At first glance, Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light can easily be mistaken for a remake of the original Final Fantasy game. It looks like what we'd expect a modernized version of the old-school game to look like. It features a named cast of characters, but since Matrix Software's Final Fantasy 3 DS did the same with the previously nameless Onion Knights, it's easy to imagine the original Warriors of Light getting the same treatment. However, The 4 Heroes of Light isn't actually a remake, and with the exception of a few basic ideas, it's a brand-new game entirely. The 4 Heroes of Light tells the adventures of Brandt, a young boy who sets out on a quest to rescue a lost princess. Along the way, he meets up with three other heroes, and his quest slowly changes into one to save the world. It's a pretty traditional plotline, and for good reason. The 4 Heroes of Light may not be a remake, but it's clearly intended to cater to the nostalgia of classic Final Fantasy fans.
From what we saw on the E3 floor, the adventure looks like Final Fantasy at its most basic. Players venture from town to town and beat up monsters and baddies while occasionally exploring dungeons and fighting powerful boss enemies. It looks so traditional that while it may not be a flat-out remake of the original Final Fantasy game, it's easy to see how someone could mistake it for one. Everything, from the battle system to the art design, felt like pure, refined Final Fantasy. Of course, it was modernized, had more of a plot, more stylish visuals and more obvious direction, but it was clearly a trip back to the days of old. It might even feel a tad dated to people who are used to the high-intensity action of modern Square Enix games. There are a few modern features, like a day-night cycle that influences the strength of the monsters, but the bulk of the game looks fairly traditional.
The combat system in The 4 Heroes of Light is a little bit different from your traditional Final Fantasy system, although not tremendously so. Like most games in the franchise, you get into a fight and then battle opponents until one side runs out of HP. The big difference here is that, much like Final Fantasy XIII, the game has done away with traditional MP systems and uses Action Points instead. You can only have 5 AP at a time, but they're used for everything. You spend 1-5 AP to attack, cast magic, steal, etc., so without AP, you can't do a thing. You regenerate 1 AP per turn, but that doesn't help when you need a healing spell ASAP. You can use the Boost option to increase the amount of AP you gain in a turn and defend against enemy attacks. It costs you a turn, but it lets you build up a stockpile of AP. Each character will have up to six different abilities that he or she can access at a time, depending on the job.
The job system in The 4 Heroes of Light is slightly unusual. In previous games, your characters got new jobs by finding crystals, items or occasionally mastering a previous job. In The 4 Heroes of Light, your job is determined by the crown that you wear. Each character has a crown for each of their potential jobs. By equipping a crown, you change into that job and begin with the job's default abilities. These jobs include the most of the traditional Final Fantasy favorites, like Fighter, Thief or White Mage, but in order to vary the total selection, there are also a few new jobs. Leveling up a job isn't quite as easy as fighting with it equipped. A job remains at its level until you start finding gems, which are dropped by enemies and can be slotted into the crown. Once you find enough gems to fill the crown slots, it will level up. Be warned that each character has a unique set of crowns, so leveling up one character as a White Mage means that only he or she will get additional abilities.
Getting Gems sounds grindy, but there is a way to speed things up. The game will feature local multiplayer, where other players can help out by taking control of one of the characters. In multiplayer, you basically bring over your own version of the character to help out. It's a great way to farm gems, since everyone who is playing gets one if it drops during battle. We were told that everything except story progress is transferred to the other players. This means that multiplayer will be a solid way to build up your party for a tough challenge or help a friend in need. The multiplayer options seem a little odd to me. While previous Final Fantasy titles had the option to let a friend take over your party members, it's weird to see a turn-based game dedicated to that, and I have to wonder how it will play out in practice. It's a neat idea, provided you have a friend along for the ride.
Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light is an old-school RPG in almost every way. The addition of nonstandard MP and job systems modernize things a little bit, but even that shows just how old-school the rest of the title feels. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, though. Fans who are tired of the flash and excess of recent Final Fantasy titles will find a lot to like here. The gameplay looks simple, enjoyable and easy to play. While it isn't shaping up to have a world-bending plot or genre-redefining gameplay, The 4 Heroes of Light has the potential to be a fun, light RPG, much in the vein of games like Nostalgia.
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