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Mystic Heroes

First Impressions - we thought it would be Lost Kingdoms by Koei, but it's more like Dynasty Warriors meets Disney

When we first cast eyes on Mystic Heroes, the premise seemed to be a fairly unashamed rip-off of Fromsoft's Rune (Lost Kingdoms in the West). An opposing rune system would govern battles, and a clichéd RPG storyline would govern the in-between. But as it happens, Koei neglected to include one somewhat pivotal detail: Mystic Heroes is just one big battle, rather like Dynasty Warriors.

Whereas Lost Kingdoms had you fighting on your lonesome in real-time using card combinations, Mystic Heroes thrusts you and a team of like-minded vigilantes into the midst of a dark horde, led by a demonic emperor (Kang) and his equally demonic wife (Sheva). Their son is a bit of a git too, having resurrected the horde when Kang and Sheva were first imprisoned, but they all ended up entombed forever where they can't do anyone any harm, thanks to the Mystic Heroes.

Not a close-up - it really is that big compared to your character!

Bringing the game into disrepute

Or did they? In strongest RPG tradition, Kang and entourage summon the power of a dark star (which happens to be in the correct position blah blah) and harness its evil to bring the dark hordes to life for a third time. As the lands of the Mystic Heroes once again fall into disrepute, the benevolent foursome once again take up arms and set out to rid the world of this menace once and for all.

The story is dragged out in the cut-scenes which accompany the single player game. Each of the four selectable characters has a back-story and various reasons for fighting. But instead of taking the easy route and shoehorning all four into one consistent narrative, Koei has given each story its own cut-scenes and individual battles - plenty of replay value there. We're also told that you can start the game over with the enhanced attributes of a completed character, too. But let's get the beginning out of the way first, eh?

The game itself is played from the third person perspective. Every character in the game is drawn in a distinctive, child-like manner (known as 'chibi' in Japan, I'm told) and thus to begin with the epic on-screen battle is eerily reminiscent of a squashed Dynasty Warriors. Like Dynasty Warriors stretched across a wide TV screen.

The visuals aren't nearly as ferocious as the plot suggests. Enemies are uniformed blue soldiers of various classes (footmen, archers, unit commanders etc), and allies come in blue. Your more significant allies (like generals and other named units) waltz about in fancy dress commanding and leading by example, but combat on the whole is quite tame for all the frenzy. Attacks do not draw blood, though you'll send units flying and you can juggle enemies on the end of your blade.

This makes sense once you've read the manual

Going for a slash

It's actually all rather like a 3D scrolling beat 'em up. You trawl through a fairly large level (with a complete overhead map available from the start), killing all the blue dots. You can combine hits by hammering the various buttons, A for a basic sword attack, Y and X for spells and so on. Basic spells see you slash harder, long, faster, etc, and you can perform slightly different spells depending on the situation. Jumping and hitting X, for example, will send a number of whirlwinds zooming around on the floor, rendering enemies dazed and confused - ripe for a hammering.

And it doesn't get much more cerebral than that judging by our initial experiences. Spells, units and so forth all level up, and the rune system provides the background. Each rune (and you collect them as you go along) gives you control of several different spells, which can be equipped prior to going into battle. Each character has a certain rune affinity - be it wind, ice, lightning or fire - and each spell likewise. Characters with the right affinity can use spells slightly above their station, and otherwise you have to make sure you have the right spell levels by beating kudos out of enemy skulls.

The bar in the top-right indicates that I am not doing very well

Good mindless violence

From what we've seen, the game does a fair job of sustaining itself. Although the manual (one of those heinous Fisher Price 'My First Game' attempts) makes heavy going of explanations, and in-game tutorials are unhelpfully hidden in rolling demos which appear if you leave the title screen up too long, it's good, mindless violence with a streak of originality running through it.

Juggling forty units in the air with whirlwind spells is fun, and keeping the flow of dead bodies on the right side of good so that your allies don't retreat is challenging. And beating the boss characters that pop up at the end of a level is a great way to cap off about 30 minutes of hacking and slashing. The first boss we encountered was a huge grizzly bear - definitely a good start!

Also included are multiplayer and survival modes. Survival has you trying to withstand the might of various challenges, and multiplayer mode runs in split-screen for up to four players at full speed.

Mystic Heroes definitely isn't what we expected, and it's definitely better than we'd hoped, but it's not that elusive GameCube RPG that we'd all wanted. Ah well, it's still a very good slasher with quite a lot of depth to the combat. It remains to be seen whether it stands up to extended play, and having to start levels over from the beginning when you fall foul of the blade is a bit irritating, but on the whole it's a good laugh. Stay tuned for our more informed opinion closer to the game's November 29th release date.

Mystic Heroes screenshots (Cube)

THQ to publish Mystic Heroes

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About the Author
Tom Bramwell avatar

Tom Bramwell


Tom worked at Eurogamer from early 2000 to late 2014, including seven years as Editor-in-Chief.

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