Review by Volrath
Summary: You Are Not The Hero is an amusing deconstruction of traditional RPGs with promising gameplay elements.
Imagine you’re sitting at home and minding your own business. All of a sudden, a group of preening idiots dressed in gaudy outfits marches into your home, searches all over the place and leaves with your favorite accessory. In a lot of classic RPGs, the characters you control are the ones demonstrating such rude behavior and most of the time, you don’t think twice about it. You Are Not The Hero, a demo by Seita, is the tale of what happens to the hapless young woman who has just been burglarized by delusional teenage warriors.
Mocking the most trite conventions of RPGs can be irresistible to a lot of RPG Maker users, although most of the satirical projects aren’t finished or aren’t remembered for long. An exception to this would be the RPG Maker 2000 game Final Fallacy, which enjoyed a decent amount of popularity in its time. Based on what can be seen in this demo, You Are Not The Hero could also be headed for good things if the creator finishes it and builds on the promising combination of humor and puzzle/action gameplay.
The introduction does a great job establishing the overall tone of the game and letting players know what they are in for – ample silliness, tons of fourth-wall breaking and references to other games. It even warns the player about spelling and grammar mistakes and that is no idle threat. I’m still not sure if the constant errors are intentional or the creator just doesn’t feel like fixing them all, but as someone who makes his living with the written word, it can be a little rough. It’s not enough to take the fun out of this game, however.
Our main character is Petula, who sets out to get her pendant back after an encounter with an evil army that’s straight out of the Final Fantasy playbook. I have to comment on how just how perfectly unglamorous her name is – you can only imagine how rough her school years were with a name like that. Also of note is that she appears to be the only major character with a custom appearance. The “heroes” are depicted with very familiar RTP characters, a deft way to strengthen the parody while lessening the project’s artistic needs. Anyone complaining about the use of RTP in this case would be severely missing the point. The brief bits we see of their group dynamic is very entertaining – Leon and Panda, the two pretty-boy knight characters, seem to be at the mercy of the obnoxious Cecilia, who complains so often that they acquiesce just to shut her up.
Despite not being the hero, it isn’t long before Petula is called upon for some heroic acts. She’s constantly put out and indignant, and while she certainly has a right to be (especially since her name may have come from the word “petulant”), it was a little disappointing not to see other sides of her. People typically don’t expect much in the way of character development when it comes to parody – indeed, a tragic backstory or anything so serious would be woefully out of place unless those tropes were also being mocked. Still, I think characterization is important for any genre. The example I would use is Shaun of the Dead, an excellent parody of zombie films that also put a lot of effort into developing its cast. I hope this will be addressed somewhat in the completed game.
Another interesting aspect of this game is that while it hews closely to some RPG mechanics in a humorous way (such as save crystals), it actually has no battle system. Battles are arguably what make a game an RPG, but the more I thought about it, the more this decision made sense. Petula should not be able to clear out caves full of monsters. She’s not a warrior and she’s not carrying any tool more formidable than a flashlight. But she will have to dodge rocks, chase away ghosts with the aforementioned flashlight, outrun guards and build little bridges with pieces of wood. It’s all fun and flows pretty well, even if the jumping is very finicky. It’s done with the space bar and can be used at any point where you’re wandering freely, not just for a specific puzzle. However, the correct timing for the jumps is very hard to master and screwing up has consequences. Petula does have an HP bar and too many mistakes will get you a Game Over.
There’s also a system in place where you can earn stars for performing certain tasks very well. It’s a clever addition and if you’re one of those people who are gung-ho for achievements/trophies in big console games, it will keep you busy. Thankfully, there is a “library” area that can be accessed from save points that allows you to repeat sections you’ve already played. It has the potential to add a lot of replay value to this game, because some of those requirements are mighty difficult.
The demo ends shortly before the end of Chapter 2. I’m not sure how many more chapters the author has in mind, but I suspect the game as a whole won’t be of great length. While good for laughs, a premise this lightweight can’t sustain a 30 hour epic. You Are Not The Hero won’t evoke any major emotional response, but it is likely to make you laugh and the gameplay is solid enough. Maybe Tina Turner was right when she said “we don’t need another hero.”