Review by Roto_Arel
"Not worth the purchase"
Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light (4HoL) is an homage to the classic NES RPGs. NES RPGs were notorious for focusing more on gameplay than plot and they also had a reputation for being difficult. 4HoL tries to imitate those qualities but fails in some respects. This game is not a remake of any of the NES Final Fantasy games, it is an entirely new game with new characters but the plot follows the same formula as the old Final Fantasy games. That is, four friends unite in order to destroy an evil being that is terrorizing the land. The music is a synthesis of NES tunes and modern RPG music to give it a more retro feel. There is also a crown system where you can change into different jobs and learn more skills. Money does not drop after battle but gems do. Gems can be sold for cash or they can be used to upgrade a crown (job) and learn a new skill or used to upgrade your equipment to make it stronger. In this turn based RPG, you attempt to save each town from the darkness that is engulfing the land and once you complete that, you will face the final boss in an epic battle.
The graphics are similar to the graphics in Zelda: The Wind Waker. They are cartoony, cel shaded and everyone seems to be made out of angular shapes. Some people do not care for this art style and complain that it makes the game look "kiddy". I don't mind it myself and the graphics are not so bad or distracting that they make the game unenjoyable. The character designs seem fine for the most part and there is some originality to the designs of the four heroes and secondary characters. The enemy designs however are not good. Some are just downright awful like the lizard men and even the tortoises. The boss designs are good on the other hand, especially the dragons and demons.
The music is catchy and it is appropriate for the game. I can't remember one annoying track I heard through out the whole game. The fusion between old NES music with some more modern RPG music is 4HoL's biggest success in my opinion. The music really enhances the retro feel of the game.
Plot & Characters:
The plot is about as generic as you can get. So generic that even that the plot from the NES Final Fanasties seems more nuanced. The story for the most part is very predictable and I was rarely surprised. There is barely any dramatic tension in the game. This is a big problem, even for a game that is trying to be retro. There needs to be some dramatic moment that pulls the player into the game and makes him care about the characters. Some games fulfill this requirement by making a party member die, destroying a town, or announcing the world is going to come to an end. Make no mistake, the world of 4HoL is in trouble but the way the story is told, you don't feel the sense or urgency when you are saving these towns.
The characters do not have much personality. When you select the names for you characters, you are given a bio that explains their personalities. This is bad for two reasons: you are being spoiled by the game and develop preconceived notions of each character before they even join your party and a good story should not literally tell you what the characters are like, you should be able to determine what they are like from their actions and dialogue. The personalities are cliched as well: you have a hopeful hero, a cool guy, a tough but friendly warrior, and a brat. This cast does not have the charm as do the casts from FF4 or FF6 either. This isn't a case of going back to the roots of the NES games and not caring about character development because 2 out of the 3 NES Final Fantasies had anonymous casts. If SquareEnix wanted to make a point that a good RPG isn't about well developed characters, then they could have made these 4 anonymous as well, but they didn't. Instead they were lazy and gave us worn out cliches and tried to pass that off as "character".
For a detailed explanation of the Crown and AP system, please refer to the manual or a FAQ. I will explain what is good and bad about both systems.
The AP system is good. Higher ranking skills require more AP points and AP recovery is balanced well with the Boosts and Psychs. You are still able to use curative spells outside of battle by going into your items menu and once you have access to better curative spells, healing items become less important. You do not need to carry around lots of status curing items because most status effects will heal on their own in battle if you give them enough time.
The Crown system is horribly unbalanced. Upgrading your skills requires gems but not all gems can be found in the same area. This makes it difficult to upgrade your crowns early in the game and it makes it very easy to upgrade them once you are able to fly. They should have devised another system for upgrading crowns or at least installed a level cap to make it balanced. Some do require rare gems that are mostly won from bosses and the bonus tower but I do not feel that that was enough. Some of the jobs (crowns) are hideously overpowered. There is one job in the game that is practically invincible and does heavy damage once you have enough money. Some jobs are so strong that you probably won't even bother trying out the other crowns because you won't need them.
For about half of the game you will not be fighting with a full party. Sometimes you will be solo, sometimes you will have a temporary part member join and then leave. This frustrates a lot of people because due to the item carrying limit you simply cannot prepare effectively for every random encounter with one or two people, especially if you are playing without a FAQ. Grinding for gems and experience also becomes difficult. Of course the penalty for dying is low, you lose a few gems but it can get annoying for people who just want to get from point A to point B without getting mauled by spells or statuses that they don't have the proper protection for. The dungeons are too short and simplistic. Also, some of them are dark and require you to use a torch item so you can see through them. This adds nothing to the game. It doesn't make it harder nor does it make it old school to require you to buy a cheap torch from the item shop just so you can explore a dungeon. The dungeon layout designs are uninspired and the puzzles are unimaginative as well. Final Fantasy wasn't known for having puzzles in dungeons but it did have a few. The only dungeon that stood out was the final dungeon.
There are not enough towns and the second half of the game is spent revisiting old dungeons with only a few new ones. This a lazy attempt for a game that doesn't even have much content to begin with. The game only takes about 20 hours to complete and recycling towns and dungeons halfway in is an insult. The boss battles, despite being difficult, do not require a lot of strategy. If you have the crown for that invincible job that I mentioned mastered then you don't have to worry about anything. Otherwise, victory doesn't really consist of choosing the right skills and spells at the right time but rather having the right resistances equipped. We saw this same sort of thing in the FF4 remake for the DS . So despite the battle system being admittedly fun, the amount of strategy that goes into regular boss battles is quite low.
Why such a low score?
The tagline for the 4/10 score describes this game perfectly: unremarkable and flawed. That is the reason why this game deserves a 4. I admit that it was a bold move to implement the AP system but it was the Crown system that effectively spoiled it by having several jobs that were ridiculously overpowered. The bosses didn't require any complicated strategy. You could beat them with pretty much any of the overpowered classes. While playing the game, I got the feeling that SquareEnix just didn't try. It was one thing to take a minimalist's approach to story and character development but it was another thing when the story and dialogue is so brief that you even forget your motivation for defeating Boss X in the Y cave. Having to talk to everyone almost every single time you complete a story arc or defeat a boss got annoying really fast. That is not an example of taking RPGs back to their 8 bit roots. NES RPGs didn't force you to do that every time. Plus, there were lots of places to explore in the more open ended NES RPGs. For the first half of the 4HoL, you really can't explore and after revisiting the towns in the second half, there is much left to explore either. The reason why I said this game is not worth buying is because it is so short and the 100 floor optional tower is not enough to motivate most people play this game longer than 30 hours. A tacked on dungeon cannot justify purchasing this game. There just isn't much to do when you are at the end of the game. All that's left to do is farm gems and fight in the tower. And as fun as the AP system can be, it gets repetitive really quick. While I said that this game is not worth purchasing, I did not say that it is not worth playing. Some people will enjoy it but it has very little replay value. Caveat emptor.
Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 10/14/10
Game Release: Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light (US, 10/05/10)
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