Non-linear JRPGs are my jam. The systems within the genre allow me to take on an adventure how I see fit, and there are reasons to play again for new endings. However, I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything like the Pyramid-developed Hero Must Die Again. This is a game that requires not only multiple playthroughs, but also a player who doesn’t mind a little frustration when it comes to a unique experience.
Hero Must Die. Again begins at the end. The hero of our adventure is about to face off against the demon lord in an epic battle. You’re all-powerful in this fight with the most robust equipment and items at your disposal. The battle ends with a blast, and you die. With the demon king destroyed, the region is restored to peace. However, their hero has been sent to heaven.
While this might be the end of the adventure for some games, Hero Must Die. Again doesn’t end here. The hero is given a second chance from a helping angel. He will have five days to find the love of his life, who he’s lost of memory of, and tie up any loose ends. The only downside of this is that at the end of the five days, he will die once again. It’s probably impossible to do everything you have to in five days, but luckily some progress does transfer over after the angel gives you an additional five days each time you die.
How the player spends their time once they are revived is up to them, but everything you do will run the clock down, this includes exploring and traveling through one place to the other. Your first five days will most likely be a trainwreck. As time depletes, the hero becomes weaker. This reverse effect requires the player to slowly equip more inadequate equipment as the hero loses power and abilities. It sounds strange, but it makes sense within the context of the narrative. Luckily for players, the angel gives
One playthrough can last anywhere from an hour to five hours, depending on how you spend your time. To get through everything, I would say seven playthroughs are required to get the true ending. Each time you die, you can watch your funeral where everyone you met or helped during your five days will show up and let you know how you did. It’s a way not only to see your progress but also understand what you’ve completed with five days.
The game loop, as addictive as it is, can be rather frustrating at times, given the haphazard nature of the characters and events. Some events are just random and don’t always trigger the same during each playthrough. This makes it extremely tough to plan your routes when starting a new life because you can’t anticipate the random nature of the game. You’ll return to dungeons many times across playthroughs, even though their theme changes that are all pretty much the same.
Spending time getting lost and figuring out what you can do each route is a good use of your time during the first few lives, but you’ve got to be ready for anything thrown at you. It’s possible to run into a secret boss during your last days alive, which means you’ll be extremely weak and will probably die in one hit. However, it’s possible to add new characters to your party who will significantly help you. These characters each have a story and a reason for joining your short cause. They definitely add a layer of charm to the narrative that keeps each playthrough interesting.
These characters can also be given gifts to increase your relationship with them if you want to settle down and possibly romance someone. However, romance in the game is tied to the mission structure, so you’ll have to manage your time if you really have your eye set on the heroines. Each route focuses on a new heroine, but since finding the love of your life is your true mission, you’ll have to keep trying until that’s completed. The conclusion is a surprise and definitely made my time navigating the world well worth it.
The battle system is turn-based, where characters can take actions to attack or use magic. Throughout each life, battles become more difficult as your hero becomes weaker. With the addition of other characters, it’s possible to get through most of the grunt interactions, but bosses will always pose a problem.
If the hero falls, it’s a 6-hour penalty, but thankfully, some items avoid battle and even send you out of dungeons. This is all information that you won’t understand during your few lives, but everything helps when you are trying to save as much time as possible.
The narrative of Hero Must Die. Again is extremely good and delivered in small, easy-to-digest bites. The quests are easy to understand, but since you’ll be playing the game multiple times, you’ll also be reading the same conversations over and over again. As you get closer to the true ending, everything you have done up to the final encounter comes together for a satisfying conclusion.
The 3D graphics aren’t anything that will blow you away, but they fit the game’s theme perfectly. During the dialogue, character illustrations are each unique, and the possible love interests are adorable. Being a game developed for Vita, Hero Must Die. Again looks and runs great on PC. I should also mention that Kenji Ito composed the soundtrack for the game, and it’s brilliant.
Hero Must Die. Again is a unique non-linear JRPG that takes chances on players being capable of learning and navigating through its systems, without much handholding. Each playthrough enables the player to become more capable of handling whatever the game throws at them, even if that comes at the cost of dying multiple times.
The problem is how the game keeps the player organized, which is the hardest thing to do, considering events are somewhat random. Still, this is a game that I’m glad came west as it is pretty much comfort for food for fans of the genre that some huge chances on game design that pay off in the long run.
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