While I was wandering the show floor, I came upon an open kiosk with a lonely DS loaded up with Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light. As a fan of both the DS Final Fantasy remakes, as well as the classic Final Fantasy: The Crystal Chronicles title for the Gamecube, I was astonished to see such a lack of interest in the new game. So I picked it up and gave the demo a whirl; here are my impressions.
Classically designed, The 4 Heroes starts off with our hero Brandt being woken up by his mother. Naturally, it's his birthday and he's been summoned to the castle for some task that is likely very important. At this point, the game becomes a very blatant demo, with the majority of NPCs in town stating what their purposes will become in retail, or giving helpful hints to progress through the demo. Rather than include all of the content in the home town, it had obviously been trimmed down for a speedy play-though.
So, of course, I took my time, much to the exhibitor's dismay. I talked to a majority of the NPCs, who eventually told me I could switch any of my party's "Crowns", or in essence change their jobs, at any time outside of battle. After changing a character's job, you then had to equip the skills that your new job allowed. Each character had six open skill slots, but none of the low level jobs afforded more than two actual skills. I equipped what I could and moved on.
My party consisted of a White Mage, a Black Mage, a Wayfarer and a Bandit. While the White Mage and the Wayfarer started with simple healing skills, the Black Mage was given a fire spell, and the Bandit had an innate ability that made monsters drop more gems. Gems, from what the NPCs told me, were attachable stat bonus items for equipment. I never found one, so who's to say how helpful they are.
Finally I came to the King, and he naturally begged me to clear a cave of monsters for him (some birthday!). After leaving the King's castle I was brought to a world map (demo time skip), and I meandered over to an ominous looking cave. The new zone was pitch black, and I think I recall some mention of a torch, but it wasn't in my inventory so I didn't worry about it. Straight forward I went, blindly following turns and expecting something to happen eventually.
Right I was, as a message popped up telling me the enemy I was about the encounter was stronger than I would like to fight. But there was no turning back: A giant minotaur stood before me; I would show no mercy.
I set the two members on the right side of the field to attack, and the two on the left to "boost" in order to gain power. After the two party members initially attacked I was informed that I had destroyed the Minotaur's right horn. Future attacks from these two party members did direct damage to the boss. With the two boosted party members I attempted to switch targets to the Minotaur's main body, but they were forced to attack the left horn first, targets were auto-selected. The left horn fell in a single round of melee attacks.
Meanwhile, my Wayfarer and Bandit both continued melee attacks to little effect. Each hit would do a measly 5 points of damage, so I decided to bring out the fire power. My Black Mage's boosted Fire spell did 60 points of damage (it was super effective), killed the minotaur and ended the demo. I'm calling a nerf on Black Mages before the game is released.
Graphically The 4 Heroes was very similar to the Final Fantasy remakes on the DS. Combat was similar too, in the sense that it was turn based and very simple and intuitive in practice. Just based on those aspects alone I'd say this looks like a solid RPG title for DS fans.
What I really wanted to know more about what the cooperative side of the game. The 4 Heroes of Light is meant to include consequent four player cooperative play, but I found no sign of it in the demo and the booth aide was unhelpful to say the least. Even a slight tease at the cooperative play might have turned this into an instant buy for myself, but as it stands I'd say to simply put it on the list of games to watch.
Final Fantasy The 4 Heroes of Light is due for a Nintendo DS release on Oct. 5, 2010 in North America.