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Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light - DS Review

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Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light

DS | SQUARE ENIX | 1 Player / 2-4 Players (co-operative play) | Out Now
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13th July 2011; By Patrick

Almost any marketing team in the industry will tell you that retro gaming has become popular these days. Take Nintendo’s Virtual Console library for instance, or CAPCOM’s
Mega Man 9 and Mega Man 10. Square-Enix clearly agrees, as they’ve brought out Final Fantasy: The Four Heroes of Light (FF: T4HoL). Dubbed in Japan as Final Fantasy: Final Fantasy Gaiden, this is not a remake of an older game as some believe. This is, instead, a return to the retro-style RPG’s of old. But is it enjoyable in a modern time? Your mileage may vary depending on your expectations.

    The story of FF: T4HoL is laughable, and is almost certainly a joke meant to make older gamers experience nostalgia. Stop me if you’ve heard this one: you begin the game as Brandt, a young man in a small village who wakes up on his 14th birthday, charged with meeting the king to be proclaimed an adult. When he meets the king he discovers the princess has been kidnapped by the witch who resides north of the village. Upon meeting the witch and returning home he is thrust into an adventure. It’s thin as a sheet of paper, but it gets the job done and provides enough reason to start your quest, and to take on the numerous side-quests. These side-quests, along with the game’s co-operative multiplayer component (which sadly I was unable to test), will mean that the game should last you somewhere upwards of 40 hours to complete.

    As this is an RPG, and a Square-Enix RPG no less, combat plays an enormous role in the gameplay. However, the combat is simplified from most previous Final Fantasy games. For instance, you no longer are able to choose an enemy to attack -- the main commands are “Attack”, “Boost”, and “Item”, and you have to strategize how you’ll use them in the most effective manner. It works very well, however some RPG “traditionalists”, as it were, may find this change in the combat system to be a detractor. For a handheld RPG, however, it is a very welcome change, and is refreshing compared to other more detailed RPG’s on the DS and otherwise.

    One thing that RPG traditionalists will absolutely love about the game is it’s difficulty. Many gamers nowadays complain that games hold your hand too long and guide you through it. As an RPG traditionalist myself, I am happy to report that the game not only doesn’t hold your hand for too long, it never starts. At the very beginning you’re told to go find a castle to meet the king. Where’s the castle? You have to find it. There’s no “guide arrow” or helpful journal in sight - you have to legitimately explore and level grind in order to keep up with the steep difficulty spike that lasts the entire game.

    Many classic RPG’s have a job system where your character can learn one job and master it, and that dictates what abilities he or she can learn. The game introduces a “Crown Job System” as its unique take on the traditional system. As you defeat enemies, you can earn gems to upgrade Crowns which you place on your party members. Wearing these Crowns will grant them various sets of abilities, such as healing, gathering more collectibles, etc. As you upgrade the Crowns with gems, players gain extensions of their abilities. This, combined with the AP system -- a cost-based Special Ability part of combat -- allows for an incredible depth of strategy that can be used to tap the wealth of content and plan various strategies for boss battles.

    Visually, the game is extremely pleasing. All 2D art looks like it was hand-painted with a water-colour palette, with every drawn character having his or her own unique style. The 3D models are what really stand out though. Every character, building, and environment is cell-shaded a la The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, offering a game that is very easy to look at and get lost in, and one that I personally felt very connected to while playing. The music is electronic in nature, and shares similar qualities to 8-bit music from the NES era, while still containing a modern-day feel.

    Overall, many game developers will sacrifice either style or substance for the other, going for either amazing-looking games, or amazingly polished games. Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light manages to excel at both of these -- using it’s cell-shaded world and throwback-style music to entice, while the overall level of polish and depth provide substance. This title will not appeal to those looking for a simple straight-forward RPG experience, or players looking for an RPG with a low difficulty curve. However, if you know what you are getting into and are fine with the difficult nature of the game, you will find a true treat with Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light.

25/30 - Very Good

Gameplay 8/10 - Battle system streamline good and bad, innovative Crown System, difficulty very high
Presentation 10/10 - Beautiful graphics, nostalgic music, story is light enough to not detract from gameplay but present enough to cause you to continue
Enjoyment 4/5 - Full of depth, intuitive simple battle system, great for old-school RPG fans that enjoy difficulty
Extra Content 3/5 - Much exploring to be done, many side-quests, full game supports local multiplayer, will last 40+ hours

Equivalent to a score of 83% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)

Review by Patrick
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