on April 15, 2012
Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light is a side-story that takes its inspiration from the earlier 8-bit and 16-bit installments. Players can customize their characters with a variety of skills using the Crown System, which functions like the job system from Final Fantasy 3, though it has some interesting modifications.
One of my favorite artists in the video game world, Akihiko Yoshida, famous for his work on games like Final Fantasy Tactics and Vagrant Story, lends his unique style to the look of the characters and settings. His simplistic, painterly art style adds tremendously to the game's charm, which is further strengthened by its moody chiptune soundtrack.
Unlike the job systems in other games, this one is rather simple. Rather than fighting endless battles to upgrade job skills, you can master a job as soon as it becomes available if you have enough gems. Eight different types of gems can be collected from fallen foes, which can then be spent in a variety of ways. Each crown can be upgraded three times (unlocking a new skill each time), but how you spend the gems is a bit of a balancing act.
Furthermore, you can't pick what enemy you'll attack or what ally you'll heal in battle. This sounds like a nightmare, but in practice the battles move a lot faster as a result. Characters with short-range weapons will automatically attack monsters in the front row, while those with long-range weapons will target the back row.
Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light is a delightful little game that is true to its roots. It's like they took my fondest memories of the old, classic RPGs and wove them into one neat package. The lovely art direction and simplistic soundtrack are sublime, perfectly matching the overall retro theme. No other RPG looks and sounds quite like this one, but don't expect the cinematic story scenes or voice-acting seen in the Final Fantasy 4 remake. The job system isn't quite as flexible as that seen in Final Fantasy 5, but it works, and the battle system is perfectly tailored to the DS touch screen. Personally I think this "side story" is head and shoulders above the recent numbered entries in the ongoing Final Fantasy series.
Excellent art direction & music
Unique job/skill/battle systems
Shop-counter mini-game is fun
30+ hours of content
Steep difficulty in first half
No cinematic story scenes
Lack of inventory space can be annoying
Forces the player to revisit many areas twice
Limited view makes exploring dungeons tedious