First Shot: Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light
I’ve always felt that if an RPG is built properly the main story’s quests will level you up as you go and grinding should be left for the varying difficulty of side quests. However, battles are so quick in Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light on the DS that I don’t mind fighting unnecessary random battles as much. Your cartoony main characters, Brandt, Jusqua, Aire, and Yunita will take commands in battle but the game’s A.I. will choose the target for you. I’ve heard some of the outrage at this notion, but it’s worked superbly for me in practice and forces you to plan your strategy according not only to what your enemy may do but also to what the characters in your party might. When you choose ATTACK with a front-lines weapon like a sword, the character will hit the enemy with the lowest HP. MAGIC attacks will attack the back-lines, and healing magic will target the party member with the least HP. It’s all very logical, though you still have to plan for cases when the enemy may hit you before your commands are executed. This is something that seems random, as the party does not have individual speed or agility stats. You can also set the game to auto-attack with specific commands for the rest of a battle, really speeding up random encounters. And no, you do not see the enemies on the world map.
In the same vein as unseen random battles, the story and the game itself are riddled with the kind of strange, SNES logic that’s easy to accept if you’ve ever played older RPGs. For example, the beginning of the game has the King of Horne sending Brandt, a 14-year-old boy, to save the kidnapped Princess Aire from the Wicked Witch even though all the fully-trained knights were crippled by her. I guess he thought giving you a low level sword would give you the advantage. You’ll meet the rest of the main characters along the way, each with their own personalities, unlike the filler members in Dragon Quest IX, and when you return to Horne there is an event that sets the heroes on their journey.
What I like most about the story is the fact that you never know what your characters will decide to do. At many points in the game your main characters decide either to split up, team up, or go solo, changing your party’s dynamic for each portion of the game. The crown system is interesting, working as a job system, but it’s too early for me to say much on it.
The 4 Heroes of Light has a lot of old-school charm coupled with a storybook watercolor-like art style, but don’t be fooled: this is not a game for kids. It’s hard and doesn’t hold your hand, and at times it gets really hard. It seems to be for those who played through FFIII and FFIV, who are used to rationing items as well as taking the time to level up.