Review: Class of Heroes 1 & 2: Complete Edition (Nintendo Switch)

Settle in for a lot of battles and delvin'.

7 mins read

The dungeon crawl has been one of the most enduring genres of all. The original Wizardry – the game that essentially launched and popularised the genre, turns 45 next year. It’ll be well and truly ready for a mid-life crisis. In the years since we have seen so many classics – Might & Magic, Etrian Odyssey, Eye of the Beholder, Legend of Grimrock and so many others. Class of Heroes isn’t going to be remembered as being in the same league as those, but do these classic dungeon crawlers polish up ever so nicely for the Nintendo Switch.

Class of Heroes was originally released on the PSP, and did it ever divide critics. “Niche-dwelling masochists will thrive on mastering the murky depths of Heroes, but everyone else should throw a smoke bomb and run away,” wrote PlayStation: The Official Magazine at one end of the spectrum. “There’s so much depth to be found in Class of Heroes for fans of the dungeon-crawling genre, it’s almost overwhelming how much time you can spend playing with the details. On the other hand, the learning curve is much steeper than other games of its kind, and it may turn off gamers who pick it up due to the cute anime look and have no idea what they are getting themselves into,” Destructoid wrote on the other.

Most critics then gave up on the fledgling series and the sequel barely got enough coverage from the RPG enthusiast press to score a Metacritic average. “Whether or not Class of Heroes 2 is for you depends almost entirely on how much you enjoy dungeon crawlers,” RPG Fan wrote, helpfully stating the obvious.

Screenshot from Class of Heroes on Nintendo Switch

So on the one hand it’s a little odd to dust these off for a re-release, just purely on the basis of how niche they are. They weren’t exactly classics that fans were begging to be re-released. On the other hand, the Class of Heroes series does have fans and is remembered fondly within its niche, and the PSPs was hardly the mainstream hit the Switch has been, so there’s the opportunity for a new legion of fans to discover it now.

Just… don’t expect it to be Etrian Odyssey. Or Stranger of Sword City. Or the Mary Skelter series. There are a lot of dungeon crawlers on the Switch and Class of Heroes is absolutely not the “gateway drug” to the genre. Both games in this “collection” have anemic narratives that are barely more than “you’re students at a hero academy, go explore.” They’re also positively old school with regards to everything from the encounter rate and difficulty, to the way that rewards are dolled out and how the in-game economy works. And it is such a grind. The first Class of Heroes boasts about having 75 randomly-generated dungeons to work through, which sounds great until you realise that across all of them, you’re doing nothing more than making progress for the sake of making progress. There’s nothing to do but defeat an endless gauntlet of enemies, level your party up, retreat to recover, and do it again. It’s about 60 hours just to work through the main “plot” of Class of Heroes, and another 40 or so for its sequel, which means about 100 hours of the most traditional dungeon crawling action you will have seen in quite some time.

But there’s also beauty in that. There are something like 500 possible combinations of characters, allowing you to try different combinations and test yourself with less-than-ideal builds. Enemies and tactics might not be particularly detailed, beyond some having specific strengths and weaknesses that you need to exploit, but you’ll still need a balanced party to be able to make your way around and progress deep within the adventure. In short, Class of Heroes and its sequel are classic dungeon crawlers, and very competent at that, but also no more than that.

Screenshot from Class of Heroes on Nintendo Switch

They do scrub up nicely for the Switch. The anime aesthetics are simplistic, but bright and colourful, and the designs for the various character portraits have a nice variety in them. The enemy designs are also very nice. You’re not going to get the animation or intricate detail of later crawlers, but it’s enjoyable to make progress through the games and see what the next beastie in the gauntlet will be. Dungeons themselves are efficient in design, but effective. And, unlike the port of the Etrian Odyssey titles, Class of Heroes was only ever designed as a single-screen experience, so the developers didn’t need to compromise it to make it work on Switch.

There’s really not much else I can say about Class of Heroes 1 & 2: Complete Edition. You’ll need to love old school dungeon crawlers like Wizardry to get much out of these games, and if you do like those kinds of games you know that you’ll love these (and you would have likely played them on the PSP before anyway). There’s nothing wrong with any of this. It’s pure comfort food for the genre faithful, and it’s a particularly generous and well-layered slice of cake.

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Matt S. is the Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of DDNet. He's been writing about games for over 20 years, including a book, but is perhaps best-known for being the high priest of the Church of Hatsune Miku.

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