There’s a charming little game that released this week in English courtesy of Xseed Games – Heroland, a game with some Mother 3 staff at the helm where you play as a lowly tour guide in a theme park based on adventures of being a Hero. It may not be the most graphically intense or ambitious game out there, but there’s a lot to love about the game, thanks to dialogue that’s bursting with personality coming from characters that range from instantly likable people to troublesome customers.
It’s easy to take one look at the premise and say, “Oh look. Another game that’s spoofing classic RPGs for cheap laughs and no originality.” Heroland does indeed lovingly poke fun at common tropes and conventions, but what makes Heroland work is that it’s essentially an attraction based on past events – there was a band of Heroes and a Dark Lord in the past, with one of the heroes even being deuteragonist Prince Elric’s father. This informs the perception of the park as not just some cheap knockoff, but an homage to ages past. Heroland exists in its own world only because the evil was defeated already.
Of course, Prince Elric (also nicknamed “18” for short) isn’t out to just have fun at Heroland. He’s here to reclaim his position as the crown prince and heir apparent to his father’s throne, and he’s here to defeat a dark lord of some sort at Heroland to prove himself, attraction be damned. The contrast between what the Prince says and shows compared to the premise that everything within the park is make-believe and non-lethal helps the humor hit its mark and not feel cheap.
Another thing I really enjoyed was that due to your status as an employee at Heroland, you get to interact with all the people behind the scenes. We meet the cast in places like the gift shop (which acts as the item shop for the player), and in each chapter, we get to listen in on the MonStar team talk about how they’re setting up to entertain guests via enemy encounter gimmicks. They even talk about their strategies, so that you, the tour guide, can lead the party through the dungeon tour more smoothly. In regular RPGs, these mooks or trash mobs would be personality-less, and exist only to feed EXP to the heroes. But the theme park setting once again allows for this kind of interaction without needing extra justification.
All of this is helped by the amount of thought that went into the game’s dialogue, which I can only imagine was a lot of fun to translate. It’s dripping with dry humor, references, wordplay, the works, with characters like the exposition fairy Lua surprisingly being the straight lady, while Prince Elric himself both references RPG conventions while believing in the sanctity of them. The characters are great by themselves, but this is in many parts thanks to having Heroland’s rather sincere theme park setting to work off of.
Heroland is available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and PC digitally. Physical copies can be acquired with the $49.99 Knowble Edition.