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Has-Been Heroes
Game Reviews

Has-Been Heroes

A third-grade math lesson masquerading as a mediocre questing game; this has-been is a never-was.

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The honeymoon period for the Nintendo Switch might be winding down a little as everyone wraps up Zelda and starts looking for something new to play. This is a great chance for the industry to spring on the unwary, tossing out iffy games to drought-addled players. I’ve seen some Switch-focused discussions revolve around forgettable Neo-Geo golf game Neo Turf Masters and how it’s the best thing you can play in a post-Zelda world; it’s a little scary to watch.

One example of a game that probably wouldn’t be getting a lot of attention, honestly if the Switch’s library were a bit more extensive is Frozenbyte’s Has-Been Heroes.

The King used to have an entire array of heroes who’d go on quests, save the day, slay monsters and all that at his bidding! That was some time ago, though. Now the vast majority of those heroes are long gone, leaving only a pair of now-ancient codgers to answer the King’s latest call. Along with a hero-worshipping rogue, the Has-Been Heroes need to accompany the kingdom’s twin princesses on their way to school, but there are plenty of baddies between the castle and campus so it’s not going to be easy.

This is essentially a take on the lane-defense subgenre popularized by games like Plants Vs. Zombies a few years ago. You’lll guide your heroes around a map, encountering events, treasure and monsters on the way. When it’s monsters, you’ll have to fight, naturally; this means having your heroes, one on lane, charge in, attack, and swap lanes with another hero.

Each hero hits a certain number of times per attack and victory in Has-Been Heroes revolves around having your heroes attack a given enemy precisely enough times to stun it. Going under means the enemy won’t take damage and will continue to progress down its lane, while going over means you’ll do minimal damage and knock the enemy back to the end of its lane. Stunned enemies can be hit harder and will have their stunning threshold reduced, allowing you to deal more damage each successive time you stun them.

If that sounds goofy and awkward, that’s because it kind of is. There’s some strategy to be had, particularly when it comes to prioritizing targets and using consumable spells, but it’s also possible to pause the game which takes most of the bite out. Given that the action runs way, way too fast to keep up with if you don’t use the pause option liberally, you’ll spend most of your time with the game waiting for you to make a move. Even once you get the hang of it, Has-Been Heroes still ends up feeling like an edutainment game about simple mathematics rather than an epic battle against the undead. Variety isn’t one of the strong points here.

After getting a handle on what you’re supposed to do, you shouldn’t have trouble clearing the game. This will unlock a bunch of new stuff, including different heroes, and let you play again. Clear that and you can play it again, unlocking even more stuff. You can repeat this cycle until satisfaction occurs, something like an Isaac or a Gungeon. If Has-Been Heroes’ gameplay grabs you, there’s plenty of it to be had, but you’re going to really have to like lane defense and first grade addition.

In other words, this isn’t the most inspiring game, and it’s telling that the biggest selling point here appears to be that it’s Something To Play On The Switch. Has-Been Heroes’ tiny text, questionable font and seemingly iffy translation make it difficult to keep up with what’s going on, even in handheld mode. The awkward controls used to keep your heroes attacking and switching lanes don’t help much either. There’s something to be said for the art style, at least, and the game is generally colorful and vibrant.

I’d suggest resisting Has-Been Heroes, even if you’re really hurting for new games for your convertible Switch console. You’ve probably still got Zelda to finish, after all, and while there’s some math scattered about Hyrule it’s not the entire game. You can also kill skeletons without precisely counting how many times you need to hit them in Zelda, so that’s always a plus. Maybe think about going through Zelda again and leave Has-Been Heroes to the mists of obscurity.

About the Author: Cory Galliher