A-Questing We Will Go!
It has been speculated (and all but confirmed) that the Final Fantasy series will be leaving its traditional turn-based RPG roots. However, even though the main series is “exploring its options,” the handheld Final Fantasy spin-off series have done an excellent job of keeping the old format alive. From the remakes of Final Fantasy I-VI to the multiplayer-centric Crystal Chronicles series, the handheld market has proved to be the place where the Final Fantasy series goes to try out both new and old ideas.
The Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles spin-off series found particular success on the Nintendo DS, and one area where both the Ring of Fates title as well as Echoes of Light really succeeded was in their implementation of the multiplayer aspects of the game. Though you wouldn’t think of the Final Fantasy series as being a natural fit for co-op play, The Crystal Chronicles series on the DS proved it could be executed well. Because of this success, a new spin-off franchise is being created that combines the co-op elements of the Crystal Chronicles series with the turn-based elements of the franchise that longtime fans have sorely missed.
We recently had some time to go hands-on with Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light, and although we weren’t able to check out the game’s multiplayer elements, we were able to spend some time with the game’s customization and battle systems. We started the demo as a male character that was just sent on an errand by the leader of the local kingdom. The visuals had a cutesy look that recalled the visual style of MySims. Characters all have oversized heads and can be outfitted with some awesome outfits and accessories. Unlike previous handheld titles on the Nintendo DS, characters will show their equipped goods as soon as you exit the menu, meaning you can see what you and your teammates are packing immediately just by looking at them.
The customization system is easy to use and feels intuitive. Items can be selected via the touchscreen, and are simple to equip. Interestingly, the game’s job system works similarly, and characters can switch jobs just by wearing a different crown. The jobs are not all unlocked at once, and you’ll have to complete a good portion of the game to unlock the twenty available classes.
Though both the classification and equipment system were fun to tinker around with, the real hallmark of the demo was the battle system. The game uses a turn-based system that recalls older Final Fantasy games and helps this title feel more cohesive than the DS Crystal Chronicles series. Although I can see the turn-based battle system becoming an issue in terms of waiting for other players, I think this feature might actually work better in the long run, as you won’t have to worry about any member of your team lagging behind or becoming dead weight during battles. We asked about how the co-op would work in the game, and have been told that local wireless will be the only way to go for the multiplayer. Although this is disappointing, I will be interested to see if the local wireless option spawns gatherings of hardcore fans or is forgotten about.
As we progressed through the demo, we faced some interesting opponents including bats, ghosts, and a minotaur-like creature. Most of these creatures were easily dispatched with a few standard attacks, but I was able to use some of my crown-specific abilities to great effect. I suspect that since the demo was unlocked, the creatures were meant to be defeated easily, as the game felt almost “too easy” in some parts.
Still, despite the difficulty level, I was impressed overall with the structure of The 4 Heroes of Light. Not only was the battle system simple to understand, the entire world of the game felt user-friendly. Traversing from the kingdom area to a remote cave only took a few minutes, and I was able to navigate effortlessly. Although enemies did appear (no doubt to assist those addicted to grinding), the path was mostly clear, and I was able to get where I was going without any interruption.
Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light looks like a solid handheld title. Though the Final Fantasy series at large seems to be moving away from its roots, it looks like the old format is finding a new home in the handheld sphere. With an intriguing battle system, fun customization elements, and the possibility of great local co-op, Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light is definitely a title Final Fantasy fans will want to check out when it releases this fall!