E3 2019: Heroland Preview Is this real life, or is it just fantasy? 06.15.19 - 5:14 PM
With an incredible pedigree, including music from composers of the Shin Megami Tensei series and art direction from Nobuhiro Imagawa of Mother 3, along with a number of people who have worked on the Mana series, Heroland sounds like a winner from the outset. Our experience at XSEED's demo booth at E3 showed that it might just live up to that hype, with its incredibly striking art style, unique combat, and a pun game that is decidedly on point.
The premise of the game is unique and very meta. You control a tour guide who runs a fantasy RPG theme park on a secluded island, guiding his customers around to find glory. It's never entirely clear how "real" the ensuing adventure is during the demo. The tour group has over 20 members who can join, but we spent time with Elric, a royal who was recently demoted from being first in line for the throne of his kingdom to eighteenth, as he attempts to regain his honor and his place as crown prince. Elric and the rest of the delightful characters (including more than a few talking otters) are impeccably characterized through clever dialogue that is both self-referential and very funny. The game knows how to make fun of its characters, RPGs in general, and itself. So at least in the early going, it's clear that more than just the look of Heroland is inspired by EarthBound.
Heroland's graphics are a little difficult to describe, and screenshots don't exactly show the versatility in style and its unique 2D-meets-3D approach. Simply put, characters are pixelated sprites pasted onto a 3D-cutout model. These models stretch and squish — much like those in Golden Sun — to create an expressive movement that also looks just a bit comical. Backgrounds are hand-drawn and feature a hard-outline cartoony look, which sells the game's light-hearted aesthetic. Colors are vivid and characters are charmingly designed and distinct from each other — between the silent protagonist's unique teal afro, "18" resembling a king, and the bevy of otter NPCs, everything looks amazing.
We didn't get to spend much time with the combat of Heroland, but similar to the game's look and premise, it seems just unique enough to distinguish itself from other throwback titles. In battle, you have four different members who are with you on the tour of the theme park, and you control the tour guide. But rather than participating directly in battle, you assist your party by making choices for them. The party runs on AI, but you can choose to step in and get them an item, or ask them to perform a different action when a bar fills up. It has a little bit of a Final Fantasy XII flavor, and it seems like it gives just enough control to make things interesting.
Heroland is due for release in fall of 2019 for both PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch. Stay tuned to RPGFan for more news on this promising upcoming title!