Quick Take: In Has-Been Heroes for the Nintendo Switch, players try to escort two princesses to school using a collection of washed up legends. What can go wrong?
There was a point about two hours into Has-Been Heroes that I finally realized that after the countless deaths and the aimless meandering through the story that it just wasn’t going to get any better. I pushed on, sending my group of washed up heroes deeper into a seemingly random-generated map, not even completely sure what I was supposed to be doing, and juggling all three heroes using the Nintendo Switch’s Joy Cons, but the fun, or the idea of fun, seemed as far away as the land this game takes place in.
Has-Been Heroes is the story of two princesses that need to go to school, so the king recruits two of his kingdom’s legendary heroes, a hulking warrior and an aged mage, to escort them. The heroes are then joined by a new hero, a rogue, and the three set off to navigate the various lands, defeating enemies and bosses, and eventually unlocking and recruiting more and more of the kingdom’s veteran heroes on the journey.
The combat system in Has-Been Heroes is unique, to say the least. The three heroes walk along a track, and each hero is confronted by enemies on their individual track. The player can then choose to attack with that hero on that track, or switch heroes, juggling them all up and down to set up combos and better matchups. The mage can cast a spell to soften up an enemy, then the warrior can step in and chop it to pieces. The combat mechanics here are unique, but become frustrating in bigger boss battles, which leads to death more often than not.
The problems begin here, as the tutorial is not very clear, and developer Frozenbyte (Trine), leaves it up to the player to figure things out. On top of not clearly explaining things, Has-Been Heroes also relegates almost every action to some form of button presses, including advancement/moving. It’s never a good sign when to even move, you have to press two buttons.
Later in the game, I began to grasp what Frozenbyte was shooting for, but by then, I just wasn’t as interested as the frustrations of the first 12-15 hours or so left a terrible taste in my mouth. And I say this as a huge fan of Trine. Has-Been Heroes overcomplicates things, even something as mundane as taking a step forward, and it really hurts the game as a whole. Playing this on the Nintendo Switch, and using the Joy Cons might be part of the problem, as the player has to manipulate so many button presses and juggle so many things at once that maybe a keyboard and mouse would be a better set up. Take that for what it is.
On the bright side, Has-Been Heroes looks good, with the cartoon-like characters and graphics working wonderfully here, and it just makes me wish that the rest of the game was on the same level as the art direction.
Has-Been Heroes has the ingredients to be something great, but unfortunately, it falls short of those lofty goals. Its attempts at something new in the control schemes and game mechanics fails, and not even a tongue-in-cheek story, plenty of cool characters to unlock, and some inspired art can save it. Players will find that death comes often in Has-Been Heroes, and the roguelike execution seems to fit a game like this. After all, death can be a blessing, and after a great many blessings, Has-Been Heroes proves that sometimes it is best to just kill your heroes.
Has-Been Heroes is available now in the Nintendo eShop for the Nintendo Switch and is also available on the PS4 and Xbox One. This review is based off a review code provided by the publisher.