There’s nothing wrong with what’s tried and true. In the case of Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light, the dev team has gone on record as saying that they wanted to make a retro style game with today’s technology. This has led to a love-hate relationship in the gaming community–some praising its charming graphics and fairy-tale like story, and others griping about the game’s challenge and gameplay. So when my copy arrived in the mail, I can see why this game is not for everyone.
Be forewarned, there will be spoilers in here, so if you want to be surprised, click away now.
Still with me? Let’s break the game down:
Story: Good (3.85/5)
The story revolves around a boy named Brandt, who lives in the village of Horne. When boys in the game’s world come of age, they have an audience with the king–so when Brandt has his audience, he is told to save the princess Aire from the Witch of the north, which is only the starting point towards uncovering and stopping a demon invasion. While very simple at its heart, the characters more than make up for it–Aire and Jusqua are perfect foils. Aire with her stuck up princess tendencies, and Jusqua as the hapless servant calmly deflecting Aire’s temper tantrums. Aire’s antics with the others alone could possibly justify plunking down $30 for the game–she is that funny.
Graphics: Very Good (4/5)
The game looks and feels very much like an old storybook or a pop-up book akin to Final Fantasy Tactics, perfectly lending itself to the retro feel that the team was going for. While there is a lot of blocky 3D in the game, and occasionally this poses a problem, in this case it adds to the retro styling.
Sound/Music: Poor (2/5)
Now, I am not saying that the music is bad here–there still many likeable tracks in the game. My problem is the fact that the soundtrack could’ve been so much more than NES style bleeps and bloops–couldn’t the team have remixed some old favorites from Final Fantasies of yore? That would’ve said “nostalgia” or “retro” far better than any number of bleeps and bloops–but maybe the team was going for an NES-like feel. That still makes it feel odd that 8 bit bleeps and bloops are coming from something so much more powerful than an NES, making for what I think is missed potential.
Gameplay: Very Good (4/5)
Here’s where the game both shines and creates a love/hate relationship with its audience–the job system is back within “crowns” that you unlock as the story progresses, and you can use gems that the monsters drop to upgrade the crowns and grant you new skills (or you can sell them for gil) This makes you think carefully about whether to sell the gems you find or save them to upgrade a crown.
Those expecting to find a turn based battle a la the SNES Final Fantasies will be sorely disappointed, 4 Heroes’ of Light’s battle system is reminescent of the NES Final Fantasies. Your characters are limited by a set of action points, and if they are used up, your character can’t do anything else until they earn back an action point. Couple this with an auto targeting system and up to 60 items in your inventory (15 things per character) and you have a refreshing new spin on the turn based battle that may leave you tearing your hair out in frustration if you don’t know what to expect going in. Even normal enemies can be challenging to the novice player–sometimes a little too hard. Fortunately, you cannot die in game–if all of your party members die, you lose some of the gems you have collected. So if you go in expecting a challenge, you’ll be satisfied, if not enthralled.
Final Word: Average (3/5)
The team at Square set out to create a retro style game with today’s technology when they designed 4 Heroes of Light. On some fronts, such as the storybook-like graphics and memorable characters, they succeeded, and on other fronts, like the music and the battle system, it falls flat. Despite its flaws, it is still an enjoyable experience and worth at least a rental–just come prepared for a challenge.