When thinking of traditional RPG franchises, the Final Fantasy series comes to mind instantly. Recent games in the franchise have slowly digressed from the traditional ways that we all have come to love, proceeding to usher in what is being dubbed the “New School” RPG. Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light has opted to stay true to the genre, and stuck with the elements of a traditional RPG. Longstanding fans of Final Fantasy or those engrossed in the genre will feel right at home when playing this game. Square Enix has not only brought back the traditional RPG, but also what made RPG’s fun to start with.
The story of Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light revolves around four main characters. Brandt, Jusqua, Yunita, and the cheerful princess of Horne Aire are the heroes of the game. Much like Final Fantasy II the characters don’t have to stick with their default names, but the player has the option to name them at the beginning of the game. Whatever the player decides to name his heroes they will start the game off as Brandt who has just turned fourteen becoming an adult. The custom of the land is that Brandt presents himself to the king to be given a quest, once completed he will then be considered a man. When Brandt gets to the castle the King’s youngest daughter has been kidnapped by the Witch of the North, and you guessed it Brandt is asked to save her. Along the way to confronting the witch Brandt is joined by three other companions. After fighting the Witch of the North, the heroes return home to find everyone has been turned to stone thus beginning the real adventure.
The story contains a bunch of fun and lovable characters especially the four heroes who at times can be opposites. The game hasn’t done the generic thing by placing four characters with different personalities together, and making them all get along. Each character is different, with uniquely crafted personalities. Those differences in character are what drives the story forward, and makes the game interesting leading to the group separating. The story has a bad habit of losing its momentum when the game switches from one character separation subplot to another. I found this an annoying aspect of the game because I often found myself adjusting to another part of the story when I was already immersed in another.
The 4 Heroes of Light has all the makings of an epic fantasy. The story features: heroes, monsters, kings, queens, and princesses; however the constant storyline switches stops the story from being fluid. The story can be confusing at times having those “Where do I go now?” moments that shouldn’t be in an RPG today. I would often find myself wondering where to go being forced to navigate the world either without a map or a poorly detailed one. Moments like those can take the fun away from the game especially when you end up going to the wrong location.
The game does a great job of introducing new characters in the story that can join the party or help them in their adventure. The new characters leave as quickly as they come, which is usually when I have adjusted to them. The temporary characters are used well within the plot, also driving the story forward. I did feel the characters were good enough to be a part of the main cast, but the story wants you to know that the focal point is the four heroes only.
Graphically the game is impressive priding itself on its picture-book visuals. The art style by Ahihiko Yoshida really captures the fantasy/heroic tale theme, and he does an excellent job in doing so. Playing The 4 Heroes of Light is like opening a children’s book and seeing the world come to life with the amazing 3D visuals.
RPG’s are well-known for having quality music that stands out. Sadly the music in The 4 Heroes of Light fails at that, but the music does a good job setting tone of adventure. After a while the music becomes dull, and a pain to listen to. Although the game has no outstanding music, the battle theme is a classic. The battle music is traditional sounding like something we would have heard in a 90’s RPG which was great to hear. To an RPG fan the music will sound familiar, and even though it helps set the mood it doesn’t sound new.
Looking at the game I thought it was going to be the easiest Final Fantasy game ever, but I was deceived by the picture-book visuals. Although the game is easy to learn, with user-friendly controls for those new to the genre. Some casual RPG gamers will find the game is actually difficult after the initial learning curve. Right from the start you are thrown into the deep end. Luckily the touch screen controls are easy. However with no guides or tutorials the difficulty of the first mission can prove difficult even for the experienced players.
The 4 Heroes of Light introduces the crown system that is similar to the class system. There are 28 crowns in the game to unlock, each with its own unique abilities and attributes. Crowns can be upgraded through gems that are collected in battle, enhancing abilities and attributes. A good feature is the ability to change a character’s appearance by changing crowns or equipment. To incorporate this type of customization in the game makes the player feel it’s their character in the story. The crown system does have its shortcomings where an experienced player like me who has already set my character’s spells finds his work undone when I switch crowns. This can cause the player to unknowingly go into battle without any magic to get killed. This flaw in the system forces me to reassign my characters abilities each time a crown is removed.
An RPG wouldn’t be traditional if it never had random encounters and a turn based battle system. While traveling the world map, chances to level up characters will become frequent with random encounters. The game uses a more traditional battle system that operates through the touch screen interface. The battle system is based on Action Points (AP), and every action uses up a certain amount of AP. Dependent upon the crown being worn an ability can cost more or less AP. Crowns determining the AP cost is a strategic element in the game, as if the right crown is worn on each character it can determine a battles difficulty, since each character has a maximum of five AP.
A major flaw with the battle system is the inability to choose which enemy you attack. The enemy that gets attacked is chosen for you, and 95% of the time it doesn’t matter who you hit. It can only cause problems if you know one enemy is stronger than the other, in which case you might want to choose who you pick off first. Aside from that the battle system is what you expect from a traditional RPG.
Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light does support multiplayer of up to four people. When playing the multiplayer players will be able to collect Battle Points by raiding dungeons. The acquired Battle Points can be exchanged for items that can be used in single player, which is a good incentive for friends to play together in the multiplayer side quests.
To conclude Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light is a great game for the Nintendo DS, and I recommend the game to anyone willing to play. The user-friendly controls allow for newcomers to play as easily as a longstanding fan. If you are a fan of the traditional RPG, then this game is for you, and it will remind you of why you fell in love with these types of games. Don’t be fooled by the art direction Akihiko Yoshida has taken, it’s just used to add a Fantasy tale feel and the game will defiantly be a challenge. Final Fantasy is a major RPG series that is known for its unique characters and epic storytelling. However The 4 Heroes of Light makes mistakes that you wouldn’t expect in an RPG branded with the Final Fantasy name. There are a few gameplay features that are stopping this game from being perfect such as: the inability to choose who you attack in battle, lack of plot fluidity, switching crowns will remove set abilities, and no game tutorial. The shortcomings of the game mentioned will disappoint the RPG fan a lot more than a newcomer. Nevertheless I am looking forward to what Square Enix has in store next for the Nintendo DS as they keep bringing great RPG after RPG out on the handheld.