A first-timer's perspective on the strategy series.
If you haven't played any of Circle's Castle Conqueror games before, Heroes 2 may not be the best starting point. With little more than a brief introduction explaining the events that follow the last game, Heroes 2 launches you headfirst into challenge. Even in the very first practice mission, it is still way too easy to find yourself, bloodied and twitching, on the game over screen within a handful of turns.
This steep barrier to entry is dominant throughout the game’s first few missions. The level layout, narrative, and character interactions seem to rely on the player having completed the first Heroes game. The brief tutorials available also barely scratch the surface of the game’s mechanics and instead require some trial and error to grasp, even for those with strategy experience.
When you eventually work out the basics of the gameplay (e.g., grid colors on the map, weapon effectiveness, and important battle commands) there's a solid strategy game to be discovered. Missions often throw a surprise ambush or objective change at you just as victory is in sight, requiring forward planning and quick adjustment of your tactics. The ability to save at any time benefits the trial-and-error system often required to succeed in a mission, and gaining the upper hand in a particularly difficult battle is greatly rewarding.
The game’s graphics are simple but unobtrusive. The maps show the different landscapes well, and even from the tiny sprites it's easy to see what type of weapon each unit carries without having to hover over them and interpret their stats. Muddy portraits present the hero characters during dialogue segments, but for a DSiWare title they get the job done. However, the game’s bland dialogue makes it difficult to care about the storyline or the wellbeing of your team members, aside from the defeat you will suffer should any of them fall in battle. The music is generic and, at times, gratingly dissonant, with what sounds like off-key Indian pungi flute synth squawking over the battle grid as you prepare your attacks.
Heroes 2 is not the best DSiWare title available, but if you're hankering for some turn-based strategic battle planning action, it stacks up well enough, especially for those who can't yet play the new Fire Emblem.