An attempt to spin-off the Dynasty Warriors series into a more family friendly nature (despite a harsh Teen rating), Mystic Heroes finds its niche without being particularly well executed. Koei lightens up the characters, ditches the real history based storyline, and puts a focus on magic – it's a mix that comes together nicely, but fails to become entertaining for anyone except fans of the company.
Three characters lead the fray into a massive battlefield of enemy soldiers. Compared to the series it's emulating, it's unquestionably less intense. The number of foes on screen drops from hundreds to a few dozen. In place of more soldiers is a higher damage requirement to take them down. It's the sole reason the struggles take as long as they do.
You're always partnered with the other playable characters, yet you have no control over them, also, they can't die. They simply retreat from attacking one section of the map and move to one less populated. Eventually, they'll rejoin you. Given the size of the levels, involving strategy before the battle would feel out of place.
Combat has been simplified drastically. A single combo can take out even the largest bosses (and there are some epic fights to be had). It's a flaw in the juggle system that indefinitely keeps an enemy airborne by doing nothing more than that pounding on the B button. One button is all you'll need as well. There are no secondary attacks to keep repetition down or create flashy blows.
Instead of the Mosuo attacks in Dynasty Warriors, Mystic Heroes takes a different approach. By collecting runes scattered about in the levels, you can equip multiple styles of magic. These are highly varied means of slaughter to a stack of foes. They're activated with the X button, with the heavier blasts requiring a slight charge time. It adds a small layer of strategy to a game that otherwise features none at all; It's possible to turn a battle towards your side with proper usage.
At its core, as the story moves along, Heroes still manages to pull off a smaller version of the addictive hook its sister series thrives on – it's the adrenaline rush that's missing because of the downgraded enemy count. Fans of the beat-em-up genre will understand the appeal. Those who purchase Koei's key series for the melee they provide are only headed for disappointment.
Mystic Heroes is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Violence. This game can also be found on: PS2.