Any Game Boy RPG that chooses to inspire its mechanics from Link’s Awakening ought to be good. At the very least, that design choice ought to indicate that the game designers have studied the medium and developed enough of an understanding to choose what works for it. Glory Hunters is certainly a game that’s inspired by Link’s Awakening: expansive world map, top-down perspective, overworld with progressively unlocked access to dungeons, the sword is mapped to B, and so on.

Glory Hunters delivers on its promise of fitting a pretty large (almost huge, really) world on a Game Boy cartridge. But despite the clear passion and hard work that’s gone into it, it’s just not fun enough to play. This isn’t the conclusion that I wanted to come to. Glory Hunters is clearly made by a team of passionate, hard-working and talented game developers and designers. Despite it raising the bar in some areas, Glory Hunters neglects enough key areas for the experience to be spoiled at a fairly fundamental level.

Glory Hunters

“A land where everybody seeks glory! Glory Hunters is an innovative action-adventure RPG designed for the original GameBoy. It introduces a distinctive and original gameplay twist: progression is driven by earning achievements.”


An expansive world that’s familiar but different

Glory Hunters begins with our hero waking up in a foreign land, where, he quickly learns of his destiny as a “Glory Champion” that must save the world from a falling moon meteor by waking up four giants Gods and finding “The Elysian Quadrum Blade”. At the start, you can only cut shrubs with your sword, but you soon progress to an item that lets you pick up rocks. In the meantime, you wander the overworld searching for keys to unlocking dungeons. Sound familiar?

The world is definitely expansive. You’ve got over 20 hours of gameplay, which is enormous for a Game Boy game, and over nine dungeons. Glory Hunters delivers well on its promise of a big and beautiful world replete with things to do. Exploration! Fishing! Side-quests! Dungeons! Inns, taverns, shops and more, spread over nine different unique and very pretty towns.

Glory Hunters delivers on its promise of a diverse and expansive world. “Glorianta” is a very cheesy name for it, though.

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Achievements-focused progression

Glory Hunters’s hook, though, and what makes the game unique, is that game progression is tied to achievements. “With over 600 glorious deeds available”, the game’s website writes, "[open pathways by] gathering materials and assisting townsfolk with various quests, exploring dungeons and defeating diverse enemies."

This may sound innovative in practice, but the way that it ends up manifesting in-game is by having a little knight blocking your progress every couple of screens, asking to be paid off with “Glory Points”. That, in turn, leads to a quick understanding that if you want to get past the umpteenth tiny annoying knight, you better go read a bunch more signs, talk to a bunch more villagers, and, especially, cut down a bunch more shrubs, because (and this is especially true in the early game), yes, these are almost all you can do to progress!

Achievements-based progression doesn’t work well because it ends up tying game progression not to any meaningful story, but to trying to guess what the next arbitrary rewarding task is. Don’t get me wrong – oftentimes, you’ll be rewarded by defeating enemies or solving sidequests, like helping a scientist retrieve his legged inventions that keep wandering off – but the haphazard overworld structure doesn’t often point you in the right direction and you will resort to cutting shrubs and reading signs to move onwards.

You could argue that this progression style makes the game open world, but it’s an open world where most paths don’t go anywhere useful. It is especially easy to waste your Glory Points by spending them on unlocking paths that go absolutely nowhere for the time being and reveal nothing interesting. Made a bet on the wrong path? Better go cut down more shrubs!

The road-blocking tiny knights asking for Glory Points are far, far too frequent, and the game would have benefited greatly from not blocking mobility with Glory Points, but only access to items and potentially dungeons.

Cutting down more shrubs earns achievements. Stuff like this is often the only way to progress, especially in the early game.

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Core mechanics: no polish, no glory

Glory Hunters will frequently show you cutscenes that are repetetive, arbitrary and that reveal absolutely nothing new. In one instance, I was suddenly thrust off into a 2D perspective where some nameless character came to serenade me about how the road ahead was long, essentially repeating the same lines so far said by many a character. After each cutscene, you are randomly teleported somewhere in the game, with no clear reasoning as to why.

Cutscenes feel arbitrary and often have uninspired writing. All characters are immediately forgettable.

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This would be fine, if only I could open the bloody map. This is a Link’s Awakening-sized overworld where you can’t see the map except by going to a village and talking to a monkey (yes). Think about that for a moment. Confoundingly, even the dungeon maps are stationary. You can’t open up a map in this whole game except when it wants you to, which is almost never. This is an just a completely unnecessary, game-handicapping design choice, especially for a game of this genre.1

So many of the core mechanics are borderline intolerable. Take combat, for instance: your sword’s range is the length of a standard classroom ruler, so you better get up close and personal with any bad guy you want to hit. Except, when you do hit them, they don’t recoil — they’re still right next to you! You have to sneak up so close to them that you’re almost touching to land a hit, and at that moment, the slightest judder from the bad guy costs you a full heart. It’s not combat as much as it is contact gambling.

It’s unbelievable that Glory Hunters shipped with a map that can only be accessed by talking to a monkey in a village, among many other maddening design decisions.

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Speaking of hearts: you can earn more (yes, through Glory Points), but if you lose the default three, it’s an immediate game over. This would be fine, if the game actually had healing drops. It doesn’t! With the exception of one “big fairy”2 in each dungeon, nobody ever drops any healing items! This means that you better rush over to the nearest inn every time a bad guy lands a couple of hits, which, as seen above, they’re bound to do any time you decide to risk getting up close to try and land a hit with your ten-inch-long sword. You also can’t see your health without pressing Select, so it’s easy to forget that you’re about to die.

Dungeons: great graphics, mediocre level design

Glory Hunters’s dungeons especially benefit from its inspired, creative and fun graphics and art style. Bosses and certain overworld characters (such as the giant, talking, five-headed levitating turnip that teleports you to nearby towns, a personal favorite) are filled with personality. Aside from that, the level design is nothing to brag about, and dungeons certainly don’t have the same “Aha” moment that many of their Zelda counterparts manage to capture. The lack of a readily-available map is once again a terrible design choice that, coupled with the aforementioned lacking combat mechanics, really tars the experience.

Glory Hunters’s graphics are often downright beautiful.

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A word on the music and sound design

The music in Glory Hunters is, quite frankly, dreadful. The compositions are simplistic, repetitive, and completely forgettable. Each track drones on and on with the same grating melodies that will make you want to mute your Game Boy within minutes.

The music fails to evoke any sense of adventure, excitement or emotion. It’s the auditory equivalent of cold, lumpy, unseasoned oatmeal – completely devoid of any flavor or flair.

The giant, talking, five-headed levitating turnip is my favorite character.

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The sound effects aren’t much better, mostly because they barely even exist: aside from your sword slash sounding like a wet towel slapping tile, barely anything else even makes a noise. Enemies, bosses, characters, you name it.

To be fair to the developers, composing music and designing sound effects for a Game Boy title is no easy feat given the system’s technical limitations. But Glory Hunters’ bland compositions cannot be fully excused by hardware constraints. With more thoughtful composition and sound design, the game’s audio could have significantly enhanced the experience rather than detracting from it. As it stands, you’re better off playing with the volume all the way down.

Verdict: Built with care but still neglects the essentials


Glory Hunters delivers on its promise of an expansive and diverse world, with 20 hours of gameplay, 9 dungeons, and beautiful graphics – but its broken core mechanics, confoundingly, unnecessarily bad design decisions and downright grating music seriously spoil the experience, and make the game a bit of an example of how a few bad decisions and core deficiencies can mar a game despite huge amounts of content. Many of the broken core mechanics and design elements could be addressed with a major update, and I hope that the developers will make the time for it before the game’s Steam release.
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  1. I am guessing that it might be possible to unlock the map later on in the game as an item. Even so, it should absolutely be with you from the start. ↩︎

  2. Actual name. ↩︎