Heroine Anthem ZERO Review
Release Date: February 27th, 2018
Developer: Windthunder Studios
Platforms: PS4 (Reviewed), PC
Price: $12.99 (PS4), $9.99 (PC)
Who sang the song that calmed the seas? Heroine Anthem ZERO is a stunning game that has lots of great qualities about it and gets you interested from the get-go of it’s adventure, thanks to it’s captivating art and score that caresses your ears and eyes and makes you feel warm all around. While the adventure at its core is a delight, the mechanics and gameplay of Heroine Anthem ZERO unfortunately diminish the experience and ultimately leaves more frustration than pleasure.
Heroine Anthem ZERO has you traverse the lands of Terasyr with the Forest Keeper Wanin (who's one of many), a young guru who's in charge of making sure the Forests of Terasyr contain balance and tranquility, protecting it from any potential threat that may arise, and is joined by a girl named Shama and other characters that you'll meet throughout the game once species and races begin to go to war as the World Tree withers. More unfolds as you start to uncover all the evil and decay that begins to overtake the world, and as you go you'll be fighting a multitude of enemies and bosses that will prove challenging but rewarding, each with a distinct look, feel, and story behind them that makes their contribution to the story matter rather than being an obstacle or filler like some games do. Unfortunately, while the audio and visual experience is fantastic on all fronts, the battles you have to endure throughout aren't problematic due to their difficulty, but because of the poor execution and floaty feel.
The game has a sidescrolling presentation that works for what it tries to do, but between all the odd resolution mishaps, flickering, and combat, it feels like it was intended as a mobile game first and that actual physical controls and consoles were an afterthought. The combat is flashy, which is always a plus in my book, but it does have a flash-game style approach, where every limb feels dissected from its position and moves on its own. The controls are intuitive, however, and doin a bunch of combos and the like are easy to execute. Over time you can upgrade attacks to do more damage and initiate new combos learned along the way, and it's a straightforward system where basically one move will lead to the next without branching paths making things confusing. Heroine Anthem's biggest draw in helping everything come together is massively attributed to its clean UI and menu system. Much like the game's visuals, the menus are also beautiful to look at and do well to give a sense of uniqueness to the overall palette of the game, without making it stick out too much with basic font some other games suffer from.
Heroine Anthem ZERO gives players a hefty 10 hour campaign that's a pleasure to view, but because it isn't set up in levels and is basically one gigantic hallway, the sidescrolling nature kind of takes away from truly enjoying it in a wholesome way. Checkpoints are few and far between, and while there are save points disguised as scrolls at camps you'll pass through periodically, it can feel like a chore by the end of it all as you'll mostly just be slashing your way as you go right. This isn't to say anything bad about sidescrolling games - they've arguably given us some of the best games ever made and I love the genre - but there comes a point where you just want to take a breather, and in camps there isn't much to do outside of that, so you're left doing everything on the fly rather than, as an adventurer would, plotting out a correct course and strategizing to have the most favorable outcome. It becomes easier to go to place to place after a while to get collectibles and what not, but they're so little and insignificant it can all be safely ignored.
Heroine Anthem ZERO has a lot of qualities about it that keep it a game worth looking at, but that's where it kind of ends at the moment - is simply looking at it. With stunning visuals and a great score, you're treated to a wonderful audio and visual experience that has a unique flair and makes it genuinely stand out against other "anime" games, but the core experience through its gameplay and other technical issues makes it a title that may be fun to look at, but not to play. The story, character development, and world are well crafted and keep you engaged when dialogue is being engaged and short cutscenes occur, but once that's gone you're reunited with this feeling of "well, here we go I guess", as if to go back to a tedious experience that's not entirely rewarding, but not one that mistreats you either - much like a job that adequately puts food on the table, but is a chore to get through and possibly a threat to your mental health. It's an experience that'll take you anywhere from 8-10 hours to complete, which all things considered is a great length considering this is a budget Indie RPG, but you're left with a heavy sense of emptiness as you walk away from a game that was equal parts memorable and forgettable. It's been a while since I've played a game where I've been so conflicted with how to feel, but knowing that there are more episodes potentially on the way gives me hope to see an overhaul that does a game like this justice instead of being a discount Dragon's Crown or Grand Kingdom. Problem is, although its PS4 release was recently, Heroine Anthem ZERO released on PC back in 2016. I'm not sure what's taking so long for the next episode, but leaving it in a situation where we have to wait years instead of months (like Telltale) for a game that could have a rather big following, although niche, will leave it stranded in the darkness as more and more games come out every month and year and will lose its overall structure in storytelling and investment from its players. If done right, however, Heroine Anthem ZERO has a bright future ahead of it.
- An incredible audio and visual experience with beautifully crafted art and a complementary score to enhance the emotional experience
- The story is a grand adventure that brings the world and its characters to life
- The UI is very clean and looks great
- Audio is heavily compressed and ruins the polish of what is otherwise good sound design
- The game can get very blurry on occasions and does not have a suitable resolution
- Has a "flash game" style of animation during gameplay that looks and feels dated
- Combat is repetitive and uninspired, and the first hour or so is rather boring to play through
A big thank you to Windthunder Studios and Shanghai Wishing Entertainment Limited for sending us a review copy of Heroine Anthem ZERO