time you beat the game, the game changes and gets harder. Your first playthrough will require you to beat 2 worlds, then the second is 3 worlds, then 4 and so on. I have yet to see the game’s true ending (there are 10 in total) but I assume it involves finally bringing the 2 princess’ to school, which is the game’s main narrative.
It’s the type of game that you can pick up and play in the span of 20 minutes which makes it great on the Switch due to its portability feature. It’s also what makes the game so addicting. Even when you fail you get a small reward so you tell yourself “Let me try that ONE more time”. A few hours later you’ll be sitting dazed and confused with your Switch wondering what day it is from getting lost in the game.
For sake of being thorough I’ll comment on the other aspects of the game but it really plays a minor part next to gameplay here. The story is very basic and as mentioned above, has old retired heroes hired to escort 2 princess’ to school. For me, I forgot about the story after a few sessions and I don’t feel that I need more to keep me hooked. The characters have no individual backstories but again, it’s not missed. The graphics will be a turnoff to some as the animation style gives the game a mobile game feel to it but it gets the job done. It provides enough charm to give the game personality and that’s good enough for me. Lastly is the music which I absolutely love and find myself humming the different battle themes after a gameplay session. The battle theme changes depending on the world you’re in. It will become repetitive after the 10 hours mark but that’s not necessarily bad when it’s so good and catchy.
In the end I became dangerously addicted to Has-Been Heroes. I couldn’t put the game down because of how much depth there is to the gameplay. Chaining melee and spell attacks across the 3 heroes and landing a ton of damage on an enemy is incredibly satisfying. Or that rewarding feeling you get when finally figuring out a strategy to defeat the boss and progressing further into the game. Make no mistake, Has-Been Heroes is a hard game and not for the faint of heart but if you enjoy a fun, rewarding challenge, at $20 it’s a must have for your Switch collection.