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Simply put, Hero's Realm is possibly the best RPG Maker game ever made.

-=INTRODUCTION=-



In my own experience, no RPG Maker game has excelled in all three major elements of entertainment: gameplay, presentation, and story. However, many have tried to encompass all three -- without success. A Blurred Line and Three the Hard Way delivered excellent storylines and intuitive battle systems that made optimal use of the 2000 DBS, but both failed to deliver in the mapping department. Legend of the Philosopher's Stone featured wonderful mapping and a customized interpretation of the ATB system, but suffered from a dull character-driven storyline. Some games, such as The Way, deliver reasonable wins in each department, but ultimately leave me wanting more. The list of examples is quite long.

The ultimate piece of entertainment would be perfect in all three of these aspects, but there are entire genres that focus on only one or two. Movies and plays are all about presentation and story. Books, for their part, are simply about story. Older video games are, not surprisingly, all about the gameplay. Thus, it is very possible to create a masterpiece without even including one (or more) of the Big Three Aspects. There are some exceptions -- one cannot have a good game without good gameplay, for instance. Many RPG Maker designers try to knock all three categories out of the ballpark, but they usually end up spreading their work too thin or just giving up.

Hero's Realm, on the other hand, manages to dodge this issue entirely by overlooking a deep story in favor of deep gameplay and tight presentation. In Hero's Realm, the player's quest is simple: guide silent protagonists in a quest to vanquish evil demons. The focus on a multifaceted, old-fashioned battle system and flawless use of RTP chipsets eliminates the need for a deep story, and thus makes Hero's Realm slightly better than most of the above games.


-=GAMEPLAY=-



Two words describe the gameplay of Hero's Realm: old school. Put Final Fantasies 4, 5, and 6 into the blender -- as well as some of the less annoying aspects of Dragon Quest games -- and you'll have the foundation for this game.

Hero's Realm runs on the DBS (Default Battle System), though it does so quite optimally. Most monster parties are loaded with dozens of pages of script, ranging from battle command executions to special item consequences to counterattacks. There is a wide variety of classes from which to choose, ranging from pure magic casters to Edgar-style engineers to Spoony-style Bards. Many classes have one or two secondary abilities, such as Tools, Magicombo, or Throw. Some classes are pretty bland, such as the White and Black mages; however, they boast vastly different skill sets, rendering them both extremely useful in certain situations.



Enemies and bosses are well balanced and rarely annoying, even in the second half of the game when the quest becomes nonlinear. Speaking of which, there are literally dozens of optional areas and even a few opportunities to sequence break. Players should always keep their eyes open for out-of-the-way houses, shrines, and caves, as some of these serve as substantial treasure troves. Moreover, there are quite a few optional quests in these areas as well as in towns, and most offer some sort of reward.

Some optional rooms and dungeons require a magical key that cannot be obtained until halfway through the game. It can be pretty agonizing when you know that there is a powerful sword or staff waiting on the other side of a sealed door in the very first town! That, my friends, is a classic old-school mechanic, and something that should be in every single RPG.

The opening chapters of Hero's Realm center on the struggles of four individual parties. These chapters are fairly linear, though each offers some sort of sidequest or optional dungeon crawl. When the four groups converge in Chapter 5, all hell breaks lose; nearly half of the world is explorable from the onset of this chapter, and the rest quickly becomes available after a few short quests. The world map is the largest I've ever seen; players can be assured that there are plenty of places to explore once the heroes join together and gain access to vehicles.

Hero's Realm also features some unique twists, despite being an old-school romp. To begin with, virtually every dungeon in chapter 5 features at least one puzzle that requires management of all four parties. Unlike Final Fantasy VI, however, these parties and can not be intermixed, so players must choose their classes wisely from the onset. The game also features a very interesting sequence in Chapter 5, in which the parties must activate and pilot a colossal statue to clear a path to their next goal. Lastly, Kentona was kind enough to include a collector's quest, in the form of 100 "Tiny Medals" that can be found in pots, barrels, or treasure chests. Speaking of which, almost -everything- in this game can be searched for items, including the ground! I wish the ground search feature was more useful, but oh well!

I could continue listing examples from the game, but that would spoil the experience. In short, gameplay in Hero's Realm centers on exploration and classic ATB fighting, without the annoying pitfalls. 4.5 out of 5.


-=PRESENTATION=-



The music selection in Hero's Realm is excellent; there was not a single track that annoyed me. Most of the battle themes were fast-paced and fitting, though some of the bigboss themes were conservative choices and slightly underwhelming. The penultimate battle in particular featured a wonderful theme that truly made me feel like I was fighting a demon on the verge of being reborn. Additionally, most of the sound effects were taken from classic RPGs -- a nice touch.

Most of the character and monster sprites are taken from the SNES-era Final Fantasies and Dragon Quests. The character sets are small, but Kentona compensated for this by creating smaller houses, doors, and castles.

The mapping is nothing short of fantastic. As I said, the world map, while somewhat straightforward in its arrangement of the various tiles, is intricate and massive. Some of the continents feature peninsulas and coves that resemble real-life areas, like Italy and Scandinavia. Almost all of the maps are strictly RTP, though Kentona has made slight color edits to some tiles. Kentona's strength as a mapper is his towns: each town is creatively designed and meticulously detailed. Most towns have a few gimmicks, such as shallow canals, explorable outskirts, or passable rooftops.

Sadly, some of the dungeons are a little on the bland side. Although they may feature a decent amount of obstacles and paths, many of the caves are overly blocky and maze-like for my tastes. Some of the tower dungeons are a little bare and inconsistent, but this is a fairly minor and vague nitpick. Overall, the mapping in Hero's Realm is a showcase to the potential of the RTP.

Thanks to the clever combination of RTP and SNES graphics, as well as the consistent and fitting musical selection, I am compelled to give the presentation of Hero's Realm a 4.5 out of 5.


-=STORY=-


I will keep this section short: in Hero's Realm, you assume control of sixteen silent protagonists in their quest to stop the rebirth of Mephistocles, an evil demon. Along the way, the characters will be forced to rescue children, spar with recurring subordinates, fight in a rigged tournament, save a city from a corrupt ruler, gather seven legendary artifacts, quell a massive sandstorm, sail the seven seas, assist in the construction of a cutting-edge airship, investigate the mysteries of a lost civilization, and pwn Mephistocles. Simple enough, right? There is no need to assign a score to this category, as Kentona does not even attempt to create a deep story; he was merely interested in giving the player an excuse to romp through the next dungeon while having fun.


-=CONCLUSION=-


I was extremely impressed with Hero's Realm. As a matter of fact, this is the game that got me back into RPG Makering; since I started playing HR, I have been working on a similar game called Legend of Denadel, and I have even rekindled my interest in the Carlsev Saga trilogy. My hat is off to Kentona: he knows how to combine aspects of the classics to make his own classic. 4.5 out of 5.

Do you want a bigger taste of Hero's Realm before you play it? Check out my Let's Play:

Posts

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kentona
One of RMN's Top 10 Admins of all-time
20511
Thanks for the review (and the Let's Play)! I'm glad you liked the game enough to put so much time into it and a series of videos.
This review is very well written, but I don't really like it.

It sounds to me like you love this game so much that you tried making every single aspect of the game, whether it's good or not, look like a huge quality. You have every right to love the game, and it's good that you do, but... apparently it makes you lack objectiveness in what you say.

Although I'm referring to many points of your review, there is one in particular that annoys me the most:

No RPG Maker game -- or any RPG, for that matter -- has been able to properly capture all three major elements of entertainment: gameplay, presentation, and story. (...)

The ultimate piece of entertainment would excel at all three of these aspects (...)

Hero's Realm, on the other hand, manages to dodge this issue entirely by completely eliminating the need for a riveting story. In Hero's Realm, the player's quest is simple: guide silent protagonists in a quest to vanquish evil demons.


You're basically saying that Hero's Realm excels at the story, and that is silent heroes killing demos.

It's like saying that you can make an awesome game dodging the issue of a good gameplay by not having any gameplay at all. Or that you can dodge the presentation issue by making a text adventure.

I mean... come on. Let's not go that far.

Last but not least, I don't understand how come you praise this game so much but don't give it 5 stars. People should be less hesitant in giving 5 stars when they love a game so much.
His kind of phrasing is indeed quite weird at some points e.g. right here:
No RPG Maker game -- or any RPG, for that matter -- has been able to properly capture all three major elements of entertainment: gameplay, presentation, and story.

First of all I doubt that you have played either all RPGs or RM games out there, and secondly it is an opinion and you state it as if it is a fact.
Solitayre
Circumstance penalty for being the bard.
18062
Reviews are always opinions and Deckiller is entitled to his. A similar fallout happened when Stress posted his review claiming that the writing in games was always awful, but here the reviewer has posted his thoughts in a far more reasonable manner. That said, I do feel there are games that do all three pretty well, but that does nothing to diminish how good I think this game is. Don't feel bad, Deckiller, people get antsy around here when ABL is cited as a poor example of something. I think this review is quite good overall, and I really admire your perseverance to Let's Play such an enormous game.
Deckiller
Just a random RMNer once again.
18122
Haha, I don't feel bad in the least. I assume people will read the review knowing that everything is opinion, not fact. I assume that when I say "nothing has ever...", people will assume it's me saying nothing -I- have ever played/read/etc. I think I should clarify so I don't come across as arrogant.

Calunio, what I was saying is that you can make an awesome piece of -entertainment- without all three aspects. And that's why my favorite games tend to focus on one or two aspects, and not all three. Deacon, you're right; maybe some of the phrasing is a bit overly flattering, and that overshoots the points I was trying to make.

I was probably a bit too bold with my opening statement; I probably should have said "very few". I think that's the only real issue people are having here.
Deckiller
Just a random RMNer once again.
18122
I made some edits to the introduction of the review, to reflect your feedback. They were errors on my part.
kentona
One of RMN's Top 10 Admins of all-time
20511
comment=31308
Last but not least, I don't understand how come you praise this game so much but don't give it 5 stars. People should be less hesitant in giving 5 stars when they love a game so much.
I would not object to this being a 5 star review.

;D
It should be. People appear to consider 5 stars to be an hypothetical rating.

Hero's Realm is possibly the best RPG Maker game ever made


And it's 4.5?
So... what could be a 5?
Deckiller
Just a random RMNer once again.
18122
A game with absolutely zero flaws, I guess.
Oblic
Once a member of RMN, always a member of RMN!
1752
I have come up with ONE game that is possibly better than this game made with RPG Maker (XP I think, so I don't know if it counts in your argument). "Last Scenario" was SOOOOO epic, that I think it edges this game out by a bit of a margin. Granted, I love this game for several reasons and have played it a few times, but Last Scenario had a little extra that made it a bit better. It was on here (I think) but it can now be found on Google fairly easily.

Sorry if this isn't kosher; let me know if it's not...

Either way, this game has made a lasting mark on my opinion of how games should be made with RPGMaker. I'm glad kentona made the effort that he did to make it!

I believe calunio raised some good points here and this is a good opportunity to point out how much RMN's game ranking system can be biased because of the possibility of a game's rank being based on anyone's subjective experience of it.

The main downside would be the impact on that game's visibility and advertising. I suppose a poorly ranked game would gather much less attention, new downloaders and new comments on how to improve it than a highly ranked one, even if both games would be objectively equal in quality.

I suppose the best way to ensure objectivity would be to review a game according to a mandatory and adopted by majority guide that clearly defines what are a game's components and how quality is measured in each of these components.
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