Sometimes when you explore the floors of E3, you don’t know what to expect among all the bigger companies. One good example is a little JRPG named Heroland, being localized courtesy of the veterans at XSeed games. Originally known as Work x Work, the game was released in Japan last year. I was even more surprised to find out that staff members behind such titles as Fantasy Life, Mother 3, Legend of Mana and more were behind this little gem. Despite not knowing anything about the game, I found a charming little adventure with lots of potential.
Heroland is the name of the titular theme park where visitors can fulfill their lofty fantasies of becoming a hero. You assume the role of a literal tour guide that helps visitors achieve said goals. The game does have a lot of dialogue to sift through, as is common with a traditional JRPG, but at the very least the localization work by XSEED was expertly done. While none of the lines are voiced, at least the writing is charming. For example, the lead character is a mute protagonist and the game makes plenty of jokes on how he doesn’t engage in any conversation. His fairy companion speaks for him, mostly in praises for her hard work. I really wish I had more time to enjoy the story instead of rushing through to get to the gameplay. That being said, so far the game is on the right track.
The gameplay is as quirky as the setting the game takes place in. Imagine if you have a party of characters, but they all attack autonomously without any player input. Kind of defeats the purpose of a game, no? This is where the protagonist jumps in. He can guide the rest of the characters by freezing the action and dictate specific commands. This is important because while it’s good to have some battles run automatically without much intervention, once more enemies show up (and eventually stronger ones), things require input. For example, enemies can target Prince Elric and make him lose health constantly. Even if his HP is low, no character would go out of their way to heal him unless you step in and instruct to do so.
The artistic style of Heroland is brought to us courtesy of Mother 3’s art director, Nobuhiro Imagawa. While I haven’t played the aforementioned game, I saw enough of it to see how beautiful the same visual style was translated to this upcoming game. While characters have a distinct 2D look, they live in a vibrant 3D world. Instead of being paper thin, characters have thicker outlines giving them depth, literally.
I came into Heroland with zero expectations or knowledge. Even with the extremely limited time I spent with its demo, I can proudly say that XSeed has a hidden gem on their hands. The unique take on JRPG combat, the distinct art style, and of course the cheeky writing. All are the signs of a great game in the making. The real question is, will the game retain its charm past the first few minutes? We’ll find out in the Fall of 2019 when Heroland comes out on both the Switch and the PS4.