Dual Hearts - Staff Retroview  

Two Hearts Are Better Than One
by Derek 'Roku' Cavin

Easy or Medium/Hard
7-30 Hours


Rating definitions 

   A horrible nightmare that was sealed in an ancient battle has begun to revive. He and his minions have started to cause a lot of trouble in both the real world and dream world. It's up to a human and his pig-like sidekick to enter the dreamworld through the dreams of local villagers and collect the keys needed to release various holy items. Only the power of the holy items can contain the nightmare.

   Dual Hearts is an action RPG that plays like a mix between Alundra and Mario 64. Unfortunately, the mix isn't done very well and Dual hearts doesn't come anywhere close to either. Gameplay itself isn't too bad, but suffers from a number of problems with the interface.

Teamwork Teamwork

   The main character can gain a number of weapons throughout the game including swords, hammers, and spears. He can equip one weapon per hand and they can be mixed to the player's liking. As he improves in skill with various weapons, he can unleash combos by pushing certain buttons in succession. There are a few tools he obtains that can be used as weapons too, such as elemental cards and a bow and arrow. Additionally, he can give his weapons an elemental attribute by holding a card of the desired element in the other hand. This can be used to take advantage of enemy elemental weaknesses. In addition to fighting alone, he can also ride his sidekick and gain a number of abilities such as a breath attack, a stomp attack, and the ability to dash. He can also request healing at almost any time, whether on or off his partner. While these systems may sound interesting, they are poorly implemented in actual battles. Most normal enemies are fought using hack and slash, but combos are performed instead of slashing wildly. Most bosses also have quite a bit of HP, so, unless the weapons in use are maxed out, it can take quite a while to defeat them. On expert, even common enemies have fairly large amounts of HP too. Boss fights are a bit different. It doesn't take long to find out a boss's weakness, but each boss has a ridiculous amount of HP. Fights usually involve attacking the boss until the sidekick runs low on power, running away and refueling him, and repeating the process a dozen or so times more until the boss is defeated. Sadly, by that point it has become repetitive and fairly boring.

   Dual Hearts is quite easy. Enemies and bosses have very little ability to inflict damage, most enemies can be defeated with hack and slash, it's very easy to heal, and most puzzles are simple. Expert mode is almost the complete opposite. Enemies have at least twice as much HP and between two and eight times as much attack power. Some bosses can even KO the main character in one hit. While some may be tempted to play in expert mode for the bonus difficulty, it isn't really worth it due to the enemy HP bonus that makes most boss fights take well over twenty or thirty minutes and makes already boring fights even worse. Fights with normal enemies also become more tedious than they already were.

   Another bad thing about Dual Hearts is its poor interface. The camera is horrible and often makes it very difficult to see where the heroes are jumping or where the enemies are. The lock-on feature is also full of problems. If there are more than a few targets on the screen it can become incredibly difficult to get a lock on the correct enemy without getting hit first. Thankfully there's a hard lock feature which allows players to remain locked on to an enemy without holding the lock button. Sadly, this lock is easily broken despite its name. Fortunately the game has good localization. Almost all of the dialog is well translated and has very few errors of any kind. Even the spoken voices have been translated.

The Dreamworld The Dreamworld

   Dual Hearts is very unoriginal. Entering people's dreams, most of the tools, and even a number of puzzles are incredibly similar to those found in Alundra. The actual setup of the dreamworld is very similar to games such as Mario 64: players need to collect a set number of dream energy to unlock doors much like players collect stars in Mario 64. The pig-like baku creature and the elemental cards are probably the only original things in the entire game.

   There isn't very much actual plot in Dual Hearts, but there are a lot of characters and a bit of character development. By entering characters' dreams, the heroes learn something about the villagers and get to know them better. Of course, there are some characters that have quite a bit more development than others. While the story isn't too bad for an action RPG, it's still fairly minimal.

   The requirements for unlocking the doors and collecting the holy items are very low. On easy it's quite possible to rush through dungeons, completing only a few small quests for dream energy along the way, and defeat the final boss in under seven hours. Those attempting to reach 100% completion; however, are most likely looking at three or four times that long. Expert mode makes it take much longer to defeat enemies. It can add an extra five hours easily.

   Dual Hearts contains a mix of below average and above average tracks. The good outweighs the bad in this case as not only do the good tracks outnumber the bad, the soundtrack as a whole isn't very repetitive as most dreams have their own individual background track. The sound effects are generally well-done too. A few sound effects become annoying after a while, such as the sound the baku sidekick makes while flapping his ears, but they are few in number. There is even a bit of voice acting.

   While some dreams contain some interesting visual effects, such as one dream looking like a children's story-book, Dual Heart's visuals aren't very good overall. While everything is in full 3D, most characters aren't very detailed. Another problem is that the visuals often tend to lag behind, especially in complex dreams such as the storybook. Another problem in some areas is a strange blurring effect which not only makes it difficult to see, it is also quite rough on the eyes. Hurting the player's eyes isn't the best move when trying to impress them.

   While it did have pretty good potential, very little about Dual Hearts ended up being especially good. The interface was poor, the battle system was boring, and the story was below average. It wasn't even original. Sadly, there are few good things to say about it either. Only the music and sound are slightly above average. It should come as little surprise that Dual Hearts is below average overall and not recommended.

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