It is a story that we've heard countless times before... a young boy comes of age, is flung headlong into a quest that no-one in their right mind would accept; has no problem with killing countless beasties in a bid to try and get through task after endless task, and eventually (probably) saves the world. Yes, dear readers: it's time for another Final Fantasy game.
It must be said that this a a bit different to the norm. Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light
from now on) is a gaiden, a side story, not fully part of the juggernaut franchise, but it still stands under the umbrella. The story is, as mentioned, dipped in a healthy coating of cliché: you play a fourteen year-old boy on a mission to prove himself; swiftly recruiting others to form the Four Heroes of Light that give the game its name.
Massive Difficulty Spikes
Now, be warned: The 4 Heroes Of Light
is old-school. Very old school in fact, and of course, that comes stacked with pros and cons. The art style, for example, is incredibly striking - and I've got to say that initially I hated it. However, after playing the game, after giving it some time and actually getting into it, I found myself strangely drawn in to the little world inside my DS. It looks like no other FF
title released so far - if anything, it reminded me of Animal Crossing
dressed in muted tones. I feel it could be quite divisive, but for me... Well, I liked it.
The game does offer a good level of challenge. You will get your ass handed to you on a regular basis, which is great. If you like to be tested regularly, this would be a good title to pick up. However, it suffers from the age-old JRPG problem: massive difficulty spikes. These occasionally spring up and can only be surmounted through interminable grinding, and in 2010 that feels remarkably old.
is a curious beast, deeply rooted in the past. A perfect example can be seen in the battle system: it's turn based and requires you spend action points, which can be boosted by not performing an attack. Balance the AP out between your characters and you'll be able to maintain an equilibrium of fighting and healing. Don't go or balance, go all out instead, and you'll soon get wiped.
You need to take a considered approach when battling, and make sure you're buffed enough to take on the bigger enemies and you'll get plenty of practice in those aforementioned random encounters.
is also incredibly linear. The story, while charming, holds your hand all the way through the game. There's an illusion of choice presented to you on the odd occasion, but the tale always goes in the same direction. At best, you just get slightly different reactions from the characters you encounter. At least they're reasonably well written - while this is no Dragon Quest IX
, it's an entertaining enough script.
I've got to say that I truly struggled to review this properly. It does nothing really wrong - the game chugs along, you fight monsters and make progress, and when you finish it'll go back on the shelf and you'll move on to something else. Everything in FF:4HOL
is all right. Sure, there's the occasional bit where you'll raise a smile; or you'll get a sense of satisfaction after finally beating a nasty.
However, in an era where you've got something like Dragon Quest
on DS, it's now time for every single other franchise to raise it's game. I need to feel emotionally involved when I'm devoting so much time to a game; I don't mind it if that emotion is pure rage or utter passion, but if what I'm getting is "all right", I feel lost. It's almost like the muted colours have permeated their way into every aspect of the game.
It's odd. I feel bad, like I'm kicking a puppy. The game wants to please, it tries so damn hard to be happy and friendly and make you want to love it, but... it really isn't enough. FF:4HOL
isn't bad, though. In fact, it has it moments, but there's just something about it that makes it a game I fear will be damned by faint praise. For me, if the one word that springs to mind when I've finished with a game is "but...", it's an odd and unpleasant sentiment.
FF:4HOL is a bit strange. Though billed as a Final Fantasy game, it really doesn't feel like one. The cute graphics and linear storyline make it feel like a game for kids, but the random spikes in difficulty can frustrate even the most tolerant and patient of adults. A decent enough adventure, though far from earth shattering - one to pick up if you're willing to give it plenty of time and attention, but don't expect an easy ride.
SPOnG Score: 65%