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on October 7, 2010
Final Fantasy: Four Heroes of Light is the most recent installment into the Final Fantasy handheld market. While it's not a full fledge sequel to a numbered Final Fantasy game, it still contains a lot of the little nuances that we have all come to love from the series. Does this game deliver a profound handheld experience on the Nintendo DS or is the cutesy art more at home with a younger crowd? Read on to find out how I felt after a couple hours with the game.

The first thing you may notice when looking at the gameplay for Final Fantasy: Four Heroes of Light (FF4H from here on out) is that the artwork is very...different. Some may not like it, I know I didn't when I first saw it. I thought it looked a little childish. Don't be put off by it though. For starters, it grows on you and you will learn to appreciate the time and effort the artists no doubt put into making the art. Secondly, it's deceiving. You would think a game with graphics like this would be easy or child friendly. Wow, this couldn't be further from the truth. FF4H is one of the toughest handheld games I have played in a wild. It's not because the game is unfair, it's just old school. If you played Final Fantasy games back in the NES days and Super NES days, you'll know that something exists called "grinding." Grinding is the art of killing enemy after enemy with no direction only to gain levels. This is something you absolutely must do in this game and do it a lot you will.

The game begins with no tutorial. You wake up in your house as a 14 year old boy name Brandt (you can change the name) and are instructed to go to the castle to present yourself to the king, since today is your birthday and it's the day you become a man in the Kingdom's eyes. After making your way to the castle, you find out the princess was stolen by a witch and you much track her down and rescue her. With a sword and a smile, you set off to her lair to reclaim the princess for the King. And with that, the story begins. You are given a general direction to go and the lair isn't hard to find, but after your first fight you'll realize the game doesn't F' around.

The fights are tough and require you to constantly have a fresh supply of potions. Unlike in previous games though you can only carry 15 items on any character at any given time. With 4 max controllable characters, each with their own set of armor that counts as a spot, a weapon, accessory, and non stackable items...this becomes a bit of a meta-game. You are going to constantly be checking your inventory to make sure you only have the bare necessities for survival. You can drop off extra items at a range of "shops" across the land that hold your excess items. Think of these as ATMs for your items.

Fights are actually handled a little different as well in FF4H. Instead of mana, you are given 5 AP orbs. You begin with 1 filled in the beginning of the game and each turn you take awards you one more. Basic attacks use up 1 AP orb while magic usually takes 2. If you only have one orb and want to use magic, you can use the boost option which will give you an extra AP (along with the AP you get from the end of a turn) to give you 3 for the next turn. It sounds a lot more confusing than it is so if you are getting hung up on this don't. It's no biggie. The next way it's different is that you can't pick who to fight. You hit attack and the computer automatically picks an enemy to attack. It's a little odd that this happens but it speeds things up a bit and the computer usually does a good job of prioritizing enemies. This really helps with grinding too since you can just keep spamming attack and not worry about who to hit...the game will do that for you. The system is new, but it's not bad. It just takes a little time to get used to it.

One of the main new additions to the game is the way the game handles jobs. Instead of picking a class (like a thief, mage, etc.) you pick hats that you acquire over the course of the game. You begin with no hats but after defeating the witch you get your first. Each hat grants powers and stat benefits and can be upgraded using gems you find off of enemies. Think of the hats as a way to change your party on the go without having to go back to a town. You always have the hats on you and switching is as easy as going into a menu. As you upgrade, new abilities become available, but they aren't shared with other members. Each hat for each person must be upgraded separately. From what I can see, the system works fine with the non transferable upgrades being the only issue I have. But, it makes sense though. The person who is your white mage will probably also be your other magic classes in order to keep the equipment with one magic user. Switching to the warrior class doesn't make much sense since they don't have the weapons or armor.

The game is old school in style and technique and as such random battles are the norm. These used to be all we had back in the day so if you are like me and got spoiled by seeing enemies on the battlefield, you might be taken back by this. It's not so bad though and you'll be in your groove in no time.

The graphics, as mentioned earlier, is something that you will either like or not like. Hell, you may be like me and hate it to begin with but grow accustomed to it and even begin to appreciate it. The graphics are pretty good too for a DS game. Don't let this be a reason you don't try the game out if RPGs are your thing.

The only gripe with the game so far would be the difficulty. At times, it's frustratingly hard. The first boss I came to (the aforementioned witch) kicked my butt in a couple hits and sent me back to the town. I killed her the next time I saw her because I was better prepared and used fire spells, but I was taught a lesson...the game won't hold your hand. Another gripe is that the game never tells you where you need to go. This got so bad that I had to go out the next night after getting the game and buy the strategy guide. Remembering back to my youth and playing FF1 on the NES, I had my mother there to help me - holding a Nintendo Power as I traversed the world map. In almost the same fashion, here I am today with the TV of old now in the palm of my hands and that old Nintendo power held by my mom a strategy guide resting on my dog's back as he begs for attention.

Final thoughts on the game - if you are an RPG fan at heart and love a challenge and don't mind grinding, you'll really appreciate this game. It's a little short in the story department so far but most of these types of games are. They are meant to be simplistic. If, on the other hand, you don't like tough games or spending a lot of time grinding to increase your level to just survive the next boss battle, look elsewhere, because you will find a less than forgiving game in Final Fantasy: Four Heroes of Light.
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on December 27, 2010
Overall: 3/5
Art Direction: 4/5
Sound: 4/5
Gameplay: 2/5
Story: 1/5
Multiplayer: 0/5

I regret to say that I didn't read any of the helpful reviews for this game before I decided to get it. It would have saved me a lot of time and frustration.

Art Direction:

The first thing you'll notice about this game is that it looks attractive, and it looks like it's for kids. (It's not for kids - more on that later.) After playing into the game somewhat you'll be able to tell that a decent amount of work was put into the art direction. Not everyone will like it, but its value can't be denied.

Sound:

The music in this game was done well. It makes the game feel very old-school. The fact that the sounds didn't annoy me at all is a very big plus in my book. I liked how the soundtrack changed with the day/night cycle.

Gameplay:

The gameplay for this game is a mixed bag:

- The job system is a nice change from the norm. With the right setup, you'll find you can get some very powerful combinations out of your party. The vast number of jobs allow for many different combinations.

-Action Points were a very good idea. In most rpgs, you would have to be very conservative with spells to make sure you didn't run out before the boss. In this game, you can use spells as much as you need to. This can allow some spells to be repeatedly spammed, which can trivialize some sections of the game.

-The inventory only holds 15 items per character. While this may seem interesting at first, this actually just makes the game more tedious. You'll find that you can only be prepared for one type of situation, and then you'll just have to deal with the rest. This can get to be a huge problem with certain bosses.

-This game is very hard. It is definitely NOT for kids, even though the art style may suggest differently. Many of the bosses are impossible without the right setup, and will require a trip back to town or dedicated grinding if you have the wrong setup. The first few hours in particular are very hard without grinding, regardless of your setup.

-The auto-target is terrible. This game features an auto-target in battles that you can't turn off, for some reason. You are unable to choose who you attack or heal during battle - you can only choose which action to take, and the game will choose a target for you. The game makes good decisions with the auto-target... usually. I find it makes the worst decisions when it matters most, however. The auto-target, in conjunction with the confusing turn-order, makes it almost impossible to plan out turns. When a party member dies, and you want to revive him and then heal him, the game will probably heal somebody else and leave him hanging with a couple of HPs left. Your healer will not heal them self if another character has lower hp, even if both are about to die. This can lead to some very frustrating situations that would be easily avoidable with manual target.

Story:

I'll have to admit, story matters to me a lot when it comes to video games. Sadly, the story for this game is extremely weak and generic. The main characters are generic and have no backstory. There isn't a lot of plot to the game - barely enough to take you from dungeon to dungeon. I often found myself questioning why I was even completing many of the dungeons in the first place, as there didn't seem to be adequate reason to do so. Much of the main story arc consists of borrowed story elements from Final Fantasy III (the one released as III in Japan). Don't expect much from this game's story.

Multiplayer:

The multiplayer was the reason I bought this game. I can honestly say, however, that the multiplayer is the worst thing about this game. My brother and I both got this game because we've been looking for a good RPG to play through on co-op. Some of the things we noticed about the multiplayer (feel free to comment if I missed anything):

-You can't see each other while in town
-Guest players cannot leave the room the host is in
-Guest players do not trigger random encounters
-Guest players get a copy of every item found in treasure chests
-Guest players cannot control cinematics, leaving battles, etc.
-Guest players cannot be given control of other ai controlled party members
-The game cannot be saved during multiplayer (only before and after)
-Guest players cannot change jobs

I want to emphasize that last one. Guest players are unable to change their job. Changing jobs is essential to the game. This means that to change jobs, the guest player has to disconnect, wait for the host to change the job, and reconnect once more. This gets very old very quickly.

I would also like to emphasize that *the game cannot be saved during multiplayer*. You have to go back to town if you want to save your progress. There's a nasty point near the beginning of the game where you have no access to multiplayer services for a few hours, and therefore cannot quit without losing progress.

We haven't tested whether guest players can shop in multiplayer.

I made a mistake in buying this game. I bought it for the multiplayer, but I also found the single-player unsatisfying. This isn't a bad game, but it isn't necessarily a very good game. I'd put it at just "decent". 3 out of 5 stars.
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on October 20, 2010
I LOVE THIS GAME

I've only played it 3 or 4 times since I bought it, but each time it is a treat, and I just sink down into wherever I am sitting and get whisked away to a magical world of fantasy <3
There is so much freedom! Even though you're on a path and in a story, you can go wherever you want, whenever you want. I love going back and forth and everywhere that -I- want to go and when I want to do it. I can spend as long as I want doing things, and it really does feel like I'm in charge of my own adventure. :)

Everything about this game is so inspiring to me. It's quickly becoming one of my favorite games.
The music in this game stirs my brain and pokes at it in such an interesting way. It's really enjoyable and I always find myself humming the tunes when I'm doing other things in real life, and I even wrote some fan-made lyrics to the main theme. It's a great soundtrack. It's not IN YOUR FACE memorable but it certainly is lovely.

The graphics are so whimsical, they inspire me just as much as the music does. I think they work together very well. At night when I'm going to sleep I almost feel like I'm in that world... it's amazing.

I COMPLETELY RECOMMEND THIS GAME TO ANYONE WHO ENJOYS A GOOD, ENGAGING AND INVOLVING STORY-QUEST :)
I suppose you should enjoy RPG's, Leveling up and customizing your characters, surprises, making your own way in the world instead of being led by the hand, and you should have an open mind. It's a terrific game, given the chance. <3
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on October 24, 2010
This is actually a pretty well done game.

Pros:

Unique Art Style - I found it to be highly enjoyable, even if their heads are boulders!
Music - Naoshi Mizuta continues to impress me with his fantastic music. Please be a composer for FFXV!
Crown System - Can change your class at the drop of a hat
Challenging - Don't let the art style fool you. This is a game for people who like a challenge. I personally got stuck on several bosses for quite a few hours. Good luck in the final dungeon folks!
Turn Based Battle System + Towns + Old School = WINNNN!!!

Cons:

Story - It's very basic. If you ever played any of the original FF games like I-III. Then expect something like that because your not going to find something amazing. However I personally would rank the story in this game as better than any of those.

Crown System Style - I thought it was slightly annoying that each character had to use gems (which are pretty scarce sometimes) to gain new abilities for the classes. I suppose I was hoping that it was universal for all characters.

Anyways, great game! Pick it up!
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on October 30, 2010
Graphics: 4 out of 5
Story: 1 out of 5
Gameplay: 1 out of 5
Music: 4 out of 5

Overall: 2 out of 5.

Surely you've heard the talk of this game being somewhat oldschool. It is, but not in a good way.

1. The characters are generic, trite, stereotypical RPG vanillas.

2. The plot is barely there, just enough to move the game along. A staple of oldschool RPGs, which I don't happen to miss. I like my RPGs to make characters and stories I care about. Not just fill in to get me from fight to fight.

3. I'll agree with other players in that the direction in the game is sorely lacking. At times, it's easy to be lost and have no clue where to go. You're left having to talk to each and every NPC, sometimes with different characters (or in different forms), along with traversing back and forth to different towns to accomplish this task.... just to find a miniscule hint where to go. Hello, oldschool staple! Can't say I'm happy to see you again!

4. The fighting system actually wasn't bad. I really liked the idea of eliminating Magic Points. This along with class choices allows you to actually USE your magicks routinely (as it should be with caster classes) without conservation fears. Limiting the character to 6 "ability" slots doesn't allow this system to fall out of balance. Attaching the spells to books that the character carries (thereby allowing you to use spells on any class, but choosing proper caster classes allow easier/effective use) wasn't a bad touch either.

Although this is turned into a major inconvenience by my next point.....

5. Your inventory is limited to 15 slots per character. Between armors/weapons/accessories... and 3-4 spell books (having to be carried) it really causes major problems of frustration in the game. I don't mind the limit per se, I mean carrying 99 potions is nonsense anyways (who's carrying the massive backpack for that? while fighting). But it causes MUCH backtracking in certain areas, particularly dealing in boss fights. Why?---- see my next point.

6. Boss fights in this game aren't difficult due to intelligence. They are flat out cheap. Another staple of "oldschool" that nobody missed.

Due to the limitations of inventory (mentioned above), you simply can't carry all the armor/weapons (with proper elemental affinities required) to be prepared for what's needed to win against a particular boss. Though you get save points right before most bosses, it doesn't help if you find yourself without the NECESSARY equipment (because it's back in town in your STORAGE). You'll have to traverse ALLLLL the way back to town, often out of a dungeon and across the world map, to get the right gear. AFTER having been thunderstomped in 3 rounds by some ridiculous boss abilities because you didn't have the proper resistance gear equipped.

It's not "challenging" in the least. It's cheap. And frustrating. And time consuming in a way that doesn't equate "fun" and so seems even more annoying.

Once you have the proper resistance gear, or have the proper spell books (out of your STORAGE because you don't have room to carry every elemental spell, up to 3 levels, for that Black Mage of yours), or proper weapon (hope you didn't guess wrong when you left out of town).... you'll have a ridiculously easy fight. Put on your ice resistance shields and laugh at the Ice Dragon.

But it ends up feeling less like you outwitted and intelligently strategized abilities and class choices in a magnificent stroke of Machiavellian brilliance to defeat your brilliant boss opponent, and more like you found the ace-card and turned a fight that was intentionally unbeatable any other way into a cheap time-wasting fight. Again, yet another "oldschool" staple that was never sorely missed.

At the end of the day, I can't say anything other than I was truly disappointed in this game. My first RPG was FF1 on the NES. While it was definitely oldschool (in bad ways as well as good), I have much fonder memories of it than I do of this game. I was excited to buy this game and it let me down in all the crucial points except the battle/job system.

If you're truly jonesing for some oldschool flavor, with newschool polish--- try Etrian Odyssey 3.
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on August 17, 2011
The 4 Heroes of Light is so different from what I expected from a modern Final Fantasy game, and that's a compliment. When I think of current Final Fantasy games, I think of overwrought, overcomplicated productions. The 4 Heroes of Light reminds me more of an Atlus game. It's quiet and offbeat, and thoroughly enjoyable. The quest is straightforward, and you are given *just* enough guidance to keep going. I never felt like there was too much instruction keeping me on course, nor did I ever feel lost. The storyline cleverly jumps between different characters to keep things from becoming stale. The limited number of items you can carry poses an old school level of challenge, sometimes requiring you to start over when you encounter a new world just to make sure you bring the right items. The dungeons have kept me maddeningly lost for hours at a time, but I keep coming back for more. This is a game that knows when to keep things simple and knows when to layer it on. Beautiful, painterly graphics are a major plus.
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on April 29, 2012
I ran into The 4 Heroes of Light after completing Matrix's earlier reworking of Final Fantasy III on the Nintendo DS. Things started out kind of shaky with that game (the first ten hours reminded me of why we move on from things every now and then but the last twenty hours were enough to make up for it) so with a positive final impression firmly imprinted on my mind I was interested in trying the other products Matrix developed.

Enter The 4 Heroes of Light, a product that initially seems unimpressive where ever you look. Music? The game has one of the most befitting yet uninspired scores you'll ever hear. Gameplay? Good, but definitely rooted in the style of old-school RPGs from yesteryear. Truth be told there isn't a single element in this game you can place above the others and you don't have to look far for the flaws (the ill-fated switch in experience systems halfway through, the loss of the awesome and realistic squabbling between characters in the second half, attack options like status effects that ultimately prove to be unattractive and certain attacks and classes proving WAY too useful) but after playing through it twice and even writing my own online FAQ for it I have to say I'm smitten with the game despite it's problems - none of which are insurmountable with an open mind. There's a certain charm imbedded within that's not immediately noticeable and it only came to my attention after beating it and moving on to some other video game based conquests. It's this odd, almost quirky quality that I'm looking for when I play video games, even if the underlying experience is far from inspiring.

That said, I'm sure some will question whether or not this game should bear the Final Fantasy moniker. I've pondered the same question considering how SquareEnix slaps the brand on everything these days and in this case I'm not against it; in fact, the game feels a lot like a Final Fantasy Mystic Quest for a new generation. I'll agree that I probably would have enjoyed the game if it not been a Final Fantasy but would I have played it? Probably not as old video game buying habits die hard. Additionally, like Final Fantasy III, 4 Heroes simplicity should not be viewed as a vice. In general, I don't expect games on handhelds to be kingpins of gameplay like their console counterparts and what's present here fits into that mold just fine. This isn't to say a complex game can't be done on a handheld it's just that more straightforward experiences seem to work better on portable systems in my opinion.

So despite the fact it's hardly anything special when approached from an unbiased standpoint, The 4 Heroes of Light has more going for it than a simple glance would suggest. The game is more than capable of forging a relationship with the player despite its limitations if given the chance. It's definitely a new classic in my collection.
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on February 23, 2011
This is the best Final Fantasy game in a long time! It's so much fun and it's easy to get absorbed into the game. The battle system is new and different, making it fun and challenging to beat bosses and random battles. I love that you get to explore an over-world, and the job system with the crowns is interesting and reminds me of Final Fantasy Tactics (although it's not that complex). I really like the art style; it reminds me of Tactics as well but it's fresh and different. The music is beautiful, even though there are no classic themes. Playing wireless multiplayer is a lot of fun too, and an easy way to get lots of levels and gems for your crowns. I would recommend this to kids as well as adults--my husband and I both have a copy--even if you've never played any other games in the Final Fantasy series.
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on July 12, 2014
I picked this up after playing through miscellaneous 8-bit RPGs on my old Game Boy, plus DS remakes of older Dragon Quest games, and it definitely is reminiscent of those early games. It is not a "real" Final Fantasy game, so in that respect it is like those old Final Fantasy Legend (SaGa) Game Boy games ;)

I wasn't sure about the artwork style when I first bought the game, but it won me over after a short while. It is definitely reminiscent of the old 8-bit RPGs but translated into 3D. The towns also have an interesting 3D scrolling perspective in place of a fully movable camera or 3D characters moving against 2D backdrops. The music is catchy and also sounds like a refresh of 8-bit RPGs, complete with some 8-bit sounding synthesizers.

The story is your typical old school Final Fantasy-type plot, complete with magic crystals. The story takes you through a variety of areas with various nods to classic Square/Enix RPGs, including the tower dungeons from the Dragon Quest games and "normal world"/"broken world" trope from Final Fantasy 6. I thought the main two male characters were selfish jerks right down to the end of the game, but the two ladies do have some character progression.

The difficulty is reminiscent of late 80s-early 90s RPGs. If you are really careless, you WILL die. If you wander into the next area before you are remotely ready, you will either die or just barely escape. The inventory system is also limited in a way reminiscent of 8-bit games: each character can only hold a set amount of items, so you definitely need to mind what you're carrying with you into a dungeon or another new area.

The battle system is really simple to pick up, but the buttons are large and optimized for stylus use if you choose. My favorite part of the battle system is the AP gauges. Each character has a maximum of 5 points, and some actions consume more points than others. The downside is that you periodically need to make your characters defend themselves so you can re-build your gauge. You have to plan out attack strategies, which I definitely missed when I moved back to more traditional DQ/FF style RPGs after this game. The MAJOR upside is that you don't have a finite amount of MP that needs to be replenished through outside means. If you're exploring a dungeon and it's taking longer than you thought, you can still re-build your gauges with careful planning instead of blowing through a finite number of MP-restoring items. I didn't even bother with AP-restoring items except before boss fights.

Once you get into the job class system (the hats), that adds another element of strategy. You unlock abilities that are only present while you have that particular hat on. As you unlock various abilities, you may have a certain combination of hats you favor for trekking through a dungeon, but switch off to something different for the area boss. There are many, many ways you can approach the job class system, but I will note that I had a lot of fun making the airhead princess into a formidable martial artist.

Finally, you can level up your weapons and armor using the same gems that you use to level up hats. I personally didn't find this useful until the very end of the game, when I finally got several endgame pieces of armor and some powerful weapons that didn't have any one elemental affinity. Even if you aren't using the wireless co-op feature, you can still periodically rack up enough points to buy interesting weapons like that in those shops.

The biggest downside of the game is that, like Final Fantasy Legend 1 and some old RPGs with lots of collectibles, it only gives you one save slot per cartridge.

All in all, I enjoyed the game greatly and will play through it again at some point. I would give it 4.5 stars if half-stars were allowed. While the story is nothing special, the rest of the game is the retro RPG equivalent of comfort food and the job class system does have enough variety that my next playthrough is guaranteed to be different. Some of the game's limitations are old school when there aren't really technical reasons for them anymore, but it does add to the feel and the strategy of the game. I definitely look forward to buying Bravely Default, which is by the same studio, when I eventually get around to picking up a 3DS.

P.S.: If you can get a copy of the official strategy guide, definitely pick it up. It has a comprehensive inventory of all of the items, weapons, monsters, etc. complete with pictures. I used several online guides for the actual strategy portions when I was stuck.
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on May 27, 2011
My review of Final Fantasy: 4 Heroes of Light

I was excited to read about this game coming out on the DS. The story, yeah, is a traditional "old-school" RPG story; I can deal with that as long as the gameplay is top-notch. Is the gameplay top-notch? Yes, indeed it is. Game navigation isn't too linear. You start out in a town that is yours to explore. Run around, talk to folks, find hidden treasure and when you're ready to progress the storyline, do what you have to do in order to do that. The world map offers as much as freedom as possible without you finding towns and caves you probably shouldn't be exploring yet. There is freedom, but you can't explore everything on the world-map; mountains or other objects will block you from certain areas.

Purchasing items is simple too. What I like about weapons in 4 Heroes of Light is you can a) purchase new weapons and armor or b) upgrade existing weapons and/or armor (if the town has a smithy shop). Sometimes, upgrading a weapon can be cheaper, so you'll need to compare pricing. In each town you have an item shop, weapon shop, armor shop, accessory shop, and Inn. Finding the shops is as simple as it's always been in RPG games.

The battle system is unique to FF games. Instead of MP you have "slots" (that's what I call them) for each character in your party. There are 5 slots. Attack costs one slot, and then you're abilities can cost from 2 to 5 slots (depending on the level of the ability). Each turn you gain one slot. Abilities are learned from the level of your crown. Yes, that's right, I said crown. In this FF game, your characters don't have jobs, they have crowns. A crown has levels. You gain a level for your crown by adding jewels to your crown. When you reach a new crown level, you gain a new ability for the crown wearer. Jewels are awarded to you after winning a battle. Some jewels are, naturally, harder to earn from enemies than others.

Do I like the battle system? Yeah, it's good, but it's definitely not my favorite. It doesn't take long to get used to either. The battle system is turn-based, so you can take your time planning your moves. I really like that.

You also get a ship in the game and eventually a dragon to ride the skies and freely explore the world (niiiice). There are also side-quests and optional things like the Boss towers to take part in. So, there is a lot of time you can put in to this game.

What do I not like about the game? Like I said in my title for the review the package is good, but it's wrapped in cute paper. The visuals of the game are too cutesy for my taste. Does it ruin the game? Well no, but it doesn't help the game at all for me. This game could have been much better had the creative team given Heroes of Light a mature look instead of a cutesy look. Many gamers my age are turned off by this game because of the visual style. That's unfortunate because the game has a decent story, good game design, and a good battle system.

Give it a spin, you won't be disappointed.
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