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Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes for XBLA/PSN is no mere port

Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes initially seemed like the kind of Puzzle Quest-biting knockoff that would quietly slip under the radar during the holiday season, but Capybara Games' fresh take on the now-familiar mix of puzzle gameplay and strategic role-playing led to one of the best Nintendo DS games of last year (and a fat9 review score from us). Sensing the opportunity to marry the unique gameplay of the handheld version with the kind of beautiful, hand-drawn visuals Capybara employed in the excellent Critter Crunch for PlayStation Network, Ubisoft set them to work on bringing Clash of Heroes to Xbox Live Arcade and PSN.

We had a chance to check out the latest build of the game on the show floor of the C2E2 pop culture convention in Chicago, and though it's still in Alpha after just three or four months of development, the stunning hand-drawn animations and painted environments popped off the screen. Dan Vader, producer and lead writer at Capybara, tells us that the lead animator responsible for generating Critter Crunch's gorgeous HD visuals has the same role on this project, with some attacks utilizing 100 or more frames of animation. "That's sort of Capy's guiding focus: make it gorgeous," explains Vader, while noting the pixel art scene and animation legend Hayao Miyazaki as influences on the team.

But while Clash of Heroes is certainly based on the core of the Nintendo DS game, Capybara refuses to acknowledge the game as a simple port of the original. "It's the same game, but it's definitely, definitely not a port," asserts Vader. "'Port' is a very dirty word in our office."

Read more: Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 review: “A charming co-op juggernaut”

Maintaining the winning blend of color-matching puzzle mechanics, strategic role-playing action, and the fantasy world of Might & Magic was essential, of course, but Vader says the team listened to reviewer and community feedback and applied numerous tweaks along the way. Bosses that took some players a dozen attempts the first time around have been rebalanced, along with player stats, artifact abilities, and hero spells. Additionally, you can now back out of a fight after viewing the stats of your opponents, letting you grind for a bit to level up before taking on a challenging match-up. And once you complete the quest, you can go back into the world and 100% the game -- something that wasn't possible in the DS version.

But the biggest non-visual enhancement likely comes with the multiplayer modes, which are available online and off and support two-player versus battles, as well as four-player co-op fights. Adding online play and co-op to the experience certainly gives the multiplayer mode a lot more pop than the offline-only option available on DS. Between the tweaks, additions, and visual overhaul, it's clear that the Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network release of Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes is the definitive version. A wonderfully addictive strategic puzzle experience with fresh, dazzling HD visuals -- what's not to love?

Apr 19, 2010

Freelance writer for GamesRadar and several other gaming and tech publications, including Official Xbox Magazine, Nintendo Power, Mac|Life, @Gamer, and PlayStation: The Official Magazine. Visit my work blog at