Developed by WindThunder Studios Published by Winking Entertainment Reviewed on PlayStation 4 (also available on Steam, Humble Bundle)
Heroine Anthem Zero: Episode 1 is the first of the Heroine Anthem series to release outside of its native Taiwan – as a prequel no less. It’s journey first started on PCs in 2002 and has finally made it’s way to consoles and PCs in the west. Heroine Anthem Zero is a 2D hack-n-slash platformer, like its brethren Odin Sphere or Castlevania. Much of the basics of hack-n-slash platforming is preserved, keeping things basic but well polished. Boss fights are balanced to be staunch road blocks in your path, keeping you from mashing your way through fights.
As the story opens up, Heroine Anthem Zero has you exploring a nordic-inspired land, Terasyr. Wanin Sarem, a Forest Keeper of the Uzato Tribe, is the protagonist of our story. Before you even step foot in the village, Wanin discovers a forest guardian going wild, requiring you to put it out of its misery. Very clearly, your cast takes note that something has upset the balance in the world of Humans and Fae. Upon reaching the village, Wanin and group of friends are tasked with escorting the “Heroine of Engora Valdraken”: his sister Naire Sarem. As Heroine of Engora Valdraken, leader of a ritualistic festival the Star Ark Festival, Naire is burdened with a task held once every 66 years.
The fighting mechanics in this episodic adventure game are kept simple for the sake of brevity. Platforming mechanics like double jumping and dashing are about as complex as movement gets. Attacks are limited to three hit combos, but also include mechanics like a kick to break guards. Power ups in the world can level up your character’s base attacks, adding animations that persist and do more damage or increase combo damage in general. Mormolia the faerie can also be used as an assist attack, dealing damage and stunning bosses with the trade off being a small delay between attacks.
Visually, Heroine Anthem Zero strikes a careful balance between old-school pixel art and more modern day visuals. Pixel art and portraits both emote to various degrees, adding life to the art. Characters like Mormolia the faerie will flit between the foreground and background in scenes, giving illusion that the world is deeper than the 2D it’s portrayed in. Environments are full and vibrant, with various critters moving around.
Musically is where Heroine Anthem Zero feels at its weakest. Much of the soundtrack feels too ambient to incite reaction while playing. A few of the tracks do stand out, but one would hope more of the soundtrack would catch your ears. There is Japanese voice acting for most of the cast, which does a good job of adding more emphasis to the character’s words.
Overall, Heroine Anthem Zero feels like an anticipatory first western release. The future of this series’ success is dependent on good reception for the localization and console port of this series as well as post-launch support from the developers.