Hands-onMystic Heroes

We check out a localized version of Koei's upcoming GameCube brawler.

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We recently got hold of a fairly complete build of Mystic Heroes, Koei's upcoming 3D action game for the GameCube. The game, which is in the same vein as the company's popular Dynasty Warriors series, was released in Japan earlier this year as Battle Houshin and put players in the role of one of four pint-sized heroes out to stop an ancient evil from returning to wreak havoc. Featuring crisp visuals and classic beat-'em-up gameplay, the game was a welcome addition to the GameCube library, and Koei has done more than just localize it for its US incarnation--in addition to translating the text and voice into English, the developer has added a new multiplayer mode. We've been spending some time with the game and have been pleased by Koei's tweaks.

For those unfamiliar with the game, Mystic Heroes puts you in the role of one of four main characters: Shiga, Lani, Naja, or Tai. You'll set out to stop the evil Emperor Kang, who was exiled to a tower on Mt. Hoshin with his nastiest generals. Unfortunately, the general, like most evildoers, is surprisingly resourceful and manages to escape using the power of an ancient artifact called the Dragon Star. Rather than enjoy their newfound freedom, Kang and his crew decide to work in some quality revenge time. An ancient mystic named Master Gen calls together the four heroes and charges them with stopping Kang and restoring peace.

You'll find three modes to choose from in the game: story mode, survival, and multiplayer. The story mode is a single-player game that will send you through eight stages on your journey to stop Kang. Along the way, you'll encounter waves of his minions and a number of bosses. To fight the hordes of evil, you'll be able to perform a variety of physical attacks, but if you really want to kick some tail, you'll also want to use your magic attacks, which can be buffed up by using the runes you'll find while adventuring. Each rune has a set of spells that you'll be able to use if you have enough experience. You'll be able to collect 70 runes over the course of the game by defeating enemies, finding them in your travels, or completing certain objectives. While most of the runes can be collected in the story mode, some can be found only in the game's survival mode. In addition to the normal spells, you can find four types of mystic attacks, which are basically weapon attacks that have been infused with elemental magic. If you use them enough, you'll be able to level up your character, which in turn will allow you to gain access to stronger and more effective spells. The survival mode is a straightforward endurance challenge to see how many enemies you can take out. The new multiplayer mode is a slick addition to the game that lets up to four players compete in a variety of co-op and versus modes on a spit screen.

Graphically, the game offers a solid array of eye candy. The main characters are nicely detailed and look quite sharp. The environments cover a wide range of locales and offer a nice amount of variety. You'll find breakable objects throughout each level, ranging from pots that drop power-ups to trees that give way when pummeled. The game churns out a high volume of enemies to pummel with next to no slowdown, and even more impressively, it stays the course even when you're using the various rune-fueled magic attacks, which feature showy pyrotechnics.

Judging from what we've played so far, Mystic Heroes is shaping up to be a tasty offering on the GameCube. The game's solid graphics, engaging gameplay, and multiplayer modes should have a lot to offer GameCube owners. Mystic Heroes is currently slated to ship this September for the GameCube.

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