The PlayStation Vita has allowed a ton of indie developers to showcase smaller titles and has helped games find an audience. Mystery Chronicle: One Way Heroics from Spike Chunsoft falls nicely into this category, as it will appeal to the JRPG crowd, the roguelike dungeon crawling crowd, and possibly even the Spelunky crowd. It is a mix of these three genres that meshes in an odd but satisfying way that is perfect for quick, on-the-go playthroughs, but also for the hardcore and the loot-crazed as well.
Mystery Chronicle: One Way Heroics is technically a spin-off of the Mystery Dungeon series. If you’re a fan of the series, you can tell pretty much right away due to the tone and feel of the game. It is also based on a free-to-play game of the same subtitle that was released in Japan a few years ago that dealt with the same mechanic of moving from left to right with forced scrolling.
So yes, the gist of the game is that you’re a warrior sent to save the world from an unrelenting threat called the Shine Raid, which is this wall of light on a slow but devastating path. To stop it, you have to destroy the one who created it; an evil Fallen Angel called Alma. It is somewhat of a short and sometimes unfulfilling trip, but along the way, you can find side quests that will lead you down new paths which unlock new characters, items, and mini-boss battles. We won’t spoil anything for you, but they are definitely cool to find because they are unexpected and could happen at any point on your journey. The quality of your trip is determined by the procedural generator that makes up a new world every time you start a new game. This can mean that right out of the gates there are tons of enemies or nothing much the whole way, so in this sense it is disappointing because you never know if you’re going to get a good world or not. It is too bad, but the fact that you will get to retry again in just a little while makes it more bearable.
The overall aesthetic of One Way Heroics is probably one of its best features. The art is great, with all of the characters as 2D sprites, and the world is seen from an isometric, 2.5D style camera angle. It has a charm to it that is kind of cute, with funny characters and an interesting world. The music makes your adventure all the more epic too, with classical instruments that change dynamically based on setting and situation. It all comes together for a very classic JRPG feel that almost any gamer can get into.
When it comes to gameplay One Way Heroics is both fun and well constructed. With each move you make, whether it be taking a step or swinging your sword, the Shine Raid inches one “block” closer, forcing you to press on. You can choose from a bunch of different characters, some will have to be unlocked first, with each having their own set of skills, weapons, and abilities. The play styles of each of them vary drastically, so testing them out and finding the right one for you is something to do if you’re looking to reach for those high scores. A few of the characters are even little nods to some of the other games that Spike Chunsoft has developed. A school student (and later Monokuma himself) represents the various Danganronpa games that they’ve made, as well as a character who is reminiscent of a Shiren the Wanderer character.
The world of One Way Heroics is procedurally generated, just like any roguelike, so each run is different. This allows for a ton of replayability, and to get passed the complaint that there is no progression made in games like these, they have what’s called a Dream Vault, which after each death allows you take some of your items with you into the next life. This is a novel concept for a game like this, and it has proven itself very useful on multiple occasions for me. Another way to progress is through the upgrading of your castle. Each run begins at the castle; a kind of hub where you can pick up items from your Dream Vault and do a few other things before you head out. When you upgrade your castle, you add rooms with various purposes and NPCs that can help you get a jumpstart on your mission. For example, there is a chef room that I added who gave me extra food that could heal me on my journey. Things like this, as well as rooms where energizing plants grow, can help you get better and more efficient with each playthrough.
You’ll also keep your money, as well as your Genesis Stones, which upgrade your perks, and allows you to get new classes and Specials. The more you play, the more money and Genesis Stones you will have, so the more you want to customize, the more you’ll have to grind. In the end, One Way Heroics is best suited for the hardcore audience. There is a ton of stats for you to min/max, abilities and options to customize, and high scores to beat.
After all that, you can battle against other players, but since it’s release, this feature has been unavailable. Check back when it does become available for an update.
Mystery Chronicle: One Way Heroics does a good job of taking three genres that do not usually fit together, and making a fun, intuitive experience out of them. It has heaps of character, with a beautiful art style and an interesting gameplay loop. If you need a game to tide you over on the bus trip to work, or even something to sink your teeth into for a good amount of time, One Way Heroics is definitely something to check out.