Ports of mobile games making their way onto Nintendo platforms was once considered disgraceful, but as time passed and the phenomenon became more commonplace the discussion seems to have died off a bit. We like to think that the quality of mobile games has increased over the years, essentially eliminating the idea that cell phone games are inherently worse than those developed specifically for gaming consoles, but we know this isn't always true. Happy to put this theory to the test, Gamelion Studios has done the deed of bringing yet another of its mobile titles to the 3DS eShop, with the release of League of Heroes.
The goal in this game is to level up and become a hero by ridding the village of Frognest of its monstrous inhabitants. The plot doesn't go much deeper than “these people need help," but it doesn't take much to set the gameplay into motion. Once you're dropped into Frognest, how you go about everything else is entirely up to you. Throughout the game you will accept missions from villagers asking you to perform certain tasks such as slaying specific monsters or collecting bones, but it's all really just a matter of revisiting the same pre-designated maps over and over again to rid them of baddies. In this sense, the gameplay is reminiscent of a shallow version of Monster Hunter, providing an accessible entry point for younger gamers who might be interested in the series.
The missions don't actually advance the plot any further, and each provides very little variety beyond the type of creatures you'll encounter, but the levelling system is oddly addictive; as you gain experience and level up, new armour and weapons will become available to purchase. Reaching higher levels does not increase your character's stats, all of this is instead determined by the armour and weapons equipped. Levelling up also opens up new boss battles and allows you to purchase new skills with the money that you earn in battle.
The ability to upgrade your character through armour and weapons and learn new skills give League of Heroes the illusion of depth - and again brings Monster Hunter to mind - but in reality the gameplay all boils down to repeatedly jamming on the A button to slash at enemies until you win. It lacks substance for those gamers seeking it, but it does well to draw in those who are amused by the prospect of unlocking all of the equipment and upgrades.
Beyond the always-available missions and boss stages, new challenges generate every four hours. The inclusion of regenerating challenges based on the real-world clock is a smart way to keep players returning, but it's little more than a way to disguise and rebrand the same missions that pop up over and over again. There are never new tasks to complete, it's always just about hacking away until all of the monsters on the map are gone. We cannot stress enough that each level is, in fact, the exact same challenge that you are tasked with repeating.
If there's one thing that can be said about League of Heroes, it's that the gameplay is very accessible for players of any skill level. The basic plot and gradual increase in difficulty are complimented by a control scheme that takes little to no effort to master. Movement is controlled by the Circle Pad, attacks are linked to the A, X, and Y buttons, and menus are navigated via the touchscreen. Even as you level up and acquire new weapons and gear the controls remain exactly the same, circumventing the necessity to master a complicated control scheme or readjust each time a new skill is learned.
Despite the control scheme's simplicity, the action does not come without its flaws. The biggest issue as far as movement is concerned is attempting to attack while in motion - the Circle Pad allows your character the freedom to move at angles, but you are restricted to only attacking in the four cardinal directions. When approaching an enemy from an angle rather than straight-on, attacks will often miss entirely or send you careening past your target, leaving you wide open to harm. We suffered an embarrassing amount of deaths due to this faulty targeting system, but thankfully death means little more than being sent back to the village and restarting your mission from the beginning.
League of Heroes employs a cartoony art style that works very well in conjunction with its light-hearted take on the adventure genre. The adorable art coupled with an energetic soundtrack and humorous bits of voice acting makes for an irresistible aesthetic. There are some noticeable instances of slowdown in the frame rate, especially when the screen is busy with enemies, but this is more of a minor nuisance than a major concern.
The handheld console's ability to display images in 3D is put to use, but it is done in one of the most confusing and ineffective ways that we have seen yet. With the 3D switched on, the ground, environmental objects, and characters all have the illusion of occupying their own space – a useful effect that usually enhances this type of top-down gameplay – but something in the process has gone horribly wrong. Rather than layering the different elements to give the impression of depth, everything instead looks like it is floating above the ground. Once the 3D has been turned on, there is an immediate disconnect between the environment, your character and the background, creating a very disorienting display that is best left off. It's unfortunate that the 3D effect has been implemented so poorly, especially when the art is so colourful and crisp.
For anyone looking for a base-level hack and slash adventure, League of Heroes will suit just fine. It lacks depth and diversity in its gameplay, but it serves as a solid entry point for gamers interested in graduating onto heavier mission-based RPGs such as Monster Hunter. The levelling system is addictive and the aesthetic is charming enough to draw players in, but anyone looking for a substantial adventure will be severely disappointed.