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Here, Brevity is the Soul of 8-bit

Brave Hero Yuusha is a daydream of 8-bit RPGs, less a faithful recreation and more the way we remember it through nostalgia-tinted memories: Blocky sprites traverse familiar locales while cheery music chirps in our ears. It's retro gaming with the edges smoothed out, accessible to those who might find its classical inspirations a monotonous slog.

The story is fairly simple: A Hero, a Princess and a Demon Lord are unable to fulfill their roles when an outside presence invades their world. The narrative is framed as a fairy-tale and the characters are aware that their story repeats; indefinitely; the disruption has some torn over whether or not fixing everything is the right thing to do, a conflict mirrored by the secondary story of a young boy who gets too wrapped up in the tale of the Brave Hero for his own good. While the story never dives too deeply into moral conundrums or metafiction it does reach an optimistically satisfying conclusion: Stories of heroes matter, serving as inspiration to do good even if you aren't a Chosen One, and you shouldn't let your potential be limited by your insecurities or the role the world assigns you.

The characters are simple but likable, familiar archetypes with little twists to make them memorable: The princess flirts with the idea of ending of the world to change her role, the Demon Lord is a slightly awkward good guy who just wants some friends and the Brave Hero, speaking through occasional player-selected dialogue, is a teenager from a heroic lineage whose mother kicked him out onto a world-saving adventure without the chance to object. I would have liked to see more interaction between them and learned more about the party, but this is a short game and the quick progression left little time.

If I had one critique it would be the game's brevity: With a handful of locations and one sidequest you won't spend a lot of time on Brave Hero Yuusha, which you can finish in a single playthrough. In many ways this works in the game's favor: The encounter rate is good but could easily fall into the turn-based slog of longer JRPGs if the game weren't so short. Dungeons are well-made and visually distinct with a good amount of chests and puzzles or gimmicks (locked doors, climbable walls) for variety. The battle system, skills and equipment are immediately familiar to anyone who's played a JRPG and the relatively small pool of gear and skills streamlines combat. Enemy sprites are charming and even palette-swaps are often more than mere clones, their punny names driving home the lighthearted feel. In a fun twist that matches the game's themes, the Demon Lord gains all the healing spells and the Princess is the party's Black Mage.

The music is amazing if you love the sounds of classic RPGs; it took serious talent to create tracks which are so reminiscent of the classics yet, like the rest of the game, have enough of a modern sensibility to be a homage rather than a straight imitation. I particularly want to mention the title theme and the battle BGM, the latter especially important because you hear it so often; it fit perfectly and didn't grate after a few dozen battles.

Brave Hero Yuusha is obviously a labor of love, just the right length without overreaching. It's a well-made and unpretentious game that recalls the titles of yore while streamlining it for present-day audiences; there's no grinding, no wandering through identical hallways in search of a save point as enemies besiege you every third step. The humorous characters, lighthearted atmosphere and storybook aspect brought to mind Paper Mario and Super Mario RPG and the enemies (as well as the Puppeteer's story) made me think of Earthbound; I'd enjoy the chance to see them again and go deeper into the characters, especially Volza and his quest to make some friends who aren't also minions. I especially enjoyed this game as something of a palette-cleanser between longer and/or more serious games, as it was simple and straightforward without being banal. Whether you're feeling nostalgic for good old cartridges or don't get why people are so into those pixel blobs, I'd recommend giving Brave Hero Yuusha a chance for what it is: A short, sweet and charming foray into the past with just enough of a modern twist.


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Dang. It really means a ton that Yuusha is still getting played after all this time. I'm super glad you enjoyed it and thanks for the review! Hope you'll like the enhanced version too.
author=Sgt M

Looking forward to it! I debated waiting for the EX version but original and remastered versions can differ quite a bit, so I'm glad I reviewed this first-- Now I'll know to keep an eye out. The sample screens look great (I especially love the Paper Mario-esque remade spider) and I'm looking forward to the remixed OST.
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