Let’s face it: not everyone is cut out to be a hero. Sometimes the dangers are insurmountable. Oftentimes you don’t even have a means to overcome your adversaries. And do you even really know how to use a sword and shield? Still, a passion burns inside you to be a hero. To be the one everyone looks to in times of crisis. To rescue your prince from danger and take out the ne’er-do-wells before total annihilation commences.
Then you’re in luck, because Heroland is here to fulfill all your main protagonist fantasies, all with safety of our patrons in mind. Follow your tour guide through devastating dungeons, take on swarms of enemies, fight the big boss, and take home some memorabilia to forever remember your adventures! Your adventure awaits at the gates of Heroland!
Heroland for the Nintendo Switch is a turn based RPG at its core, with a heaping load of satire to appease hardcore role playing fans. You play as Lucky, the newest tour guide at the titular theme park. Your job (literally) is to escort groups of patrons at the park through a collection of linear dungeons, en route to a final boss showdown. All the while you’re trying to entertain your guests, make sure they enjoy the tour, and capture that feeling of accomplishment usually reserved for the hero of the game.
It is immediately apparent Heroland is a game for fans of the genre. There are jokes regarding the nature of dungeons, the enemies you fight, the oftentimes absurdity of what you’re doing, and so on. The jokes are appreciated by someone like me, who has played enough RPGs to really understand why the first enemies you encounter don’t pose much threat. However, if you haven’t really played your retro Final Fantasies or Dragon Quests, you might not fully get the humor.
With regard to what you are actually doing during the game, Heroland becomes almost comically cliche. Though you’re “Guiding” your patrons through a dungeon, you’re essentially engaging in traditional turn based RPG combat. The party will act on their own, but you can step in to offer guidance once your meter fills (which is rather quickly, considering). Certain patrons will require certain things to happen in order to enjoy themselves on the tour (like taking on big bosses, or fighting new enemies, for example), adding a bit of depth to party formation. Additionally, as your run multiple dungeons/tours with a particular patron, they may start to sync up with others. When this happens they’ll create new moves on their own, and cast spells that would otherwise be uncastable. It’s fun narrative-wise to see your group of wannabe-adventurers getting so into the show they start to role play!
Other nuances give Heroland some personality. Going with the theme park motif, you will collect “Plushies” of the enemies you defeat. These can be given to your adventuring party to increase their rating of that particular tour. Their love of a tour increases your character, Lucky’s, overall tour guide level. Higher tour guide levels unlock more tours and different patrons are attracted to the park. There’s also a throwaway house decorating mode which seems to offer nothing other than aesthetic appeal. You can also venture around the park to chat with the staff during off hours. These reveal some of the most fun dialogue options. Combining the RPG tongue-in-cheek humor under the mantle of a theme park and underpaid/overworked staff is kind of cute.
Heroland doesn’t offer much to really keep you entertained, ironically enough. After a few hours the story becomes demoralizingly slow. Stereotypical and comical characters cannot save an otherwise boring narrative. This type of humor works best with a fast paced gameplay style. While Heroland does play fast (you can autoplay the game at 3x speed), the repetitiveness of it all rears its head. It is a common issue with so many RPGs, and though it’s even poked fun of in the game itself, it still comes to the forefront: Heroland can be kind of boring at times.
Sporting a fitting 16-bit art style befitting its inspiration, the visuals are a highlight for the game. The high quality pixel work looks great on the Switch. Bright colors and varied sprites make the game easy to watch. Backgrounds are shaded and flat, a nice contrast to the character/sprites. However, if you prefer fancy graphics and highly detailed animations, you won’t find any here: the nostalgia bus got off around the Super Nintendo here. The soundtrack is unfortunately lacking. There isn’t much in terms of music to cry home about, and the lack of voice acting is a missed opportunity. The nonsense speak characters garble when talking just never appealed to me.
Overall Heroland is a game for a very specific type of player. That player will need to have a deep passion for old school RPGs, be able to laugh at some targeted humor, and not mind slogging through somewhat boring gameplay. Thankfully, if you’ve played the games this game is making fun of, you’ve done all these things tenfold, so you’re good to go. Strap on and enjoy the show!