If I ran down the list of games that Class of Heroes 2 reminds me of it would sound like some of the more obscure releases in the last couple of years. I could probably also say something like taking that niche appeal and putting into a blender with the difficulty that has long since become unpopular in the mainstream and you would probably get a substance that resembles Class of Heroes. I could say all of that, but it would do an injustice to the game—only because I really can’t stress enough how difficult and rewarding this game truly is.
Anyone who plays long enough to venture into the first dungeon maze area will notice, very quickly, how oppressively difficult it gets. Common enemies are nothing to joke around with, they can and will do devastating damage to those poorly equipped and change level range quickly and dramatically. If barely surviving the first couple encounters isn’t enough, most of the enemies drop meager amounts of experience and gold—both being things that are desperately needed in the early moments of the game. Further, reviving characters at towns/schools costs a nice chunk of money, as does any form of healing. In summary, Class of Heroes II does not play nice.
At times it might seem like the game design is akin to someone talking their ball and going home instead of being approachable; the truth is the longer one plays the more rewarding all of the challenges become. Sure, shops in the game can sell out of equipment—that is ignoring the fact that new items seem to drastically alter the amount of damage characters both deal and receive. Small ideas like that save the moment to moment gameplay from being the standard forgettable shield upgrade for the 30th time and turn it into almost cause for celebration. Doing something right goes from smashing the X button to having to weigh options between fleeing from battle, which comes with several of its own risks, or standing to fight and possibly losing a character.
The only real gripe, aside from the difficulty sometimes feeling more bad hard than refreshing hard, is that the user interface could use some work. The most current example of a first person dungeon crawler that has done this type of thing correctly would be one of the Etrian Odyssey games using the DS’s two screens, one to map the dungeon and the other to display a view of the area itself. Having the map as a transparency in the area that is being explored feels cumbersome at best and at worst can feel almost broken. This is, of course, without bringing up any of the inventory or shop menus that seem to have more of a mind of their own than any functionality.
A lot of the time it also feels like CoHII doesn’t explain anything, which in all honesty is a nice change of pace from modern games that smash you over the head with tutorials until the credits roll. To have an experience that will reward exploration, within reason, simply feels entirely shocking when compared to other titles. But fundamentally that is what this game is, a competent retro experience veiled in a semi-current handheld title. Considering that it can be picked up for cheap on the PSN store, 25 dollars, it is hard to not recommend this to anyone with a PSP who is looking for something a little different.
Major props goes out to MonkeyPaw for having the dedication in bringing this game to the States.