Reviewed: November 15, 2010
Released: October 5, 2010
It’s time to take another trip down memory lane or at least the shiny ghost of memory lane. In Square Enix’s newest turn based DS adventure, Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light players get a blast of old school nostalgic charm with a sprinkle of modern upgrades. This all new adventure despite its adorable storybook presentation should not taken as a sign to sit back and relax as you are about to embark on an adventure that takes me back to the hardcore roots of JRPG’s.|
The story follows Brandt as he wakes up after oversleeping on the day of his 14th birthday in the town of Horne. Today he becomes an adult and must present himself to the King of Horne and sets off on an adventure that Brandt never sees coming. Brandt must rescue the King’s daughter, Princess Aire, from a witch that has some mysterious deal with Aire’s father. Along the way Brandt gains a few helpers to save Aire and after defeating the evil witch you are contacted by a giant crystal that charges Brandt, Aire, Jusqua and Yunita with stopping an even greater evil.
While these 4 heroes don’t see quite eye to eye, their individual split ups serve to bring them together to save the world in the end. Along the way they will meet and gain aid from several characters that will join their team such as the young but magical Krinjh as well as helpful folks such as The Adventurer (save point) who is always around wherever you go. But like the JRPG’s of the NES and SNES era, your allies are not the only source of help in this adventure. True to the classic era you must talk to as many NPC’s as possible to give you clues to where you must go or what you might need to help you along the way.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss this type of gameplay as I have found that while the industry has made some major advances in the RPG genre, the majority of the companies have turned to a more hand holding approach to some of their titles to make the title more accessible to the masses I would imagine. I know this has been a point of contention between the old school crowd and the gamers of today. I sit somewhere comfortably in the middle of this debate. I’m old enough to enjoy the “here’s the controller, figure it out”, but young enough to appreciate the “here’s how to do this” approach that the genre has seen in the last several years.
The “figure it out” approach is exactly what The 4 Heroes of Light requires from the player. It’s even taken things to a whole new level with a day cycle similar to Majora’s Mask though not near as head spinning. Periodically you have to visit or revisit place during day or night to find out what you need to advance. Like the desert town of Guera, which contains two things you need to help to free the town of a little devil problem. The local shop has a rock shield that is vital to defense and somewhere in the town is the much needed water tome that I inadvertently missed the first time before going up against the sand boss.
Another aspect of The 4 Heroes of Light’s old school roots is that while the overall controls are rather simple, there is no tutorial to be had unlike today’s RPG’s. You simply are dropped into the title and have to learn as you go. But rest assured the standard classic RPG rules apply here for the most part. There is only one thing that sort of bugs me though not game killing though by any means and that is the auto target feature. Unlike the games of old this new feature randomly (or perhaps not so much) picks you target during combat.
This can be frustrating at times especially when it comes to utilizing heals or trying to maximizing certain crown abilities. You can’t pick who you want to heal or who you want to attack like say the most dangerous enemy among a group. You just hope to the powers to be that the right person gets the health they need.
One of the things that Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light has that stays true to the old days is the amount of random monster encounters that it has. There are a ridiculous amount of encounters to deal with probably not the benefit of gamers who don’t like the tedium, but it is essential to success in this adventure. There will probably be times when you role into a boss fight or a new area only to realize that you a severely underpowered. So if you’re not a fan of level grinding then this may not be the adventure for you.
There are several new features in Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light that changes the gameplay up a bit from what I was used to a kid growing up. The first change is the elimination of the MP or Magic Points systems. In its place is an Action Point system (or AP) that dictates what abilities such as normal attacks, spells and even items that you can use at any given time. Also spells are no longer gained by leveling up; they are gained by finding or buying tomes. You also have to enable the spells in order to use them. Players must utilize a bit of strategy to choose which skills each character will use as you are only allotted 6 slots to assign abilities to. It’s a nice way of keeping the player from just walking all over the game.
Each player has 5 orb spots that fill up during combat some times faster than others depending on the characters mood in combat. You basic moves like attacking and using items take up one AP while more complex magic can take up to 2, 3 or 5 AP to execute. You can even boost your AP a couple of different ways to aid you in combat. The first is using the Boost skill, secondly by item use and the last is by finding the right Crown to do improve this ability.
Crowns are the perfect accessory for your Chibi adventurers to travel in style but they are more than a fashion statement. The Crowns serve as a means to give your characters abilities that either enhances spells or attacks as well as giving them a whole new set of abilities such as runaway or the ability to use items in your inventory without actually using them. That last one is very useful I can tell you that much once you gain the right crown. Crowns are earned by defeating bosses, finishing quests and even good old-fashioned exploring. These Crowns can be upgraded to make your characters more powerful or effective using the various gems you win randomly in battle.
The gems also serve as a source of fast money as the enemies rarely if ever give you money in drops. You can cash them in for much needed gold to buy armor, weapons, and spells to aid you in battle. There is one catch though. Unlike most modern RPG’s items do not stack and you are limited to just 15 item slots per character and this includes weapons and armor. This requires you quell any hoarding tendencies that you may have and carefully delegate needed items to your party members. It also makes you switch out and sell weaker equipment and weapons. It adds a real challenge to this storybook adventure and I love it.
The graphical style of Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light is perhaps one of my new favorites in Final Fantasy’s long and impressive line of tales. One of the reasons is that it taps into my childhood days of playing titles like Secret of Mana and Final Fantasy III. The simple world design of The 4 Heroes of Light flows like you’re turning another page in a pop-up children’s storybook. The character designs are nicely done even by DS standards and I like the way that the Crowns, equipment and weapons are actually visible on you character unlike some titles where you’re stuck with the same outfit regardless of what equipment you have on. Like I mentioned before like other elements of the game, the overall cute factor may put off some players. I also like the subtle details like blowing sand and windswept fields as well as the more obvious attack and spell animations.
Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light not only has a good story and a very cool presentation but it has an awesome old school score as well. Composed by Mizuta Naoshi, best known for Final Fantasy XI score, The 4 Heroes of Light boasts a nostalgic MIDI score straight out of the SNES era. It’s nice to see that developers still know their roots and give their fan bases some of that old magic back to the gamers even in these modern and changing times. Along with a great score that sets the mood for the entire adventure the sound effects are pretty good as well. All you classic JRPG sounds are in place here and it sounds great. The only thing that could make it better would be spoken dialogue.
On the grand scheme of theme of things, Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light offers hours of quality old-fashioned hardcore RPG gameplay. But why face the battle alone when you can invite up to 3 three other players along to battle with you in the Multiplayer mode. Here you can team up locally using the DS Wireless Connections feature to complete quests in your world or theirs depending on the host. Each player must have their own copy of the game to do this though. So if you can find at least one other friend that has the game, then you can give Multiplayer a shot.
It’s been a good while since I’ve played an RPG title that has brought back the almost true spirit of the Nintendo Hard era. Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light may not be the perfect old school RPG but it is up there on my list of must play titles for the DS and of 2010. There was very little that I found annoying other than the targeting bit in this game and I love that fact. I highly recommend picking up Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light for DS especially to you old school RPG fans out there.