Mastering generated dungeons is always a rewarding endeavor. Next Up Hero has you fight your way through hordes of enemies in its online-fueled twin-stick gameplay and it's quite an impressive formula.
Okay, just what the heck is Next Up Hero? It's a difficult game to explain so I'll start with the core gameplay. Basically, you choose your hero from a variety of chums who each has a distinct array of attributes and abilities. Some of these folks focus on melee attacks while others have long-range weapons and a few have quirky and tricky-to-master attacks. No matter who you choose, battling enemies is generally the same as you use the left stick to move and the right stick to aim. One shoulder button allows your hero to attack and another unleashes a special move. By pushing in the sticks, you can dash and use an unlockable character-specific prestige ability. The controls are intuitive and the variety of characters makes the gameplay an impressively diverse and fun-filled experience.
I'll get more into the gameplay in a bit but first; I'd like to discuss the presentational qualities of Next Up Hero. For starters, the visuals are charming with delightful little character and enemy sprites that are well-animated. You'll find yourself fighting through dungeons that take place in different environments such as forests, deserts, icy plains, and inside volcanoes. Each setting looks very different but there aren't many so they tend to repeat after you've visited each a few times. Meanwhile, the audio consists of fitting orchestral music and satisfying sound effects. Whether you're collecting items or slashing up enemies; the effects reflect the onscreen action perfectly.
Next Up Hero's structure is hard to wrap your head around at first, especially considering the fact that most gamers are accustomed to progressing through preset campaigns. Here, you try and master a variety of dungeons that are either automatically generated or created by users. Each floor has a different goal with the most basic involving defeating a certain number of enemies. You'll also have to fight while avoiding picking up currency, survive floors with 1 health point, beat floors within time limits, and even fight a carbon copy of yourself. Once you inevitably perish, you can level up as well as equip different abilities and boosts then pick up where you left off. Even the super-tough bosses' health meters remain where you left them. Overall, it's a formula that works well for a game that you'll pick up and play from time to time but gamers who prefer linear campaigns will likely feel perplexed by this open-ended structure.
One area where Next Up Hero excels in is integrating an online component. The coolest feature is that you can summon the ghosts of defeated players (known as Echoes) in order to give you a hand. You can also transform them into temporary boosts that are provided by entities known as Ancients. This system is very cool and adds an addictive element to the core gameplay. Another online mechanic is that you can watch other gamers play then either decide to join them cooperatively or cheer them on and heal them whenever they could use some extra health. In the end, the online integration helps establish a welcoming in-game community.
Finally, Next Up Hero unfortunately gets rather repetitive soon after you start to learn its ins and outs. This is mainly due to the fact that no matter which character you play as, the core gameplay remains relatively unchanged as you'll still move around while aiming, attacking, and unleashing special attacks whenever the situation calls for it. That leads me to my next point; some enemies are easy to exploit. I mostly used a melee character and I found that circling strong foes while slashing away generally rendered them defenceless.
Next Up Hero's intuitive gameplay and non-linear structure make it a fantastic game to play every once in a while. Just don't expect to be obsessed with traversing its dungeons because the repetition will sink in much sooner than you'd hope.
- + Enjoyable twin-stick gameplay with a wide array of different characters
- + Colourful visuals and satisfying audio
- + Well-integrated online mechanics
- - Structure can be too non-linear for players who prefer straightforward games
- - Gameplay quickly becomes repetitive
- - A lot of enemies are easy to exploit