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Class of Heroes

What did you major in when you graduated? Political Science? Law? Liberal Arts? Forget all that; when I grow up, I want to major in dungeon crawling. Class of Heroes is an upcoming RPG from Atlus that promises to teach students the proper way to adventure. With a robust character creation system and a large number of hellish dungeons to conquer, it’s shaping up to be a classic RPG fan’s dream come true.

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Immediately, the game grabs interest thanks to its sleek art design and likeable presentation. Set in a fantasy realm where college is all about fighting monsters and hunting for treasure, Class of Heroes places a huge amount of choice at the player’s feet. Character creation covers class, alignment, and of course, choosing from fifteen majors to work towards for graduation. On top of that, players can choose from ten races, as well as pick a gender. According to Atlus, there are over 500 possible combinations, each with its strengths and weaknesses. It’s important to choose something that fits your playstyle, however, because school is hard.

Like, really hard.

Class of Heroes offers over 75 dungeon maps in total, but clearing just one will feel like an accomplishment. In a true old-school fashion, maps are explored in first person, inching forward block by block in a nightmarish network full of monsters, traps, and of course – treasure! Class of Heroes is similar in play to the Atlus-produced game Etrian Odyssey for the Nintendo DS, but with a much more developed presentation. Each academy features an eclectic cast of faculty members. Should players manage their way through each school’s challenges, the most prestigious academy of all – Mashlenia Institute – enrolls only the strongest adventurers around. Coming across as a cross between Harry Potter, Persona, Etrian Odyssey and Class of Heroes is appealing enough that PSP owners of all tastes could give it a shot.

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The battle system features six party members, and takes place in a first-person perspective. Party members can be arranged by the player, with three characters in front and three providing support from the rear. Naturally, this makes for interesting combinations; tank characters can be placed on the battlefront to absorb damage while characters with poor defense can pick at their foe from relative safety. Or, you could place speedy damage dealers in the front, trusting in their speed and agility to survive any attacks to their row. These are but two combinations; in reality, they’re practically infinite and entirely up to the player. Regardless of your formation tactics, however, one thing will be omnipotent: grinding. Succeeding in Class of Heroes requires making use of the many possibilities for stat-building. Boosting stats and forging items plays a massive part in the game, overshadowing any sense of story or linear plot. Deep gameplay is supplemented by charming presentation, but never overtaken by it.

Once it’s sucked you in, however, it has to keep you interested. Naturally, as a classic RPG, Class of Heroes is primed to kick your ass, so it’s possible that only hardcore players should apply. Still, the premise is easy to get into, and the school atmosphere and characters help explain the gameplay very well – even if the mainstream won’t pick up on it, Class of Heroes deserves recognition for thoroughly explaining RPG mechanics in layman’s terms, and as a whole making the package delightful and fun, as well as challenging. From what I’ve experienced, the presentation manages to make the difficulty feel rewarding, and not a self-inflicted grind. We’ll see for sure when Class of Heroes hits shelves in April.

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in October 2006.

Gentle persuasion

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