Way back in June of 2011, I bought a few DS games off of Amazon as part of a sale, and one of those games was Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light, a love letter to the classic NES era of RPGs, which contained suck hits of Dragon Quest I, a game that is near unplayable by today’s standards, but was made far more enjoyable by a remake for the Gameboy Color. Of Final Fantasy I, a game that used one of the most inconvenient magic systems that I have ever seen, and had a difficulty curve that was as smooth as a mountain. But it was remade for the GBA back in 2004, and remains one of my favorite RPGs to this day. And Mother, which is also known as Earthbound Zero. A game that is often ignored in favor of its successors, which are considered to be some of the most overlooked, but over discussed RPGs in the history of the industry. If you have not grasped onto the point, it is that NES RPGs are not considered to be among the best, so it is perplexing as to why anyone would want to imitate their style.
I understand wanting to take something old and apply new technology onto it, just look at the trippy Space Invaders Extreme and Infinity Gene, or Shadow Complex, which had the technology and aesthetics of a big modern game, but felt like Super Metroid, a game 15 years old at the time of its release. But I cannot name an RPG that was great because it was like something from the NES. Enter Matrix Software, a company responsible for remaking the long forgotten Final Fantasy III, where they showed their first sign of devotion to the classic formula by characterizing characters as little as possible, and keeping the original’s godawful charge based magic system. Shortly afterwards, they remade Final Fantasy IV and added voice acting and solid 3D models. But they did not stop there, they made a sequel to Final Fantasy IV, and it was a sleeper hit due to the fact it was on Wiiware, and it used sprites, rather than the 3D models they had been using before. They seemed like a very solid company that learned from the classics, so them making a similar game that channeled the classics seemed like a surefire thing. But after the old decent and massively delayed Nostalgia, it seemed that they did not quite have the spark for making a game from scratch, or at least not anymore.
But enough with this backstory, let’s get on with the finalized product, Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light!
Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light Partway Impressions
Release Date: 5/10/2010
Price I Paid: $14.99
The game stars a 14-year-old platinum blonde named Brandt, who, in order to become a man in the eyes of his society, must kill the witch of the north and rescue a princess. Over his journey he finds 3 peers who are all asses to each other: Jusqua, another platinum blonde, but of a higher class. Yunita, a female version of that knight “character” from Final Fantasy III DS. And Aire, the Princess who loves to complain. Now, I can forgive tropes if there is at least one unique protagonist, but these clots are as bland as you can get. I admit, they do seem to complain about each other, even though they are ultimately trying to save their home, which they should do together, but this game prefers to leap around and abandon characters because they can’t be arsed to get out of their beds. I thought this game was about friendship due to the cover, poster with the game, and the trailers I saw, but all they do is whine like angsty teenagers, even though they look like 9-year-olds due to the cutesy artstyle.
I understand different art styles, and I love things that look adorable, hell, I consider Wind Waker to be one of the best looking games that Nintendo ever made. But this just looks bland, I know that the DS cannot do 3D very well, but there is just something that I hate with the way this game looks. I think it may just be how light the characters look, they all look sickly pale, as in skin that looks more white than it does peach. And that may not seem like much, but the flat world that is nearly devoid of more than two colors and simply dull character design ruin something that I thought the game could do very well. Hell, its spiritual successor, Bravely Default: Flying Fairy is one of the best looking 3DS games I have seen thus far. No matter how I try to convince myself that gameplay is the solely important thing, it is hard to ignore a game this visually boring. Sound does not hold up much better, its just a bunch of overly mellow chiptunes and uninvolving battle music that you can easily go through via auto-battle.
Gameplay is where I have my biggest concern though, not the main combat, it is a turn based RPG where you gain one AP a turn, and can use abilities that consume a set amount of AP, or just stockpile it to your maximum of five. It is unique to say the least, but I’ll get back to it in a bit. Taking another cue from Final Fantasy III, there is a class system with about 25 classes that you get over time, all of whom have a unique talent and stats. I do not have a problem with this, it is a reliable method, but they screw it up pretty badly. There are a lot of little things that annoy me, like how Mages might as well use weak spells as their default attack, the very small inventory of 11 items once you count out equipment that needs a slot for a spell book that anyone can use, and a lot of minor items that will be needed due to the fact that the game has at least taken Final Fantasy I’s difficulty curve. Due to a perplexing design decision to keep your team separate, which I’ll get to in a minute, the battles can go from a walk in the park, to one where you have two foes, one party member, and you die in four hits, wonderful design there.
But back to the idea of separating all the party members. From what I recall, the only Final Fantasy game that had you switch between party members on a regular basis was Final Fantasy XIII, but that game was just a mess of bad ideas, so I cannot fathom why Square Enix would want the throwback title to remind them of the newest one. I am all for being different, but this just results in a plot that is hard to get involved in, because most characters hate each other and cannot even be bothered to wake them up before they go adventuring. I realize that I was only a fifth way through the game, but I like to feel like I am capable in games. And that’s not saying that games where I feel weak, are bad, just game that say that you are a hero while you feel like you could not kick a puppy without losing a kidney.
I guess that’s all I’ve got to say, it is a game that I find to be broken, and I do not see myself returning to. I do not think it is well designed, and that is really hard for me to say, because I really had faith in the developer, since they put forth two great remakes, and a sequel for one of them that I heard great things about. I just hope that A: Bravely Default: Flying Fairy, comes out in the US, and B: That it is a lot better paced than this game.