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Jonzor's Video Game Reviews (41)

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Batman: Arkham Knight 4.5/5
Magicka 4/5
Bravely Default 4/5
Awesomenauts 4/5
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon 4/5
Far Cry 3 4/5
Halo: Combat Evolved An... 4/5
Crysis Warhead 4.5/5
Crysis 4.5/5
Final Fantasy: The 4 He... 1.5/5
The Legend of Zelda: A ... 4.5/5
Borderlands 2 4/5
Final Fight 3/5
Command & Conquer 4: Ti... 1.5/5
Resident Evil: Revelati... 3.5/5
Bastion 4/5
Defense Grid: The Awake... 4.5/5
Borderlands 4/5
Mass Effect 3 4.5/5
Mass Effect 2 4.5/5
Mass Effect 4/5
Batman: Arkham Asylum 4.5/5
Ikaruga 4/5
The Legend of Zelda: Oc... 5/5
Mario Kart: Double Dash... 4.5/5

Next 16
 

Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light   Nintendo DS / DSi 

< rant >    1.5/5 stars

The word on the street is that the 3DS game “Bravely Default” is considered a spiritual successor to this game. It’s shocking I’m actually considering picking that game up.

Look, I can’t mince words on this: this game is awful. I should probably just write a short review, tell you to back off, and move on with my life, but my experience with this game has crafted in me the ability to hold a grudge against a video game, and this review is my revenge. Like a bad song stuck in your head that won’t leave until you listen to the song… I need to get this review written just to get the rant out of my skull.

I never even dreamed that the concept of “old-school in all the wrong ways” would exist, let alone that I would actually use it to describe a game. Partly because… I love games commonly described as “old-school”. If the phrase would be used… I’m surprised it’s me doing it. This game is old-school in all the ways that made games confusing, clunky, or tedious. Things like too many random encounters bogging down just trying to get from point A to B or buying potions one at a time... these are all the wrong ways.

But it IS a pretty traditional turn-based RPG. You’ll have a party of up to 4 people, and it won’t always be the same four. At the start of the story you’ll meet the central four characters (I named mine Gorge, Pale, Jean, and Rango… see if you can figure out why) to the story, and after a short adventure they’ll split up, each going on their own direction before finally ganging up on the last one-third of the game.

The game employs a job system, where each major dungeon you complete (along with a few other tasks) will unlock a new crown, with 28 total classes in the game. Wearing a crown confers on you the class associated with it, some stat variation, and gives you access to some passive abilities, along with some class-specific abilities. You can switch crowns at any time, and you progress into more powerful class abilities by upgrading said crown. Upgrading the crown is a fairly simple process, provided you have the gems. Gems are acquired at the end of fights, and there are several different types that are specific to the enemies you’ve fought. Common types of gems drop fairly frequently, with only 2-3 of the 8 types really needing effort to collect. Each character needs to upgrade their own crown, so if Character 1 spends gems to upgrade his white mage crown, Character 2 will have to ALSO spend gems if they want access to higher-level white mage skills.

Most class abilities are ways to increase the effectiveness of a class, not the bread-and-butter skills that define it. A white mage’s crown-given abilities are things like the ability to cast healing spells on the whole group, but NOT the actual “Cure” spell itself. Spells are given to characters by purchasing the related book from a shop and then keeping it in the specific character’s inventory. So any character, regardless of class, can cast Fire and Cure in the same fight, provided they have the spellbook with them.

Each character has 15 inventory spaces. These spaces will be used to hold equipped gear like swords and helmets, spellbooks, accessories, and expendable items. Items you may feel compelled to carry multiples of (like a Phoenix Down) do NOT consolidate, so 3 potions takes up as much inventory space as a potion, sword, and Firaga spellbook. Extra inventory space is located in each town, where there are shops that give you plenty of extra space for items you’re not using at the moment, but getting this gear WILL require a trip back to town.

That may have been a lot to digest, but hopefully you were able to follow along… I’ve gotta leave room for ranting. I think we’ve now covered enough ground to get to my first volley of complaints.

The job system, as implemented in this game, would work fine… if the game were built with this system in mind.

But it wasn’t. You’ll quickly assign roles to your 4 main characters in the early part of the game… only to have them all split off on their own. They’ll each make new friends, and we encounter our first problem: all that planning to balance your party for optimal function is now shot. The way the story breaks down, if you have a black mage, he may wander off and meet another mage. You may find yourself with a lot of warriors and no healers. And we all know how good a white mage is on their own in a fight.

“But Jon!” you may yell at your computers “You said you can switch classes at any time! Just reassign classes and you’ll be fine!”

“You sure can, astute reader.” I’d reply “You bought equipment for like 2-3 different classes for each character, right?”

“I sure did,” you’d answer.

“... Wow. I really thought you were gonna say ‘no’ there.” I’d say, puzzled.

Because no one does that; at least at the start of the game. Especially when doing so would put the kibosh on like of half your inventory space. You’re not going to buy 4 Cure books, 4 Fire books, and 4 swords so that everyone can be a white/black mage or fighter if they need to. And you’re not going to waste gems upgrading the black mage, white mage, and fighter crowns so that they ALL have a chance to actually be effective.

And you’ll be trading party members constantly, never knowing what class your newest buddy is going to be. You can’t decide classes for anyone but your Fab Four, so their ability to fill in gaps is limited. If money was infinite, inventory was unlimited… or at least reasonable - trust me when I say 15 spaces is barely nothing when a fully equipped character WILL USE five of those spaces, unless it’s a mage who will also need spellbooks - and you could upgrade crowns for the whole party instead of individual characters, then you’d have some of the flexibility the crowns system would love to afford you. Or maybe even 2 of those 3. But that’s not how it went down. So… if you really want to make the most of your classes/crowns I hope you’re ready to grind money for the equipment and then the gems to upgrade said crown. And, being able to swap classes at any time really doesn’t mean much when I have to walk back to my storage locker in town anyway to change equipment thanks to the paltry amount of inventory space per character.

The game did improve slightly when the character-swapping stopped and you had all of your original four characters for the remainder of the game. You had a little bit more leeway to experiment with classes to try and actually find a group that works for you.

Well… I suppose Square Enix DID build a semi-solution into the game. Because you WILL level-grind in this game, giving you a chance at plenty of money and gems. This is not what I’d call an easy game, thanks in part to the previously mentioned issues, and in part due to the next two aspects of the game I’ll break down: combat and story progression.

Combat is turn-based, as I’ve said before. But taking actions in combat doesn’t spend MP/AP like traditional Final Fantasy games. Each character (your characters, not enemies… that’d be fair…) has a maximum of 5 Ability Points to spend on actions during battle. A basic attack or maybe a low-level ability will spend 1 AP, and high-level super attacks will spend all 5 of your points. You’ll regenerate 1 AP whenever a turn comes up, and selecting “Boost” (this game’s version of “defend”) will generate another AP that turn. Earning one AP, and then spending one AP to attack maintains the status quo for most fights. White and black mages have a passive ability that decreases the cost of spells by 1 AP, so they can cast any low-level spell for the same 1 AP it would take for a basic attack (instead of the 2 AP it would normally cost) and all other spells at a discount.

You’ll enter commands for all members of your party at once, and then the actions will be carried out, folded in with the actions of the enemies. This means no changing an attack to a Cure if you end up taking more damage than you’d planned. Actions are also carried out withOUT you picking a target. Ever. Based on where characters are standing and what actions/weapons they’re holding, you can PREDICT who they’ll attack. Healing/reviving characters feels a little more random… the game just decides who needs the Cure the most or who you’d rather bring back to life and passes it to them.

I bet you’re wondering WHY. Why not let us pick who we heal/attack? Well, because then we wouldn’t be able to play the entire game with only the TOUCH SCREEN!!!!!! You can poke the game to run to that location, and you can tap the boxes during combat to select what action you want to take! But the enemies are on the TOP screen, and you can’t tap the top screen, you silly goose! What were you thinking?! And since stylus-only gameplay HAS to be in the game (that’s the law, right?) we all get to experience the joy of not having control over parts of the game.

You’ll learn to live with this game’s quirks for the most part - like a roommate who doesn’t sort the recycling, or never checks the mail - until the class abilities of someone like a white or black mage become necessary. See, every healing spell in the game (except for a small few) is a single-target spell, so mages need to use class abilities to modify the spell to hit multiple targets… which takes its OWN turn. So, let’s say an enemy uses a particularly damaging attack that hits everyone in the party, and now you need to heal everyone. Well, I hope the turn BEFORE you needed to heal everyone you had enough foresight to cast that “spell heals everyone” ability, otherwise you’ll go through a WHOLE new round of enemy attacks before you get to heal the whole party… let’s hope that enemy doesn’t cast that attack again, eh? Or you can have your white mage heal ONE person.

Most often, you’ll find yourself in this situation against bosses. Now, since a boss usually is just one enemy, and you have FOUR WHOLE PEOPLE sometimes in your party, it just wouldn’t be fair if that boss got one turn and you got FOUR every round, so bosses often get somewhere between two and FIVE turns per round. Hopefully they don’t cast those very-damaging, whole-party-hitting attacks more than once… (spoiler alert: they will. It’ll happen all the time) Or maybe you’ll survive the round, and have a spell ready to go that’ll heal your whole party and THIS time around the white mage has to wait till the very last turn… well the boss got 3 turns before your white mage got to cast and now several members of your party have died.

Oh man, gotta bring them back now. Okay, well you have 2 dead party members and 2 barely-alive members. Better cast Raise to bring your white mage back because you need hea- oh, the Raise spell didn’t go to the white mage like you wanted, it went to someone who won’t help you heal squat. So you’ll go another round with essentially no help from your healer.

“Silly Jon,” you say, interrupting my review AGAIN. “You should have some healing potions for when your white mage goes down!”

“Oh, I did! This is the second time this fight my white mage died and I had to potion-heal my party while trying to get my white mage back on her feet. And since the inventory space in this game is so small, I only keep about 3 potions per person (except for my white mage) so my potion supply is already gone.”

“Well, then keep a Cure book on everyone in your party.”

“Oh, I do. But having your Fighter and Ranger cast healing spells that heal about half the damage done by ONE of a boss’s turns only goes so far when you’re nearly dead because their magic stats are garbage.”

“Well, you’d better grind some levels then.”

Mmmm… that’ll be fun. You end up with a white mage that alternates between preparing to heal the whole party and then actually healing the whole party the whole fight, for essentially EVERY boss fight. But this eats AP faster than you’ll technically regenerate it, since depending on what abilities you use, I would usually spend at least 3 AP every two turns and you’re only guaranteed to regenerate 2, so eventually the cycle runs you dry. But I’m sure the boss will take it easy on you those times that you have to Boost and regenerate AP without healing.

Black magic isn’t always more efficient. There are class abilities that boost damage the spells do, but again, they take their own turn and sometimes extra AP. So, I can cast a spell that increases the damage of a spell, then cast the spell… or just cast the spell twice and skip the spell boosting ability. And eventually, spending at least 3 and regenerating 2 AP can catch up with you again, meaning instead of casting spells, you’ll have to spend turns regenerating AP.

Enemies don’t have AP, though. They can use their best attacks every single turn, which means a boss can cast whole-party-damaging spells that also inflict status effects twice before you have a chance to act.

Each character, between spells they have equipped and class-specific abilities, can have 6 special attacks in any given fight. This feels… insufficient for say a black mage, given how resistant enemies can be to certain elements. Or if you want a low-AP and a high-AP spell option, that’s one third of your available slots right there, not including carrying extra elements, or a Cure spell just in case your party gets into trouble, or any class abilities. It’s less of a problem for non-casting classes, however.

You’d think that as weak as the combat in this game is the story progression would be strong to help prop the game up. You’d be wrong. The story is of a caliber not seen since Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest: absolutely forgettable and containing nothing original. The actual progression through the game is an absolute chore, as tips on where to go are often obscurely buried in dialog, or just non-existent.

More than once I reached the end of the dungeon I thought I might need to explore only to find out that some story event hadn’t taken place yet that prevented anything from actually happening IN said dungeon. Once, on my way back to town to figure out what the heck happened, I randomly encountered (correct term being used here: I didn’t find him in town, I was walking through the desert and was arbitrarily taken to a different screen for a dialogue scene) a guy who then joined my party. Guess what happened when I climbed the same tower with him? Story! So I guess I didn’t wander around aimlessly in the desert for long enough before entering the tower.

Other times you’ll be given hints about 2-3 separate events that could be the thing you need to investigate. Have fun walking through random encounters on your way to figure out which one you actually need to pay attention to!

Towards the end, you’ll be given a task of collecting treasures needed to defeat the final evils of the game. What are you still here for? Go… and… you know… find that stuff. It’s like… out. In the world. You should go look for it. Some of those items I’d already collected. Some of them I was halfway to collecting, but didn’t know it or had forgotten about it. Anyway, full-disclosure… I couldn’t take this game’s vague non-direction anymore. I found a FAQ online and just walkthorugh’d my way though like a quarter of the game. I’d been aimlessly wandering that game for too long at that point, I wasn’t having any fun, and I just wanted to get this nonsense game over with so I could start the process of forgetting it. So I cheated. I don’t even care, this game is awful, and I carry more shame for the time I wasted without a walkthrough than the time spent using one.

The graphics were alright… not great. The DS just can’t run enough polygons to actually look like in practice what the developers were picturing in their heads. Given the world design, town layouts, level design… this game should have been a good-looking 2D game instead and they could have had 3D battles if they really wanted. The dungeons are embarrassingly bland just… hallways or sidewalks. There’s very little flair or detail in any of the dungeons, and there’s rarely anything challenging you to keep moving through the area (like a puzzle or something) aside from the risk of falling asleep. The lone exception is the very first area. It was sad what a shock it was going BACK later in the game to the very first dungeon while on a fetch quest. I walked in and was amazed how much more interesting to look at and explore the very first dungeon was… and how NONE of the later ones were even close to that well made.

There are a few bonus dungeons with extra content players can go through at their own choosing. I’d sooner stab myself in the eye with the stylus.

I play most portable games without sound to help on battery life (unless it’s a game where sound may provide useful information). My volume was turned down for this entire game. I assume there were sounds and music and that it was sometimes coordinated with things that happened on the screen. All that being said, I can say confidently that the audio was the high point of this game.

I feel a little bit better now. Sharing my experiences seems to have had the therapeutic effect I was hoping for. All things told… this entire game is just a chore. All the traditional turn-based RPG elements in this game you’d be hoping to find are buried beneath layers and layers of arduous, boring tasks and clunky, awkward gameplay.

I did it all for you, people. I finished this game so I could write a credible review as a person who beat the game. That was my only real motivation.

You’re welcome.

< /rant >

 

 


Recent Comments
Comment On Review

Jonzor

Jonzor- wrote on 01/27/14 at 05:28 PM CT

 

Before the Bravely Default demo, I'd have totally agreed. But after the demo, at least Square Enix seems capable of occasionally FINDING someone who can make a good JRPG.

Nelson Schneider

Nelson Schneider- wrote on 01/26/14 at 10:45 PM CT

 

You did a great job of making the game actually sound appealing during those early paragraphs before revealing the horrible monster beneath the surface.

Square-Enix just can't seem to get ANYTHING right anymore!

Jonzor

Jonzor- wrote on 01/19/14 at 11:29 PM CT

 

Played some Bravely Default demo tonight. Two hours in and this game is light years ahead of 4 Heroes of Light in terms of gameplay. It's embarrassing how much better this game might be.

Chris Kavan

Chris Kavan- wrote on 01/19/14 at 12:01 PM CT

 

Thanks - if you're brave enough to pick up Bravely Default, I can't wait to see how it stack up to this... well, is flaming pile of crap too strong of a description? Anyway, your review, as always, is highly entertaining and informative.

 
 
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