Arguably, there are two main types of fantasy games. The first one is for a mature audience, dedicated to the grownups and their impressive heroic deeds concerning the universal fate of the world. The second chronicles lesser, more lightweight adventures of kids where everything is a bit toned down, just to adapt to their age and abilities. However, there’s also a third kind which walks the middle ground touching both groups but belonging to neither, where protagonists are children who are forced to rapidly mature and grow up by doing great things and solving problems of the big wide world as best as they can.
Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light is exactly one such game. It starts innocently enough in a lighthearted fairy-tale tone with boys on the brink of adulthood, evil witches and missing princesses, but quickly gains momentum, becoming more serious and increasingly challenging – just like the very process of growing up. Developed by Matrix Software and, of course, published by renowned Square Enix in 2009, this cute JRPG is actually a spin-off of Final Fantasy series. Although it shows on every step, the game still possesses plenty of its own qualities and a unique fairy-tale personality.
For Brandt, a 14 years old boy from the village of Horn and one of the main heroes of the game, the fateful time to grow up had finally come. As a rite of passage, he’s required to visit the castle and seek the king’s approval. However, upon arriving at the castle, he’ll get more than he’s bargained for: Louhi, the wicked witch of the North had kidnapped the king’s daughter. King being understandably very upset because this whole affair with his only daughter, did what any true king would do – he recruited the young man and sent him to solve his own problem. On his way, Brandt encountered a couple of friends (reluctant Jusqua and dutiful palace guard Yunita), who had joined his quest. Of course, being prime hero material, kids had managed to rid the world of the nasty witch and save the princess. Unfortunately, when they finally had returned home, instead of hero’s welcome and general merrymaking, they found out that the king has gone missing and that everyone in the village had been turned to stone – last compliments of spiteful witch Louhi. Their troubles had just begun and the kids must hit the road and solve this whole mess, growing up and maturing along the way.
The world before them is colorful and full of enemies ingeniously designed in the style of Japanese Anime. You’ll control four heroes, but one of the features of Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light is that during the game they will often split up and travel their own separate ways. Combats are turn-based with action points. Stats are conventional (with usual things such as Strength, Intellect, Spirit, Attack, etc.). However, the class system is very interesting: your class depends on the type of headgear you’re wearing. The basis of this so-called Crown System are different types of Crowns which will essentially allow you to change your class whenever you feel like it, or when a specific situation demands.
Overall visual style and design are truly great. However, since the game was released way back in 2009, graphics aren’t what you would call up-to-date anymore. Nonetheless, Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light offers more than solid fun. It’s nothing too deep or groundbreaking, but its familiar style is exactly what most lovers of JRPG style games need – a tasty little morsel with an interesting story spiced up with pains and rewards of growing up.