Fantasy Hero ~unsigned legacy~ arrives on Nintendo Switch four years after its original release on PlayStation Vita, where it received a rather middling reception at best. Some praised its varied stats, skills and upgrade customisation, while others criticised it for a bland plot and uninspired combat mechanics. So in 2018, how does this JRPG fare on Nintendo’s hybrid?
You take up the role as one of four different characters. Acress is your typical JRPG hero whom the game is clearly designed around, but then you also have Ashta (a mechanic who commands a robot in battle), Mask (who uses his size and weight to eliminate enemies with melee attacks), and Haul (who works from afar with pistols). But no matter who you pick, the foursome band together to tell the same story. Humanity is close to extinction after an army of monsters called Decoders took over and slaughtered the human race, bringing it to its knees upon our introduction. But after a new material named Hero Artes is discovered, the tide of battle may be about to change.
This is a plot deeply rooted in familiar tropes. The world is in ruin and you and your friends are the only ones who can put an end to the suffering thanks to a game-changing revelation. It’s a story you’ve most likely heard a number of times already in videogames, and unfortunately the game sticks to this long beaten path. FHUL does very little to mix things up, as its narrative mostly becomes a vehicle to the next mission.
Speaking of which, mission structure is defined by three different outgoings. Main missions move the story along and naturally come with the biggest set-pieces; side missions generally have you killing certain enemies, collecting items or participating in everyone’s favourite, escort quests; and EX missions are high level undertakings that reward you with the best equipment and materials in the game.
Every one of these missions is accepted from the Community Billboard, which is located in the centre of the main hub area. It’s here where you’ll engage in some bartering with the shopkeeper in order to purchase items, enhance and upgrade your weapons with the blacksmith, and take a rest in your bed back home which allows you to allocate skill points and improve your stats. The skill tree itself is fairly basic, but you feel the weight of its rewards during battle. Separated into three branches, you can choose to focus your points on the weapon your chosen character wields, their magical abilities, or bodily enhancements that improve HP and defences.
As well as that, there’s the core stats that make up your character. HP, stamina, physical defence, attack power, luck, and others can all be bolstered through stat points gained upon every mission success. These, in combination with skill allocation, give you the biggest opportunity to streamline the experience to your preferred playstyle. A number of abilities can be allocated to the D-pad to be used to take the advantage, for example Haul’s varied ammo types could poison enemies or even set them on fire, while Acress’ talent lies in transforming himself into an armoured knight that deals extra damage. All of these skills are fun to experiment with, but unfortunately they’re only having an effect on a combat system that is far simpler than itself.
If you were to liken FHUL’s combat to anything else, it would have to be a scaled-down version of a Musou game. A light and heavy attack are mapped to the face buttons and these two can be used in unison to perform some flashier moves, but besides that the general flow of a battle is based around spamming those buttons. This is fine in the early sections of the game, but as things progress, the difficulty begins to ramp up at an alarming rate which results in some battles feeling a little too unfair.
A variety of attacking options could have circumvented this, but with just a light and heavy attack at your fingertips and a few abilities on top, the game gets too frustrating far too quickly. This is then worsened even further by the complete lack of a checkpoint system during missions, meaning that dying at the final hurdle results in you having to play the entire level over again. It’s cheap, disheartening, and cruel.
As previously mentioned, this is a port of a PlayStation Vita title, and it most definitely shows. Even in docked mode, the overall presentation looks incredibly dated, with textures being the worst offender. They look pixelated and blocky, while the characters themselves don’t fare much better. Everyone has a faint black border around their model which does help them to stand out more, but other than to give them a bit of a presence, we don’t quite understand why it’s there at all.
Problems also arise in the translation for the game, with English taking the centre stage in text boxes while conversations are fully voiced in Japanese. The English translation is rife with spelling mistakes and grammatical issues, and while this is something we can look past for the most part, others may understandably take more of an issue with it.
The nature of Fantasy Hero ~unsigned legacy~’s mission based structure lends itself well to the pick up and play style of Nintendo Switch, but there’s nowhere near enough compelling content here to make it worth your time. A dull plot filled to the brim with typical JRPG tropes fails to give you much of an incentive to progress, while the combat itself is far too basic and at times punishingly difficult. This may have been a passable experience upon its original release, but in 2018, this port has little to offer.