"One thing that has remained a constant in video gaming history is that if a company comes up with a wonderful idea, other companies will jump on board and attempt to create their own games using said idea. "
One thing that has remained a constant in video gaming history is that if a company comes up with a wonderful idea, other companies will jump on board and attempt to create their own games using said idea.
Take Enix’s legendary Dragon Quest/Warrior series for example. One of the first role-playing games released solely for console systems (the NES had ported a number of computer RPGs beforehand), the original Dragon Warrior was a big enough hit to spawn (to date) six sequels, many of which are on multiple platforms, and a few spinoffs featuring randomly generated dungeons.
Sounds like a popular concept, huh? Well, if you look through the complete library of NES role-playing games, especially those that were never commercially released in the United States, you’ll quickly find out that other companies realized that Enix had created a winner.
Play the second installment of the Hercules no Eikou (Glory of Hercules) series and it won’t take long to realize that Data East was one of those companies that suckled at the proverbial teat of the fine fellows at Enix. Essentially, Hercules no Eikou II is a Dragon Quest game set in ancient Greece.
Instead of fighting the dread Dragonlord of Charlock or the tormented Necrosaro, enterprising heroes find themselves locked in mortal combat with such familiar faces from the Greek myths such as Medusa, Cerberus, Cyclops and the life of the party himself -- Cronos, lord of the Titans. Hints will be given to you by epic poet Homer (D’OH!) and Zeus, the king of all gods.
As in many of the old Dragon Quest games, your brave hero starts out quite humbly. Living a simplistic live in the isolated island town of Nana, you get summoned by the queen, who essentially puts the burden of saving the world from evil forces solely on your shoulders. No biggie, eh? You’ll just take a ship to the mainland and be on your way.
Much like the second Dragon Quest, after a little bit of fighting, upgrading equipment and exploring, you’ll gain a pair of new party members whose attributes seem to mirror the Prince of Cannok and Princess of Moonbrooke in DQ II. First, a cowardly centaur joins you in an attempt to become a brave soldier. Explore for a few more hours and you’ll come across a living female statue. She joins you for the purpose of finding her creator, the god Hephaestus, so he can give her a soul. Much later in the game, your party will get a major power boost when the legendary hero Hercules joins you to help you muscle through the final dungeons -- but he is with you for such a short duration that he almost seems like an unnecessary add-on.
All the characters fit into nice and tidy categories, as per the norm in many of the older role-playing games. Your hero will get the occasional magic spell, but you’ll soon realize that cleaving foes with swords and other weapons is how he’ll make his way through the world. The centaur is a decent fighter, but his primary use will be his mastery of healing magics. The statue girl is comparatively weak in battle, but gains a wide range of attack spells to decimate villains. After finally earning his services, you'll find that Hercules couldn’t cast a spell to save his life, but is quite skilled at using brute force to compensate for that shortcoming.
As you explore the hostile lands of this game, you’ll find other staples of the Dragon Quest style of play. Most of the shrines, caves, towers, etc. that you’ll explore in order to find important items are puzzle-free zones where the main objective is to wander up and down each and every path to find all the treasure chests before you get overwhelmed by the massive amount of random battles Data East seems to be fond of throwing at you in this game.
Speaking of random battles, wading through these fights is what you’ll be spending much of your time doing during a session of this game. While the frequency of battles seems to be at a comfortable level in the overworld, you’ll be sent to a battle every few steps in many of this game’s dungeons. The problem with this is (besides the tedium) that it doesn’t take a huge amount of effort to gain mass quantities of levels as you progress through the game -- making Hercules No Eikou II a game that can quite possibly get easier as you progress farther. To give an example of this, right after you’ve picked up the statue girl and have a three-person party, you’ll have to go through a fairly short cave to get to a tower which holds a very important item. While said cave is nothing more than a sub-dungeon to warm you up for the tower, I struggled mightily in getting through it. Facing legions of undead foes with the ability to inflict status ailments with seemingly every step I took, I wound up needing three or four attempts to actually make it all the way through this cave. On the other hand, much later in the game, I was able to bully my way through each and every one of the final few dungeons on one try. Not even bosses could faze me, as their best attacks would barely scratch me and each of my attacks would be remarkably effective in whittling their hit point total down to nothing.
More frustrating than spending hours bludgeoning your way through vastly overmatched foes is enduring one of the special attacks some of these enemies will bring forth in an attempt to turn the tables on you. While many special attacks are standard RPG fodder (poison, instant death, etc.), one in particular deserves mention solely because of its cheapness. A number of monsters scattered throughout the world have the ability to (upon landing a successful hit) break a random piece of equipment. Now, let’s say you just dropped 50,000 gold on a wonderful suit of armor that essentially has turned your hero into a god. How do you think you’d feel if some creature resembling a mountain goat just walked up to you and shattered that armor -- leaving you defenseless AND without the large sum of money you spent on the broken item? Let’s just file that one under my list of ideas that never should have actually been implemented in a game.
Fortunately, Hercules no Eikou II does have a few positives that keep it from solely being considered a somewhat inferior rip-off of Dragon Quest. The Key Shrine dungeon is a stunning departure from the average dungeon in this game, as it takes the emphasis off the constant battling (enemies are only one of this area’s many floors) that is the norm on your journey and puts it on actually using your noodle.
When you enter the shrine, an old man will give you one key. You will have to use that key to find other keys located in treasure chests (while watching out for trap chests that drop you into the enemy-filled basement). Those keys are then used to open the many types of door found through the shrine. If you grab and use the keys in the right order, you’ll be able to get this shrine’s key item. If not, you’ll likely be stuck just short of your objective and need to start over again. I found this dungeon to be a breath of fresh air, as most games of this sort, including the actual Dragon Quest series, tend to avoid anything beyond the most simple of puzzles in lieu of putting your party up against as many enemies as possible.
But, for the most part, this game is nothing more than a well-executed Dragon Quest clone. If you’re into Enix’s primary series of RPGs, you’ll likely find this game to also be enjoyable. If the frequent random battles of that series are boring and tedious to you, this game won’t have much to offer as those battles are the backbone of Hercules no Eikou II. As a long-time fan of the Dragon Quest series, I must admit that this game falls a bit short of the standard set by those games, but still deserves recognition as a solid, if mostly unexceptional, effort. It might not be the sort of game that captivates the imagination of the general public, but for old-school RPG junkies, Hercules no Eikou should provide a satisfying fix.
Community review by overdrive (May 26, 2004)
Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.
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