IGN Review of Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light
When people say old-school RPGs they often just mean standard, dated JRPGs. Square Enix has gone for the real old-school with their newest pocket role-playing game, Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light. Like, SNES old school. It captures the charm of Final Fantasy VI (we knew it as Final Fantasy III in the U.S.) while still staying fresh and lively to attract a new audience.
First off, don't be fooled by the cutesy style of Heroes of Light. This is not a "My First Final Fantasy" game. It's a full on, "struggle to get through a dungeon only to find a boss you're not near strong enough to defeat -- oh no!" RPG. This game is so hardcore it doesn't even have a tutorial.
Players control the four main heroes, following them on their diverging paths and story lines as they try to save their hometown and lift an evil witch's curse. Along the way the heroes join up and split from each other multiple times and gain new allies along the way. There's almost always two characters in the party. At first these constantly switching characters made the game frustrating because I was playing in the traditional way of assigning each one a class and having them stick with it. So when my white Mage decides to go off on her own, I get screwed. But the game is actually built around the ability to switch classes on the fly (again, a tutorial would have been nice, guys!).
Through the course of the game, players unlock 28 different Crowns which correspond to the different classes. Everything from the Black/White Mages to Rangers to Elementalists to Fighters have a crown. Each crown slightly changes the wearer's stats and grants them specific abilities. White Mages can use white magic more effectively, Rangers are more deadly with a bow, etc. This is where most of the strategy in the game comes in because choosing your class correctly is crucial to making it through these battles without having to needlessly level up (more than the game already makes you).
What makes all this class switching, and subsequent equipment swapping, even cooler is that the characters change appearance as you customize. Similar to Dragon Quest IX, each character changes clothes and gear on their in-game model whenever you swap it in the item screen. It's not a major thing but adds an aesthetic quality that rewards you for micromanaging all that gear.
The actual battling in the game is comparatively simple. Each character has five Action Points (AP). Attacking, using items, and casting spells all use AP. Each turn the characters recharge one AP, always giving them the ability to at least do a basic attack. If there are multiple enemies on the screen, the game auto targets which one gets attacked. It can be a little annoying to not be able to pick your enemies, but the game does a pretty good job of having characters attack smartly.
The only thing I didn't enjoy about the game was that I had to level grind. This is a staple of many RPGs, but Heroes of Light felt like it was going for something different and more strategic. So it was a little frustrating that nearly every boss required me to stop and trudge through the dungeon/cave/tower to get a couple of levels higher. The reason it's not a deal breaker is that you need to collect gems to upgrade weapons and skills, and those are acquired from battling monsters. So level grinding not only increases your base stats, but also nets enough gems to upgrade your axe and enhance your Crown.
Heroes of Light also has a local wireless mode that allows players to team up with up to three friends and set off on side missions. Completing these missions nets players Battle Points, which can be used to purchase equipment. They're much more fun to play with friends, but it kind of sucks that I have to find people if I want to earn cool items.