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Two Old-School Adventures For The Price Of One!

This review took a while to write. I beat the first half of this game months back, and only just completed the second half on the day I'm writing this review. My two cents about this game is long overdue. Kain*Works has a great game on his hands, and I feel his works have gone underappreciated in RM communities. He's not one to pop on often here on RMN, and I don't know if he's active anywhere else. At the time of my writing this, only his game Flesh has gotten any notice here.

Luckily, I like reviewing games that no one else has. Even more lucky, I also like the old-school Wizardry games that Heroic Tale is inspired by. ;3

The Story Heroic Tale "VALUE!"...?
Indeedle! Rather than explain the simple story to this game, I may as well explain what's meant by "VALUE!" in this game. See, Kain had already created a game called Heroic Tale back in '18 that, as this one has, mostly flew under the radar. Twas his first game and as such, VALUE(!) is its definitive version. Not unlike the first three Wiz games, there is a second adventure that the first scenario can influence. And vise-versa! Lemme explain.

Kain used some of RM2k's eventing sorcery to let players carry over Talari, the game's currency, from one scenario to the other. Near the end of one scenario, the player can sell unused equipment to a fairy and accumulate extra Talari. Clear an adventure, and you're returned to a "scenario select" screen and the Talari Shop. Use the fairy dosh to buy permanent stat boosts for the next run! This replicates carrying character stats over from say, Wiz1 into Wiz2, but it also allows for a New Game+ if you wanna replay a scenario!

Because HTV(!) has both the original game, its sequel and the between-runs shop, it's got quite the VALUE(!), no? it's also a shoutout to the "VALUE!" updates of RPG Maker 2000, which I believe the official English translation on Steam is based off? But anyway. This game has two retro RPGs for the price of one, which for me is $0.00 USD! Maybe the cost of having an internet connection too. Whatever. :p

The Gameplay
One of the crowing achievements that sets Heroic Tale apart from other games is how it obscures each map with shadowy tiles. Each map has winding hallways that can all be seen on one screen, sectioned off by doors and passageways. You don't run into on-screen encounters, but random ones are triggered by the shadow squares. When you step onto each obscured tile, it is Event Erase'd from the map, and stays gone until you re-enter that specific room. The shadows can also hide treasure chests which can contain consumables, equipment, key items and even spellbooks for specific characters.

Each scenario has a different party each. Each time you unlock a new character, their unique skillsets can be used to unlock the next part of a dungeon. The original adventure stars...
  • A hero that attacks twice per turn, wielding a sword
  • A warrior with an axe who hits all enemies in one attack
  • A mage that can sling fireballs and uses a cantrip-shooting wand
  • A cleric that brandishes a mace and can heal the team


Pretty bog-standard RPG faire, right? Well the bonus scenario has...
  • A monk with fisticuffs and healing ki powers
  • A thief who gets no skills, but is vicious with dual-wielded knives
  • A pirate with a cannon that can blast all foes, who has ice magic to start
  • An elven ranger with a bow, able to use chain armor, and can cast a fireball and a healing spell


The gameplay is absolutely the main focus of Heroic Tale VALUE(!). Both scenarios only take place in their dungeons. There is no shop, other than the late-game ones to sell excess loot and get Talari. The only way forward is to go spelunking through the darkness, fighting monsters and even bosses that suddenly strike from the shadows. With each baddy defeated, you're likely to get not only healing items but also equipment now and then. Stat boosts are tight, but begin to add up after a while.

And overall it's all the better for it. Though there are fights one can slog through, boss fights and new enemies are ones where I have needed to slow down and assess the situation. Though status ailments aren't easily thrown onto the players, they are hard to ignore when your heroes are affected. It's notable that there are no revival items either -- if a character drops in a fight, they stay down until you win or flee, and only then do they come back at 1 HP. When facing off with a boss that blindsides you (as they appear on certain shadowy panels with no warning, just like treasure or the boss's minions), you really have to be careful.

Luckily the gameplay is intuitive and a fair challenge. I'd heard the idea of limited equipment and skills in RM games being like chess pieces before, and HTV(!) couldn't be a better example. It's a puzzle of deciding when to attack, when to cast spells, and when to use items. There are moments where I'd legitimately had to use the Guard command, especially as a character who gets KO'd is dead weight for the rest of the fight. It's this sort of tight gameplay that forces you to keep advancing, while also keeping your wits about you, that I adore for this tale of heroic value.

Quirks Of Note
Trying to keep a structure to my reviews has been a pain. Paging over my notes, there's stuff I wanted to add for weal, woe and everything in-betwixt. So here goes.
  • If y'all didn't know, Kain*Works has a certain... aesthetic to his gameplay. Let's just say the name of the basic fireball spell is uhhh... on the nose. I think. Kinda. This is awkward, but you'll get it when you see the spell name? Let's say this instead. As a pansexual, transgender and probably aromantic individual myself though, I kind of adore how much boy love is in this game. It ain't to Cho Aniki levels of homoerotic silliness, but you likely get the idea from that comparison alone. :p
  • The item which removes spell-sealing Curses and turn-skipping Paralysis? Kinda got stockpiled late-game in both scenarios by me.
  • Boss battles don't mess around, but it's not hopeless if a hero gets dunked on. The monk got KO'd in the second-to-last boss fight of the bonus scenario, and the pirate fell against the final boss. But I pulled through in the end.
  • Keep your eyes peeled for chests in the original scenario's final dungeon. There are powerful spells for your mage and cleric there, and I missed the mage's spell. Didn't know I did till I asked Kain about it privately.
  • The game uses 8-bit-style graphics and sounds based around RPG Maker 2000's default RTP assets, including custom monsters and battle backdrops. They all turned out wonderful!
  • Lastly, I dig how the Bonus Scenario innovated on the base game! I found the magic-users couldn't spam damaging spells, so it became a tactical choice of keeping their MP fresh. And let's just say, I like how the dungeon's different floors are accessed and presented. ;3
  • What few nitpicks I have are as such. Some of the writing is funky, but not nearly enough to detract from the experience. Kain appears to be Japanese (not sure), so I assume English isn't his first language. If you re-enter the spots in the Bonus Scenario where you enter new floors after you clear them, you'll be transported back and have to fight your way out again. Or revert to an earlier save. Whichever. Some fights are indeed slogs but hey, this is a JRPG. It happens.


Overall Thoughts
At about two hours total of gameplay (I think), Heroic Tale is certainly worth its VALUE(!). Yes, I'm still doing that running gag this late into the review. The adventures within are focused on tight gameplay that nudges you along, eager to see what lies in the next patch of dark and the dim halls beyond. It's challenging but not unfair, balanced without coddling you.

For those unaware the Wizardry series helped inspire the grandfather of JRPGs, the Dragon Quest series, alongside Ultima. HTV(!) is clearly made with JRPG-making software, but still retains that feel of delving down dark and labyrinthine corridors to find treasure, beat baddies, and get closer and closer to the finale. Often your best stuff is gained by slaying monsters specifically, not from chests. Not unlike old-school Dragon Quest before it, Heroic Tale VALUE(!) does well to translate its core inspirations into a simplified but tight experience.

As with many games I review, I feel it's a travesty that the original and its definitive release have flown under the radar for so long. Find the time to adventure as these lightly-dressed heroic lads, and you shall not be disappointed. <3

Posts

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Oh, WHOA! *_*

Thank you so, so much for taking your time to write such a lengthy and meaty review!! It was such an interesting reading! Considering you were the first person ever to comment on the game in here, way back to 2018, it's like things have come full circle, in a sense! hahah

I chuckled hard at the "Cho Aniki" mention dropping! That's legit, I think... to be honest I never had a clear idea where that uh... "aesthetic" was going. Right now, I just have fun and go along with it. At the end it's just meant to be "amusing" rather than... uh, anything else!

I also wholeheartedly agree with the "funky writing". Occasional grammatical incorrections aside, I tried, in a way, to follow those early Japanese-to-English translations from the 8bit/early-16bit era for that extra "cheese", but considering my "writing skills" will never get me any awards, perhaps it was a silly choice to begin with, but ahh...! What's done it's done!

As always, thank you really for your support during all this time!! Needless to say, it has become a huge help on those high and specially low times, and for that I can't be anymore grateful!
AtiyaTheSeeker
In all fairness, bird shrapnel isn't as deadly as wood shrapnel
4489
Not a problem, Kain. I'm elated that this review put a spring in your step. I'd say not to worry about your style, nor the writing. I can see the comparsions drawn between janky Japanese-to-English translations back when, and that had not occurred to me when I played. But I can totally see that when you mention it. Regardless, the text quirks weren't nearly enough to detract from the gameplay experience, nor a perfect score for this review. ;3

And yeah, your style for the game's characters and baddies are pretty fun and unique! I know my own aesthetic can boil down to "LGBT+ furries as minorities with personal problems", lawl. Believe me, I love your pixel art style and the character designs.

Thanks for giving this review a look. And many, many thanks for giving us this game, both the original and bonus scenarios. <3
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