By: Casey Curran
A dungeon crawler on the Vita is, in and of itself, a hard game to justify. Don’t get me wrong, the genre is a perfect fit for a portable, but there is already an abundance of them on the system. And as someone who doesn’t get Soul Sacrifice or Borderlands, I am still looking for an entry on the Vita that sucks me in. Fantasy Hero had me hoping that it could be that game, but it just makes me wish Sega would give the US Phantasy Star Online 2.
Clunky would be the best way to describe Fantasy Hero’s controls. Simple attacks feel very stiff with little fluidity between moves. They’re the kind of controls that always keep you very aware you’re playing a game, where you cannot get sucked into the combat in a zen-like state and just focus on taking out all the enemies. Special attacks as a whole feel smoother, but as they cost magic points to use, the main attacks will always be the bread and butter.
The one exception to this is the ranged character, which just fires his gun at enemies. Since the clunky animations do not exist there, these controls do get the job done as a whole. If you want a melee character, however, the controls leave a lot to be desired.
Fantasy Hero has two things going for it in the visual department: It’s bright and colorful. Outside of that, however, the graphics are as basic as they get. The game opts for a cartoony approach to try to hide its mediocre visuals, but it doesn’t quite get the job done. This is mostly due to how generic all the character and enemy designs are — save for one of the main characters inspired by a Mexican luchador. If you have seen one anime-inspired game before, you will find nothing new here. It’s not an ugly game, just unremarkable.
Sound effects get the job done, but do not quite mesh with the gameplay well enough to make it more addicting like so many other dungeon crawlers do. Meanwhile, the music is so generic that I had to turn it on while typing this review just to reconfirm it exists.
Fantasy Hero goes for a carbon copy of the Monster Hunter structure with gameplay more in common with Diablo. You have a central hub area where you pick missions then go out into a small, linear area to complete them. Rather than hunt for material to prepare for a bigger fight like MH, however, all of the missions center around just fighting a bunch of enemies to get some good dropped items like Diablo, albeit in varied ways such as an escort mission.
While initially this seems like a fine structure, it soon becomes apparent that these styles do not mix that well. Monster Hunter’s buildup during the smaller missions is nonexistent here, you just feel like you are grinding until the next story mission comes available, as the game forces a certain number of side quests first — constrictions that go against what makes Diablo addicting.
Taking out enemies always feels disjointed; you can’t just kill to your heart’s content while discovering new areas. Rather you have to kill exactly how the game tells you to on specific paths, offering little of the freedom that makes Diablo so enjoyable.
The game’s objectives are not even good. Some are just surviving hordes of enemies. Others are collecting pointless supplies. And the escort missions have the most horrible companion AI that will run off while you’re protecting him right into a group of enemies, which will proceed to kill him on the spot.
Story missions are even worse as they are loaded with way too many cut scenes, which always get in the way. Some missions (especially early ones) even have more time dedicated to cut scenes than actual gameplay. They tend to sneak in at the worst possible time, too; just when enemies are coming and the game gets fun, a cut scene will halt any momentum the gameplay has.
Meanwhile, the characters are not that fun to play as thanks to the aforementioned clunky controls saved for the ranged specialist. His powers are more creative than the others (even allowing you to fly and shoot at the same time — awesome), with just one handicap of having to reload. This means while playing solo, you must constantly get out of harm’s way to watch the long reload animation, then go back or frequently resort to special powers. Co-op helps significantly, where the game is at its best, but still mostly just for the ranged character.
When making a game that takes elements from existing titles, it’s important to find a fun or imaginative way to separate yourself from those games. Take Shadow of Mordor, which took many elements from Assassin’s Creed and the Arkham series, but also added a unique take on enemies. Conversely, when Fantasy Hero copies Monster Hunter and Diablo it offers clunky controls, cut scenes that hurt the pace and less interesting equipment and abilities. And with so many other Vita titles already copying these games, there’s little reason to give this a try.