Given that there are now three different versions of One Way Heroics in the wild, the question on your lips will doubtless be “which one is best”?
It’s not an easy question to answer definitively, so what I’ll do in this piece is outline what each version offers along with the benefits and drawbacks (if any) that come with each incarnation of this peculiar and enjoyable game.
Make no mistake, One Way Heroics is well worth your time in one form or another, but read on for some information that might help you make a decision as to which one to try… or which one to try first!
The original One Way Heroics was released to us Westerners in 2013 through localisation specialists Playism, who initially sold it via their own storefront and later brought it to Steam.
One Way Heroics’ original incarnation is probably the clunkiest installment in the series, what with its resolution locked to 640×480 4:3 aspect ratio and a non-configurable screen layout. Probably the best word to describe the game is “messy” — the screen looks cluttered and chaotic during gameplay, and this makes the experience quite a bit more daunting than it needs to be in your early hours. Persevere, however, and you’ll find the gameplay intact as well as learning to tune out the extraneous noise that the cluttered interface attempts to distract you with.
One Way Heroics, like its subsequent installments, offers several ways to “win” — you can defeat the Demon Lord, you can reach The End of the World, or you can defeat the Darkness by throwing a Holy weapon into it and then dealing with the otherworldly horror that emerges as a result.
The persistent metagame is somewhat simplified in this version, consisting solely of using your accumulated Hero Points from your various playthroughs to unlock new classes and perks. The eventual “goal” of the metagame as a whole is to clear the game on all difficulties in all possible ways with all the different character classes. That’s a fairly mammoth undertaking in its own right, and will certainly keep you busy for a while.
So One Way Heroics is worth your time. But so long as One Way Heroics Plus exists — and so long as it is incredibly cheap for the amount of additional content it offers — there’s little reason to favour it over its subsequent installments.
What exactly does Plus offer that the original didn’t, then? Well, for starters, several new ways to clear the game, with one of them constituting a “true” ending. There are also three new classes, which each come with a corresponding new quest in order to unlock them. Taking on one of these quests abandons your quest to defeat the Demon Lord, meaning that she won’t show up at the regular intervals she does in the base quest — as such, taking on one of these quests and ignoring its objectives makes for an easier way to reach The End of the World, too.
Perhaps the biggest change is to the overall metagame. You still spend Hero Points on classes and perks, but you can now also expend Dimensional Gold Coins to expand the castle each playthrough starts in. By doing so, you get room to place several new NPCs at the outset of your adventure, whose benefits vary from triggering the class quests for the three new classes to providing you with useful items to get you started on this playthrough. There’s only limited space so you can swap these NPCs around as you need, though some have a Dimensional Gold Coin cost to place them.
The other big change is to the game’s interface. No longer confined to 640×480 4:3, the game will now run in high resolution, though in practice it’s simply upscaled bitmap graphics and still has black borders on widescreen displays, but this makes a big difference to the overall clarity of the graphics. Not only that, but you can redefine the positions of a number of interface elements to make the display a little less cluttered, along with assigning actions and items to a shortcut bar for easy access during your adventure. The shortcut bar also makes for a convenient reminder of abilities that you have available, because it’s easy to forget you, say, still have three Awakening charges left when you’re in the middle of a difficult combat!
One Way Heroics Plus is an absolutely superb game, and I’d be inclined to say that if you’re going to pick up just one installment in the series, you should make it this one — assuming you don’t mind playing on PC. There’s enough content here to keep you going for hours, and the overall game experience is addictive enough to keep you coming back for more even after you’ve seen everything the game has to offer. It is different each time you play, after all!
Now, onto Mystery Chronicle: One Way Heroics. The most obvious change is that the whole thing has been revamped with prettier graphics and a somewhat more well designed interface, very much in keeping with many of Spike Chunsoft’s other offerings. It’s clear and easy to understand, making it a lot more accessible than the original One Way Heroics in particular. It works especially well with gamepad — although Plus added excellent gamepad support, with buttons coloured according to the Xbox control pad, a small quality of life feature that a lot of Japanese developers don’t normally bother with — but at the time of writing the PC version still displays keyboard prompts when using a gamepad, forcing you to remember the button assignments rather than being able to refer to the screen.
Mystery Chronicle: One Way Heroics’ metagame is almost identical to One Way Heroics Plus, right down to the castle remodelling, though the terminology it uses is different. There are also some new character classes in Mystery Chronicle: One Way Heroics, most notably the addition of Ultimate Student (from Danganronpa) and Wanderer (from Shiren the Wanderer). Each of these, like the other classes, have three different variations, with the Ultimate Student character even allowing you to play as Monokuma. Like One Way Heroics Plus, some of these new character classes require you to complete a different quest before unlocking them; others simply require you to accumulate enough points across your playthroughs to pay their costs.
In-game, Mystery Chronicle: One Way Heroics’ gameplay is largely the same as One Way Heroics Plus, with one crucial addition that is representative of the Mystery Dungeon series as a whole: traps. These are initially invisible on the map, but can be revealed by attacking an empty square that you think looks suspicious. Enemies are just as likely to set off traps as you are, which can work to your advantage, and you can even loot your own traps to set for enemies, too. The player base has responded to this addition with somewhat mixed feelings; some like the additional tension that they provide to an already challenging experience, others dislike the added “randomness” that they provide, particularly in the case of fire traps that can cause flammable items in your bag to catch fire or explode, potentially hurting or killing you.
Mystery Chronicle: One Way Heroics also makes a change to the online functionality of the original games. In both One Way Heroics and One Way Heroics Plus, there wasn’t true multiplayer, but there was a continuously updated readout in the top corner of the screen where you could see how far other players had got in their playthrough on the same world seed as you, along with custom messages relating to how far they had progressed and what they had achieved. In Mystery Chronicle: One Way Heroics, meanwhile, this functionality requires the use of a Twitter account, and requires you to manually authorise the game to post on your behalf. If you do so, the system works in the same way — there are even daily “Campaign Worlds” that you can select from in order to ensure you play in the same world as other people. The use of Twitter rather than internal online systems allows Mystery Chronicle: One Way Heroics’ online functionality to be platform-agnostic — the progress reports and messages can be seen by anyone, regardless of whether they’re playing on PC, PlayStation 4 or Vita.
And speaking of online, perhaps the biggest addition to Mystery Chronicle: One Way Heroics’ gameplay is a competitive multiplayer mode in which you and a partner start at opposite ends of a map and attempt to reach your goal first. When your characters run into each other, a “clone” of your character’s current state is sent to the other player and controlled by AI; if it is defeated, you get knocked back a certain distance, whereas if it defeats them, they get knocked back a certain distance. There’s plenty of incentive to play the online mode through the Spirit Stones you can acquire, allowing you to purchase powerful equipment and items, but at the time of writing there didn’t seem to be a lot of people playing the online mode randomly, so the multiplayer functionality is perhaps best saved for pre-arranged sessions with friends.
Mystery Chronicle: One Way Heroics’ narrative attempts to distinguish itself from its predecessors by changing terminology — the Darkness becomes the Shine Raid, the Demon Lord becomes the Fallen Angel — and introducing some new characters. That said, there are a few knowing nods back to the original games — most notably, to unlock the Hero class, which for many people represented the “endgame” of One Way Heroics, the NPC you place in the castle at the beginning of the game is the original games’ King Victor, who tasks you with defeating the Demon Lord rather than Fallen Angel Alma. Healer Dosey, a popular character from the original games, also makes an appearance, though she’s become a bit squeakier and more enthusiastic as opposed to her fairly demure personality in the original.
One small change in narrative terms that some people have had mixed feelings towards is the fact that most of the recruitable party members who show up throughout the game are all over the player character in one form or another, in some cases crossing the line into sexual fanservice. The character Merril in particular, as well as being dressed in what appears to be bondage gear that barely contains her ample bosom beneath its leather straps, makes repeated overt references to wanting to knock boots with your playable character regardless of their gender and/or sexuality, and this isn’t to everyone’s taste. I love it; your mileage may vary. All that said, the original games had a male NPC called Panty Shot who could join your party, so it’s not as if knowing nods to the popularity of fanservice are anything new to the series; Mystery Chronicle: One Way Heroics is just a bit more… overt about it.
Out of the three versions of Mystery Chronicle: One Way Heroics currently available, the PS4 version is probably the “best”, with better loading times than its Vita counterpart and none of the performance and interface issues that currently afflict the PC version at the time of writing. The Vita version, while taking longer to generate a world at the start of a new playthrough, has the benefit of being portable, and given that a single playthrough of the game takes an hour at most — more frequently around the 20-30 minute mark — this is a game that is great to take on the go and enjoy during a long journey. By train, bus, boat or plane, obviously; MoeGamer does not endorse the playing of Vitas while driving.
The PC version has had several updates since launch but some users are still reporting performance issues — particularly noticeable when browsing the menus or watching dialogue scroll onto the screen. The PC team are working on fixes for the reported problems, however, and also promise that gamepad prompts will be added into this version in a subsequent patch, too. Consequently, while I can’t quite recommend the PC version over and above its console counterparts at present, keep an eye on it if you’re interested, and if PC is the only platform you have available, the issues are by no means game-breaking so don’t hesitate to pick it up if you’re interested.
All in all, Mystery Chronicle: One Way Heroics has proven itself to be an excellent refresh for a series that not enough people have experienced to date. Even if you find yourself preferring One Way Heroics Plus to Mystery Chronicle: One Way Heroics, the latter is worthy of praise simply for making more people aware of the series as a whole. It’s one of the most enjoyable, most original takes on roguelike gameplay out there, and remains one of my favourite series in recent years.
One Way Heroics and One Way Heroics Plus are out now for PC and available via both Playism and Steam. Mystery Chronicle: One Way Heroics is coming soon to PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita and PC digital download platforms, with Limited Run Games shortly to offer strictly limited numbers of physical copies for both the PS4 and Vita versions.
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