Hero’s Realm is an 11-year-old game released in the Golden Age of RPG Maker Games, in my opinion. It’s a solid love-letter to the SNES RPGs of yore, with the main influences being very obviously Dragon Warrior III and Final Fantasy V. It’s currently undergoing floor-up commercial remake which I cannot help but be totally excited for, but this will be a screenshot Let’s Play of the 2009 original.
Notably, it’s known for featuring 4 main characters and 12 supporting characters with no personality, and classes that you choose yourself. All of them remain mute throughout the game. To make this LP a bit more fun for me, I’m going to give them all dialogue and characterization.
I will be showing off all the classes, as many of the sidequests as I can find, and just as much of the game as possible.
Dialogue: Normal text is text taken right from the game. Text in italics is characterization I have added myself.
Without further ado, please enjoy the opening movie of Hero’s Realm, by Kentona.
Hero’s Realm Chapter 1 Part 1: Won’t Somebody Please Think of the Children?
I always think of Helen Lovejoy when I see this. I’m 80% sure it’s intentional, as there’s another Simpsons reference in the game somewhere.
So we begin our story in a small hut in a forest.
Guard: “I have an urgent message from the King! There is a great crisis brewing in the kingdom, one that has all the citizen’s worried! Please, go talk to the King! We are in need of a hero!”
The screen fades out to give us an FF6 style bio of our first hero:
Meet Holdana! She’s quite obviously blue-haired Faris (this game uses quite a lot of repurposed FFV sprites) and she’s quite possibly one of the most useful characters in the whole game, but we’ll get to that later.
Guard: Please, Holdana, go talk with the King! Our country needs a hero!
Holdana: You need not repeat yourself.
Now that we have freedom, the guard sees fit to stroll around our hut for eternity. Now let’s get looting!
We find two Medicinal Herbs (basic recovery items) in the barrel and pot, and not much else. If we examine the mirror, we can some of the only dialogue programmed into the game for our heroes, though if I remember correctly it’s set so that the first person in your party is the one saying it:
Let’s head outside.
I really like this screen. While Holdana’s hut is nothing special to speak of really, you start to see instantly that the mapping in this game is pretty. There’s a style about it, and while simple and making liberal use of RTP (the graphics that come pre-loaded with RPG Maker 2003, something that often draws much hate from the community), it works really well.
Holdana: That’s me. I’ve been requested by the King personally this time.
Mother: If you happen to come across any Beast Tokens in your travels, seek out a Token Market. You would be able to trade it there. Take care of yourself.
Holdana: I always do.
You’ll notice a well on the right-hand side of the screen.
Every well in this game is explorable. This is where we start to see the Dragon Warrior/Dragon Quest influences in the game, as that series is known for having a lot of explorable wells.
This well has nothing of note. However, something does happen.
Our first fight! RPG Maker 2003 uses a classic Active Time Battle system, with characters taking turns as their Turn Gauges fill up.
When it’s our turn, we can use one of these options to dictate our characters actions. Holdana hasn’t learned any Magic yet, but she can use Pummel. After a turn of set-up, Holdana’s regular attack will hit multiple times after using it. This is useful for boss fights and fights against bulky enemies, but not so much at this point in the game where most enemies will be quite fragile. We one-shot this cute squirrel thing and get a handful of EXP and G (our currency) for our efforts.
Let’s head back up out of the well and go see the King!
Behold, the world map that you saw scrolling oh so slowly in the opening video! You can fight random encounters here, and you’ll want to be careful on this initial trek to the first goal on our travels, as you might find yourself ambushed, and that would be-
Holdana: Ah, sod.
This is bad. See how Holdana is on the left-hand side of the screen? We’ve been surprised! When surprised, our party starts off on the backfoot, with empty Turn Gauges. The enemy on the other hand gets to attack immediately, and the Bruin is a dangerous foe for our solo adventurer. It brought me one hit away from dying in this fight alone:
Quite a lot of damage to contend with at this point in the game, forcing me to heal with a Medicinal Herb already. Somewhat luckily, being surprised will mess with the formation of our party, sending frontline fighters into the back row and bringing back row-ers forwards. To simplify:
- Front Row: Characters will deal and take extra physical damage. Good for bulky fighters.
- Back Row: Characters will deal and take less physical damage. Crucial for squishies.
Anyway, it takes 3 hits to take the Bruin down, and we head triumphantly to our destination.
Not very far, at least.
As soon as we enter the castle town on the map (the name of which we will learn soon), we are approached by a soldier.
We are led west and north through the streets to the castle.
The music here is quite grand. Very ‘throne room-y. Speaking to the bearded man rewards us with this thrilling dialogue:
King: You must have heard the rumour that children across the land have been vanishing recently. The parents from Helminsk have come to me this morning in tears, begging for help. I cannot ignore this rumour any longer!
Holdana: Aye, your highness, that sounds terrible. Is there anything I can do to help?
King: Holdana, as our nation’s greatest tracker, please find the missing children!
Okay then, that seems simple enough. There are kidnapped children and we have to track them down. And lucky us, we already have a lead! Our first port of call seems to be Helminsk. Before that though, we need to recruit some friends.
Holdana: I’m going to need some staunch, brave allies if I’m to be saving these children! It must be done!
Before we head off, let’s loot this castle top to bottom.
Here we find a Life Acorn (increases an ally’s HP), along with a Medicinal Herb, a Warp Wing (an item that allows us to teleport to any town we’ve already visited) and 120G. And now for a secret…
By pressing SHIFT, our hero can search underfoot. In certain places, this will lead to finding secret items!
Our first Tiny Medal! Fans of Dragon Quest will know what these do, for all those in the dark, we’ll find more out about them next update.
The entrance hall of the castle is quite large, with plenty of interesting NPCs to talk to.
Ah, how retro. We can also save at any point on the World Map.
Here’s the first mention of the only organized religion in Hero’s Realm. It worships the goddess, and churches scattered throughout the game are one of the only ways to revive your fallen comrades, among other things. (Yes, another Dragon Quest hallmark).
Oh what must be going through her mind right now. Her husband to the north remarks that the King was very quick to let them stay at the castle – these must be the petitioners from Helminsk.
This door will remain locked to us for quite a long time, but the rewards behind it are worth the wait.
NPCs getting stuck in 1-tile-wide corridors is -always- frustrating.
Holdana: Right, so I should be searching to the north. That’s a good clue.
(The cat meows at you if you interact with it).
This guard tells us a bit about Paladins, one of the 12 classes we can choose for our allies (spoiler: we will not be using a Paladin in Holdana’s party). The stairs to the north of this dude lead to a tower where we can find the King’s old tutor.
My RPG senses tell me that we will definitely be searching this tower soon. Behind the tutor is a bookcase that hides an item.
Items pop up with a cute little animation when you pick them up. It’s not at all necessary but such a lovely detail that makes the game sparkle. This item is a Blaze Scroll, which allows a single use of the Blaze spell in battle. As you may guess, Blaze is a simple fire spell.
If we head back downstairs and to the right, we can enter the east wing of the castle and the prison, which allows us to collect some useful hints.
‘Thief’: Psst! By the way, I would watch out for the guy in the cell next to me… He only wakes up at night.
This is our first hint as to the day and night system, something we won’t worry about just yet. I’m eager to get on with meeting our new friends!
For the record, this is the only dialogue we can get with this dude at the moment.
The castle gardens to the north serves as a mini-tutorial area. You’ll find some information about what to do if your walking speed becomes bugged, how to search the ground and what the various status effects in the game do. I’ll just let you know about these things as we encounter them. Probably the only things of note in this screen as the obvious hidden item to the right and what the harlequin on the left has to say:
Holdana: I have heard that harlequins can also use magical tarot cards in battle, yes?
Harlequin: Yes! But you never know what a Tarot card will do until you use it!
We won’t be seeing tarot cards for a while. In the meantime, let’s go recruit some adventurers that can do some cool stuff!
That’s the barracks to the southeast of the castle entrance. Let’s head inside!
Another fine example of mapping. It’s definitely a barracks, I can say that much!
Registrar: Hail, Holdana! We’ve been waiting for you. Everyone has been abuzz with the news that you’ll be saving those kids!
Holdana: Aye. I’ll stop at nothing to rescue them. It sickens me that this was allowed to happen in the first place.
Registrar: We’ve got three of our best recruits all ready to sacrifice their liv- time to help you!
Holdana: Brilliant. Who are they?
Registrar: Ridcully! You’re up!
Ridcully: ‘lo, Holdana. Nice to meet you finally.
Holdana: It’s nice to meet you. We’ve not met have we?
Ridcully: Not as of yet, no. Mostly keep to myself in the wilds, you know? Far more peaceful, that way. Caught wind of this mess though, can’t be abiding those kiddies going missing.
Druids are a versatile class who can both heal and deal damage to enemies. They do both of these quite well, and poison spells are a highlight of their skillset for much of the game, where the status allows damage to rack up quite quickly. And extra healing is not to be sniffed at.
Holdana: You look like you know a spell or two.
Ridcully: I know two. Two spells is what I know. But it always pays to have a spell in your pocket. You won’t regret having me around.
Registrar: Oh, here comes the next lamb to the slaugh- volunteer.
Holdana: Robin! You’re coming? That’s some joy.
Ridcully: You know each other already?
Robin: I taught this firebrand everything she knows, and then some!
Registrar: That doesn’t make any sen-
Holdana: Full glad am I to have you with me. Tell me, are your old bones up to this?
Rangers are somewhat useful characters. They take influence from the Geomancers of Final Fantasy by having their skills come from the area they fight in, and we’ll explore this more as we fight with Robin in our party. They are also good with bows, which work just as well in the back row as the front row, which helps with the ranger’s survivability.
Robin: Bwahahaha, just you wait!
????: Isn’t someone going to introduce me?
Registrar: Ah, hmph, grrk.
Carlotta: Greetings. My name is Carlotta von Jermania. It is a pleasure to meet me, I am sure.
Holdana: Oh, hello. You look-
Carlotta: Yes, stunning, yes, beautiful, yes-
Shapeshifters are all about offence, and they can do that quite well. They are basically werewolf berserkers who can shift into a strong, rage-fuelled beast in battle. It can be dangerous to use them, as they lose control of themselves, but they are useful allies when faced with many weak enemies thanks to their strength and agility.
Carlotta: How perceptive of you. I suppose you are wondering why I, an obvious woman of breeding and nobility, is deigning to join you on your quest.
Ridcully: Not really, lass.
Carlotta: I shall tell you. It is a boring life, one without action. To never feel the turmoil of battle, to smell the blood of my enemies, it would be a travesty. I quit my home, and my rank, and now I find myself a hired hand. You are impressed, no?
Robin: What an uptight lassie. Come on. Let’s see if there’s bite to your bark. Holdana? We off?
Holdana: (Perhaps I would have been better off going alone…).
So this is our party for Chapter 1! It’s high on the offence, and Ridcully has decent healing powers to carry us through the early parts of the game where it counts. Additionally, Robin will have some good utility through the wide-range of skills he gets as part of his Nature skill, such as backup healing in the forests.
Next Update: We explore Stromholm and get to know our party!