Zeus, king of the gods, has fallen ill. In his absence, Ares has taken the opportunity to grab control for himself. This has caused suffering and strife on Gaea and only the mighty Hercules, son of Zeus and brother of Ares, can save the day.
In Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (hereafter known as HTLJ) you play the parts of Hercules, Iolaus, and Serena as they seek to topple Ares and return peace to the world. You spend the duration of the game fighting your way from town to town, solving people's problems, and defeating various monsters. I have never watched the TV show, so I cannot say how close the game comes.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
Movement in HTLJ is simple and straightforward: you move in the same direction as the control stick is pushed. The further you push the stick, the faster you move. You jump by pushing the R button and can do a diving jump by pushing B and R at the same time. Mostly, you spend your time running around, jumping here and there to bypass hazards. The A button is general use, allowing you to talk to people, open doors, pick up things, and so forth.
The point of view is usually third person from behind, though you can go into first person view with the C-Right button. It's unclear why they included this feature. In this mode, you are stuck in place and the control stick is used to look around, something I never found a need for in the game. I suspect that this is mostly for playing Serena, when it activates sniper mode with her bow, and is purely vestigial for Hercules and Iolaus.
Combat is the most varied part of the game. Basic attack is by the B button, rear attack with the C-Left button, blocking is the C-Down button, and magic potions are activated by the C-Up button. The A button allows you to grab stunned opponents and throw them or knee them in the face, though I couldn't seem to control which it did. Certain button combinations allow additional attacks, such as the R+B diving jump, but these are not listed in the manual. There are four types of elemental magic potions: fire, lightning, and rocks, which damage nearby enemies, and ice, which freezes nearby enemies in place without damaging them.
One of the problems with all of these options is that you will frequently find yourself doing things you'd rather not, such as going to first person view when you meant to block. What's more, you don't have the option of rearranging the controls. Because of this, I gave up on blocking and rear attacking, since I ended up taking hits I shouldn't have and wasted a few potions as well.
The game starts with a quick training session, after which you are off on your quest. The game world is made up of a number of towns separated by areas filled with bandits and wolves. Between towns, you can defeat enemies for money and discover hidden chests, which contain either money or hints. In town, you can talk to people to get hints and perform mini-quests to advance the game. You can also buy potions and a couple of quest items; the only thing money is used for. Once you have solved the mini-quests in an area, you get to fight the boss. If you happen to need healing, you destroy barrels and collect the food inside. This is the only way to heal, whether you're in town, the wilderness or a dungeon.
In addition to Hercules you can play Iolaus and Serena, but only in certain areas, beyond which you are not allowed to stray. This is about as varied as it gets. I got the impression that the designers put little effort into making the game interesting. The enemies were just the same two guys in different suits, there were only three different looks to the townsfolk, and the potions seemed like they were slapped on without much thought.
The bosses were fun to fight, but it was a boring struggle to get to them. After defeating a boss, you are shown a cut-scene of the post fight action while a scrolling narrative tells what happened. The game got repetitive and dull very quickly.
The visual effects of HTLJ, while smooth, are as bland as the gameplay. The backgrounds are dull and often lack texture. Most of the enemies lack much real detail or even color variation. The bosses all looked cool, but they were just about the only ones. The static sketches and scrolling narrative of the cut-scenes added a 'days of yore' feel, but were not much to look at. Overall, the graphics were no better then you would expect from a Super Nintendo game.
The music for Hercules: The Legendary Journeys was pleasant to listen to, fit the scenes it was played in, and didn't overpower the sound effects. About those sound effects -- Titus seems to have included enough to keep irate players from stoning them to death, but nothing more. I never felt there should have been a sound when there wasn't but I was never wowed either. To top it off, from time to time the sound effects would cut out. Once again, HTLJ comes off as bland.
HTLJ is a dull, unimaginative game. It is 20-some hours I will never get back. Fans of the show might have enjoyed it more then I did, but I seriously doubt it. A combination of dull gameplay and minimalist graphics expose this game as an obvious attempt to cash in on the shows popularity without putting the effort into making a good game. Leave this one on the shelf.