I’ve always been curious about Justice League Heroes. From what I read, the game was something that fit what I liked to play. I also collected Marvel and DC comic books back in the day, and I was a big fan of the Justice League animated series too. But I never owned any of the systems that this game was released on. Recently, I obtained a device that I can use for Playstation Portable games. It’s no surprise that this game is the first one that I played.
Let’s talk about my experience with the game!
Justice League Heroes is an action RPG that features DC’s most popular superheroes as playable characters. The version released for the Playstation Portable was developed by Snowblind Studios and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. And unlike the home console versions, this game lacks a two player co-op mode. This game is actually very similar to X-Men Legends and Marvel Ultimate Alliance. Unlike the Marvel action RPGs, this game’s stages and missions feature a pair of heroes (rather than a party of four). In most of the missions, the heroes are pre-selected.
Stages are mostly presented from a top-view perspective, with the camera adjusting it’s angle automatically as needed. You can only control one character at a time, with the other being controlled by the A.I., which is decent for the most part. You can easily switch control between the active characters, and each has his/her own health and energy meter.
Occasionally, you’ll find power-ups that will refill your health, energy, or both. But you won’t need these much because you will regain health and energy after being idle for a certain amount of time. A character is knocked out when their health gets depleted. Knocked out characters can only be revived by touching any of the save points scattered within the stages. When both characters are knocked out, it’s game over – but you will be allowed to continue from the nearest check point.
The game has a save system, which is limited to how much space you have in your memory card. When you beat the game, you can unlock a New Game+ mode called Continued Play that will allow you to keep purchased heroes, their upgrades, and any additional costumes. Finally, four special missions are also unlocked after you beat the game.
The Justice League of PSP
With a game like Justice League Heroes, it is important to take a look at the available playable characters. And this game has a total of fifteen Justice League members to choose from. However, you only start with seven “core” members: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter, Green Lantern (John Stewart), The Flash, and Zatanna.
The rest of the members (Kyle Rayner, Hal Jordan, Green Arrow, Aquaman, Hawkgirl, Huntress, Supergirl, and Black Canary) will need to be purchased before you can use them in the game. As the in-game currency, you’ll need to collect gold “JLH” tokens that are referred to as shields.
They’re scattered across the stages, so you’ll need to explore every corner of each stage to get all. At the end of my first playthrough, I was still left with two locked heroes. You can also spend these on alternate costumes. I never bothered buying any because I opted to unlock as many heroes as I could first. I heard that some of these costumes grant additional abilities or provide stat bonuses. To be honest, I didn’t care for them. I was quite happy playing as these heroes in their original costumes.
For the most part, I like this game’s roster. I would have preferred someone else over Zatanna in the core lineup though. Replace her with Hawkgirl and you’ve got the Animated Series team; replace her and John Stewart with Aquaman and Kyle Rayner and you’ve got the 90s Magnificent Seven. But it’s a minor complaint.
Moves and Abilities
The characters in Justice League Heroes have the same basic moves. The analog stick moves them around. X is for light attacks and O is for heavy attacks. Triangle is for jumping, and double-tapping it makes your character fly or double-jump. Square is for lifting objects or stunned enemies. While holding an object or enemy, square throws them forward while X or O swings them like a weapon.
Holding the R shoulder button down makes your character block. Holding down the L button brings the powers menu up. This shows you each of the character’s unlocked powers and the corresponding button to use it. The set of powers is what makes each hero distrinct. Batman uses flashbangs, Batarangs, and martial arts attacks. Wonder Woman has several magic lasso abilities. Superman has his ice breath and heat vision.
Using a power consumes energy, and some moves use more energy than others. And in my opinion, powers use up too much energy. I often end up resorting to using light and heavy attacks because of this. And because of that, each hero played the same as all the others. Some heroes felt right, while others felt off. It was weird to control a Green Lantern or Zatanna and keep punching and punching to attack. The Flash should have had a faster walk speed.
And speaking of speed, flying is so slow in this game! I expected to do more of flying than walking, but its seriously not. It sucks to play as Green Lantern or Superman and just walk from one place to another.
Upgrade and Boost System
Justice League Heroes has two systems for upgrading your character. The first is through leveling up. Every time you defeat an enemy, it drops glowing green orbs. You gain XP when you collect these and a green circle will fill up around a character’s icon. Once it’s full, the character gains a level and he/she gains one or two boost points.
You can spend these to upgrade the character’s powers and make them stronger. Alternatively, you can spend them on the character’s passive traits. Combat controls how much damage normal attacks deal. Health and Energy give you more of each. Recovery controls how fast you recover health and energy when idle.
The game’s other upgrade system involves Boosts. Boosts are orbs that are occasionally dropped by defeated enemies. You can add them to any character’s powers or traits. When added to a power, a Boost will increase that power’s stat. I’m assuming that a Boost added to a trait will directly improve the character. Boosts are named after the stat that they will affect. Once slotted, a Boost can no longer be removed. They can be replaced with another Boost, but any replaced Boosts will be gone forever.
They also have a quality rating which ranges from 1 to 7. Higher quality Boosts are more powerful. You can combine three Boosts to create a new orb of higher quality. The new orb will be of the same type as the highest quality orb in the combination. To be frank, I never got the chance to use Boosts because I was waiting until the game became hard enough for me to need them. I was also working on leveling up my orbs to 7, which I never got to.
Enemies and Bosses
When playing a superhero game, I have high expectations about the combat experience. Battles are when you can really get a superhero experience, in my opinion. And because Justice League Heroes was developed for a system that’s more powerful than the ones I usually play on, I had higher expectations from it. Frankly, I was disappointed in the lack of variety of the regular enemies. Each area/location has their own set, but you’ll usually end up fighting two or three types of enemies in a particular area. This made the experience quite repetitive for me, especially during missions that take place in the same general location.
Thankfully, the boss battles are able to make up for it. I’m not a hardcore DC fan, but I was able to recognize all of this game’s bosses. Most of them are really good choices for boss characters, and the battles with them are great representations of their characters. Some of the boss battles aren’t straight up fights either. For example, you’ll need to disarm some missiles during the Killer Frost fight; she’s only there to prevent you from doing that. I like that the developers didn’t simply insert Doomsday in this game, because that wouldn’t make sense. Instead, they had you fight Doomsday clones.
This game has two main bad guys: Brainiac and Darkseid. And the battles against them were really good too. During the Brainiac fight, you’ll need to deal with his machines too. But the highlight of this game is the Darkseid battle.
The Final Showdown
Just before facing Darkseid, the game will ask you to choose a lineup of up to eight heroes. If Justice League Heroes didn’t have missions with pre-selected heroes, you might end up with under-leveled heroes at this point. So even though I would have preferred being able to play as any hero I want, pre-selected heroes does make a lot of sense with this final battle in mind.
One minor complaint about this though. Somehow, the order in which I selected the heroes didn’t match up with the order that they showed up in. Oh, and you also need to have purchased at least one hero from the in-game shop for a full lineup. Thank goodness that I bought heroes as soon as I could, and used them in missions when I could. Do you even need a full lineup for this battle?
Yes, you actually do. This battle pushed my Justice League to the limit. Darkseid is a multi-stage boss, and the hardest aspect of this battle involve his signature Omega Beams. These beams can kill a hero almost immediately, even if they have full health. And the normally reliable computer A.I. does not react well to the Omega Beams. In my attempts at this battle, I lost almost half of my lineup because my partner kept running into Omega Beams.
Visuals, Sound, and Presentation
I was quite impressed with what Justice League Heroes had to offer when it comes to graphics. Full disclosure – I played this game via emulation using PPSSPP and did apply a 2x resolution enhancement, so what I’m seeing might be a result of that. The 3D models looked really good, almost as good as current gen graphics. And the game made great use of lighting effects. Wonder Woman’s magic lasso glowed a bright yellow, Superman’s heat vision is a radiant red. And Green Lantern’s energy effects look really good. Stages also look great, aside from the fact that areas within a location look the same.
In terms of sound, I enjoyed all the voice clips that the heroes had. I just wish they were a little more chatty, because I enjoy hearing characters talk in the middle of battle. The game’s music is fine, it does it’s job but nothing is particularly memorable for me. Sound effects are all adequate too.
As for the presentation, what I liked about what this game had to offer are all the cinematic cutscenes. These did well in telling the game’s story. The main cast all had ample screen time. The game’s HUD is clear and easy to understand as well. One minor nitpick – it’s weird to find the “shop” from within the character upgrade screens. Once I found it, it didn’t lead to any problems. But it’s not the first place that I’d go to if I wanted to look for unlockable content.
I had fun playing Justice League Heroes at first. But as I got farther in the game, it became more and more repetitive. And I think it’s because of the lack of variety in the regular enemies and the playable characters not having enough differences when it comes to playstyle. Whoever your character is, you’ll end up punching similar enemies over and over again.
There are some characters that do feel good to play, like Superman and Wonder Woman. But the game will force you to play as the other characters. So there are times when I was stuck with characters that weren’t fun to use. If there were more additional content that allowed you to play as your favorite Justice League members, I think I would have liked this game more. But there are only four extra challenge missions available.
Justice League Heroes is a decent game, and I can see DC fans playing this and enjoying their experience with it. This is the best that DC has in terms of an Ultimate Alliance equivalent. It could have been better though. I’d recommend this game to any DC or superhero fan. But there’s nothing special in this game for the non-superhero enthusiast.
For more video games based on the Justice League, click here. If you want video games with DC characters in general, click here. And click here to check out every Playstation Portable video game that I’ve played.