Class of Heroes
Platform: PSP
Publisher: Atlus
Developer: Zerodiv
Genre: Traditional RPG
Format: UMD
Release: US 04/07/09
Japan 06/26/08

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So close, yet so far.
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What class shall I take today?
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Those darn enemies are persistent.
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Every game needs a bookworm.
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Dennis Rubinshteyn
Hands-On Preview
Dennis Rubinshteyn

Since the days of Wizardry, first-person dungeon crawling has been a dead genre, but Atlus gave it some life again with the Etrian Odyssey series. While it lacked mainstream appeal, the Etrian Odyssey series does the genre well by giving players a challenging dungeon crawler with a heavy emphasis on exploration and character customization. Its old-school charm and brutality ushered in a cult following. Next month, Atlus brings out a dungeon crawler for the PSP called Class of Heroes, developed by a relatively new company called Zerodiv. We at RPGFan have a hands-on preview of the upcoming dungeon crawler.

The premise is simple: mysterious labyrinths, full of monsters and treasures to find, suddenly appeared one day. This mysterious phenomenon made many people want to explore these labyrinths, and thus came the rise of adventurers. With the increase in young people interested in becoming adventurers and the dangers that are present in these labyrinths, several people decided to guide inspiring adventurers by forming the Particus Academy in order to educate them. With many students enrolling to get the 101 on proper adventuring, some will emerge as heroes.

When you start off the game, you can create a party of up to six members by spending points on their stats, and selecting from ten races, three alignments and fifteen fighting classes known as majors. In order to take a certain major, the party member must have the correct stats and alignment. A character can change his or her major whenever and receive some benefits. Their level will reset back to one, but their stats and magic points remain. Unlike other dungeon crawlers of its kind, character progression takes a more traditional route by assigning stats automatically and gaining abilities when you reach a certain level as opposed to manually assigning everything to create a certain build.

The game revolves around quests which typically ask straightforward tasks of you, such as finding an item or killing a certain enemy. Other times it involves simply talking to an NPC in the same locale. There is usually no reward for finishing a quest, but completing certain quests will advance the story, which includes access to new dungeons and some previously restricted areas.

Dungeons play out in first-person perspective, and they're large, semi-randomized and they contain all sorts of traps. The layout of the first few floors is determined randomly, but upon reaching the center of the dungeon, the floor always remains the same. The central floors are where quests usually take place. No map is available for you initially so you have to either buy the dungeon map or cast a spell that enables you to check the map with the press of the square button. Eventually, dungeons are expanded with extra floors called labyrinths, which are part of story quests and contain bosses to fight. Each randomized floor holds a magic key that you activate to unlock gates on the floor. Doing so enables you to go to the next floor quickly if you ever get the same floor layout.

The combat is standard turn-based fighting with a lot of enemies to fight divided into groups and a heavy emphasis on elemental strengths and weakness. Magic works differently in this game because you have a number of uses for a group of spells like in Final Fantasy 1 rather than typical MP cost. There is also a tension system that enables the party to perform unite attacks for massive damage. In order to activate it, there is a tension meter that fills up when you complete quests and fight many battles. There are several unite attacks and their costs and abilities vary. Rather than earn gold for winning battles, you get items related to the major customization aspect of the game: the alchemy system.

Alchemy is the answer to providing new equipment and items for the party since gold is scarce and prices are high in shops. With the right ingredients, you can create a variety of items and equipment for a small fee. You can also dismantle equipment to obtain materials in order to create something better, or enhance it by upgrading equipment’s power or adding elemental properties. You are free to experiment to figure out how to create new items, but the game gives you the choice of purchasing recipes to make it easier.

The game's graphics contain a lot of crisp 2D art. The backgrounds are varied and look nice, and there is a substantial amount of anime-styled artwork that’s nice to look at. Dungeons went the 3D route, and while it’s not much eye candy, they each have their own style to keep things fresh. The music in the game prefers quality over quantity, giving players upbeat tunes at school and towns while containing no music at all for dungeons. The dungeons rely on sound effects such as screeching bats and dripping water to set the atmosphere.

Having clocked in several hours, I admit that the game has some rough spots and a steep learning curve, but it has potential and it gets deeper as you progress. RPGFan will provide a review next month on how this game holds up in the long run.


© 2009 Atlus, Zerodiv. All Rights Reserved