Final Fantasy: The Four Heroes of Light Hands-On Preview

4 heroes of light overworld map

Square Enix was told to build a new Final Fantasy title from the ground up on the DS, and the charmingly familiar Four Heroes of Light is the product. The graphics feel very akin to the Zelda titles of the DS, with somewhat blocky but artistically shaded characters and landscapes occupying the lower screen while the upper screen shows character stats and abilities. The demo available on the E3 floor showcased the very beginning of the game where the main character and his three companions (Four Heroes, right?) are asked to visit THE king and begin their questing. While not much of the story was conveyed in the opening minutes, GamerNode managed to get in some time for the combat, upgrade, and exploration systems at the heart of the game, and the verdict is a comfortable return to tried and true stand-by’s for the series.

First, battles are triggered as random encounters. All of your favorite enemies are back, from wyverns to metal flans to chocobos, and most require a specific approach to conquer efficiently if at all. The attack plan is determined by the jobs assigned to your warriors, again bringing back old standards like black and white mages, thieves, bards, etc. The biggest benefit for each job class (called a job "crown"), aside from the job-specific abilities, is the augments to basic battles systems like Action Points (AP) or Gem accumulation. For example, the white mage receives a discount of 1 AP on all white magic abilities, and likewise with mages of differing classes. Though only a few crowns were available at the show, expect 28 different job crowns offering unique capacities as they are unlocked throughout the game.

The battle system is simple, which at first feels like compensation for younger gamers, but upon further inspection can involve some decent complexity. Every action is governed by AP, which can be boosted using the move "Boost" or accrued turn by turn or augmented by items or jobs. Not surprisingly, the more AP a move costs, the better it will be, and subsequently the less it will be available. The basic attack move, for example, requires one AP while a move like Curaga costs 3 AP. But it doesn’t stop there, because although supporting characters can heal and boost stats, they can also provide AP bonuses crucial to winning certain battles, not entirely dissimilar to the system of Final Fantasy XIII. Coordinating the support with attack abilities, especially as they cater to each enemy takes a lot of prior planning and strategy, and feels exciting in a retro kind of way.

While it doesn’t look exactly like any Final Fantasy game to date, it certainly plays like a lot of the early ones (including completely explorable, open over-world map). If you’re looking for a solid, hand-held Final Fantasy title that reeks of games gone by, then The Four Heroes of Light should satisfy that JRPG itch. Don’t expect a full AAA role-playing experience, but rather an enjoyable jaunt through a fantasy realm with well-balanced, strategic gameplay.


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Author: Dan Crabtree View all posts by
Dan is Managing Editor for GamerNode and a freelance gaming writer. His dog is pretty great. Check him out on Twitter @DanRCrabtree.

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