Two great things happen when a game goes multiplatform after a long delay -- a huge new audience gets the chance to check it out, and the developers get the opportunity to apply some extra spit and polish to their product.
Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes didn't need much in the way of improvement when it dropped on the Nintendo DS in December 2009, but given that this turn-based gem flew way, way under most gamers' radar screens, it definitely deserved a bigger audience.
Hopefully it'll get one now. Clash of Heroes is one of those "lightbulb" games: Challenging to explain (especially if you've never played a turn-based game) but once the bulb clicks on, you'll never want to unplug.
Battles play out on a grid with a set of units. Shifting them around to line up three of a particular type in a vertical row creates an attack that launches at your enemy after a set number of turns. Line up the units horizontally, and they turn into a defensive wall that could be the difference between dying and surviving one more round.
The game follows the tale of five young heroes whose lives and kingdoms are threatened when a big ol' demon lord swipes a magical dagger and kills several of their parents. Each hero represents a chapter of the story, and also commands a certain type of unit, a list that includes everything from djinns that can freeze enemy units into blocks of ice to death-dealing reapers that kill everything they touch.
Developer Capybara cleverly gives you the chance to control them all over the course of the game's expansive campaign. Annoyed by the way the bones of the undead skeletons and wraiths magically assemble into walls for your enemy the turn after you've killed them? Relax -- they'll be using that power for your own benefit and glory in the next chapter.
Clash of Heroes' real killer strategy lies in trying to wring additional moves out of each of your turns. You're given three moves each turn (or more if you can discover and win the right magical artifacts), but if you can remove units from the grid, Puzzle Quest-style, to create a cascade of more three-of-a kind formations, you can earn extras. Even managing one extra move per turn can turn the tide in your favor.
The graphics for original DS version were capable, but the Xbox Live and PlayStation Network versions are eye-popping brilliant. Once they're charged, the units begin to blaze with ghostly fire and energy. Seeing a phalanx of blazing succubi and hellhounds ready to rage down your gullet is like watching a rainbow of death.