By Steve Baltimore / April 13th, 2013
|Title: Final Fantasy: The Four Heroes of Light
Developer: Matrix / Square-Enix
Release: October 5th, 2010
Final Fantasy: The Four Heroes of Light for the Nintendo DS is a throwback to the Final Fantasy games of old. I have been playing the series since Final Fantasy on the NES, and the style of this one really popped out at me. With turn based battles and a very unique look as well as gameplay style, I had to give this one a spin. I found that this is one of the most brutally difficult Final Fantasy games on the market. However, even with its crazy difficulty, there is still a lot to love about this title.
The story begins in a small village named Horne where a young boy named Brandt is about to present himself before the King. This is the custom of the village when a boy is about to enter manhood. The King tells the boy that Princess Arie has been kidnapped by an evil witch. Brandt then sets out on a quest to save her. He is joined by his best friend Jusqua and the princess’s body guard Yunita. After defeating the witch and rescuing the the princess, they return to the village to find that everyone has been turned to stone and the King is nowhere to be found.
They set out on a quest to restore their village and find the King.
In terms of graphics this title is a total win. The super deformed characters that we have all came to know and love are back. I personally always loved this style of characters in the series. The world itself is colored in what looks like watercolors much like you would find in a classic fantasy storybook. This art style makes the title really stand out and be one of a kind. Another great feature of this title is that each piece of armor and all of the weapons look different when they are equipped on your characters. All of the crowns featured in the game look different when equipped as well – I’ll talk about the crowns more here further into the review.
The music in this title is fantastic as it mixes a bit a of the old classic themes from the NES and SNES Final Fantasy games with some of the newer themes from more modern titles. What you come out with is a wonderful chip tune soundtrack that is both unique to this game and very pleasant to the ears. The sound effects are nice from the sword slashes to the blips and blops of casting a magic spell; it makes it feel totally like one of the 8 or 16 bit entries into the series.
The dungeons are pretty much your standard top-down old school design. There are a few treasure chests scattered about as well as some puzzles to figure out along the way. You will climb towers, descend into caves, and many other locales before you finish this title. None of the maps are really confusing; they are all pretty much straightforward. There are different paths to take in each dungeon and many places to explore, but they do not get overly complex, which is a good thing since there is no in-game map feature.
The combat system is a standard turn-based affair, but what this title does differently is that it does away with MP and uses a 5 point AP system instead. Special moves and magic spells will cost a certain number of points to execute. A normal attack or using a item will only consume 1 point. Each round you will gain back 1 AP point and you can stock up to a total of 5 points. You can also use the boost feature, which will allow you to defend for that turn, stocking you with 2 AP points at the beginning of the next round. Also, you will not pick which enemy you target with attacks or which party members will be healed with cure spells. The CPU does this for you, attacking whichever target it feels like and healing the party member with the lowest HP. If you use recovery items, it will heal the member with the lowest HP as well. This is usually not a problem, but it can be at times when you would rather bring back your white mage with the phoenix down rather than the fighter or you want to have them all hit the bigger target first.
After combat you will be rewarded with any spoils that the enemies may have dropped as well as some gems. There are eight different types of gems to be found within the game. You will use these gems to upgrade your crowns. Each time a crown is upgraded, it will gain the use of more powerful skills and this will be very important as the game progresses. You can also use the gems to upgrade weapons and armor. You will not be dropped any cash at the end of combat, however; you will have to rely on selling the spoils from battle you didn’t need or selling any extra gems you may have. Though I would hold off on selling your gems unless you absolutely have to; also, if you are defeated in combat you will not receive a game over screen. You will transported back to the last town you visited and you will lose half of one of the stockpiles of your gems. The game picks one type of gem at random that you will lose half of. This can be very bad if it picks a very rare gem to take away from you or this can be nothing if it takes a common gem that you do not have many stocked of anyways.
The crown system in the game is basically what we have all come to know as the job system from other titles in the series. Each crown will grant the user different skills and change their stats slightly: for example the White Mage crown will give a 1 AP discount on casting white magic spells and skills such as lifegiver that will allow a recovery spell to effect the entire party at one time. The Fighter crown will give skills such as combat, which raises your critical hit rate and will give you a big bonus in strength and HP. You can pick and choose up to six skills for each character to have in battle. This is very similar to the jobs system we see in Final Fantasy titles today, but here the characters do not retain these skills and they will only be available while the specific crown is equipped.
Almost every weapon and piece of armor in this game has some sort of elemental property to it. This will be very important as the game progresses since the later boss battles will require you to have the proper setup in order win. Level grinding will not help you as the enemies level up with you. You will do more damage, which in turn will make the battles go faster, but as you do more damage to them they will deal more to you. Just like any good relationship, it is give and take, mostly them taking and only giving you a sense of crushing defeat.
The inventory system on this one is quite different than what we are used to today. Each character can only hold up to 15 items and this includes the 4 pieces of equipment that you have equipped on them. This makes inventory management a bit of a pain at times. In addition to the equipment taking up inventory slots, if you have a mage for each spell that you want them to have a available in combat, they must be holding that spell book in their inventory. This leaves very little room for healing items and any spoils you may pick up after battles.
This was one of the most fun and challenging games I have played in years and they really do not make them like this anymore. The difficulty of this one is staggering at times and you will need a very specific crown and equipment set to beat the boss battles. You will often find yourself grinding away for drops to sell for cash or gems to upgrade your crowns or equipment with. The story is very simple, but it is engaging enough to keep you pressing on until the end. I cannot compliment the art design and soundtrack enough as they really give this game a great vibe.
This one will not be for everyone, as I mentioned before, as it is very grind-heavy and the difficulty can be over the top. The later boss battles will make you pull your hair out at times while you are trying to figure out what you need to defeat these powerful monsters, but with this comes a feeling of great satisfaction when you accomplish a tough battle or finally see the end. If you are looking for a challenge and have a Nintendo DS you should definitely pick this one up: you will not be disappointed. This game does include an online multiplayer mode, which I was unable to play most likely because no one is playing this online any longer.
Review copy was provided by the reviewer.
dsFinal FantasyFour heroes of lighthandheldJRPGNintendoRPGSquare Enix