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APFFRT 4 Round 1: (15) Final Fantasy vs. (18) Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light

APFFRT 4 Round 1: (15) Final Fantasy vs. (18) Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light – August 21, 2013 10:51 AM (edited 8/21/13 6:51 AM)
Talraen (2373 posts) Doesn't Play with Others
Rating: Not Rated
This is an interesting matchup: the original Final Fantasy against a game that is in some ways trying to recapture its magic. 4HoL is one of the few FF games I've put a few hours into but gave up on. It's not a bad game, but it can be pretty boring at times. Not entirely unlike its opponent, actually.

Game 1: Visuals
I don't know what it is about DS RPGs, especially those by Square, but they have a graphical style I find kind of awful. 4HoL is no exception: we have the usual issues here, including noseless faces, boring backgrounds, and lazy level design. There are lots of wide hallways and large, pointless open areas. All that said, the game is at least somewhat attractive to look at, though mainly only in towns.

Final Fantasy has some pretty basic graphics, especially for its release date (though it came out three years earlier in Japan). They aren't bad, but they're kind of all over the place. The terrain and townspeople are pretty standard for NES-era RPGs, while the character sprites have remained iconic for decades. Meanwhile, the monster graphics seem much more western than in later games, and many of them are pretty hard to discern because they are trying for far too much detail. (I had no idea what a ghoul was supposed to be when I was a kid, and to this day I can't really "see" the crawler as a worm.)

I have nostalgia for FF1, but I know the graphics aren't actually good. More to the point, I haven't seen anything in FF1 that makes 4HoL's simplified designs seem notably boring. 4HoL is at least nice looking.
Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light leads 1-0

Game 2: Audio
4HoL doesn't have much noteworthy audio, though there is one touch I do like: the battle music completely changes when someone is low on life. This isn't really anything new, as it is simply the musical equivalent of Zelda's low-heart beep, but it's a nice indicator in a game that otherwise doesn't do a very good job of telling you how bad you're doing. And you will be low on HP quite a lot - but more on that later.

FF1's audio quality leaves a lot to be desired, but it has some fantastic combat music. At this point I'm not even sure how I feel about the town or castle music. They're just... what they've always been. One thing that could use more variety is the combat sound effect selection, but since I can't do much other than attack to this point, it's not actually so bad yet.

4HoL does a better job of using the audio as a gameplay aid, but its audio just isn't that interesting. FF1's battle music is fantastic, and a few of the themes I've heard (for the crystal and the bridge crossing) remain series staples to this day. You can't argue with success.
Series tied 1-1

Game 3: Combat
4HoL's combat has some good points and some bad points. I'll start with the good: it's quick, and the AP system is interesting. Basically, you can attack each turn indefinitely, but if you defend you'll build up AP, which can be used to cast spells. You have a max of 5, and the total won't change as long as you keep attacking, so it's kind of a reserve that's relatively easy to build up. But the worst part of combat is that if you're low on AP, you're kind of screwed. Healing spells even use AP outside of combat, so if you have low AP and no potions, you have no way to heal at all. Add to that the fact that you can't choose your targets, and the enemies can hit quite hard from the word go, and you have yourself a fairly frustrating combat system.

For the most part, my FF combat was pretty basic. Even full mages only start with two spell slots, so there is a lot of attacking, and a lot of missing, early on. For a while I was thinking things don't get interesting until later, but then something I've never seen before happened: I was attacked by a pair of ogres just outside Pravoka. I was already somewhat weak, and out of spells, but I gave them a shot for a round anyway. That proved to be fruitless, so I ran - but my fighter died before I could escape. I entered Pravoka only to find I couldn't afford to raise him. This led to me having one of the most trivial fights in the game, against the pirates, with no tank. Turns out that fight is a lot less trivial when no one has heavy armor. Fortunately I had thought to pick up Fog (protect) before leaving Coneria, thus turning my thief into a pseudo-fighter, and I won the day.

And that... is a lot more battle strategy than you're even allowed to have in 4HoL, given the targeting restrictions. It was probably the most interesting fight I've had in an FF game at level 3, possibly exclusing Tactics.
Final Fantasy leads 2-1

Game 4: Advancement
4HoL has an interesting advancement system in three parts. Levels are the first part, and work as they do in any other game. Gear is also nothing terribly special, but your very limited inventory space really puts gear at a premium. Where things get a little weird is spells - they are basically gear (the spellbooks also take up inventory space), but they're also vitally important. You'll need to heal a lot in this game, and elemental weaknesses can be very important. (Of course, in the first half-hour there isn't much you can actually do to exploit them.) Overall, an inventory-based system with such limited space results in a lot of decision making for your characters' abilities.

The first few levels in FF are hugely important, since it's based on D&D and thus level 2 means nearly double the HP of level 1. Healing up to your new max HP isn't trivial, either. Getting more spell slots is good, but you never have enough to make heavy use of magic. The idea of buying spells, and only getting three spells per level when four are available (and no backsies!), is interesting. Gear isn't interesting at all to this point, though. Of course all of this assumes you know what all this stuff does, which the game doesn't actually tell you anywhere.

Given full knowledge, FF and 4HoL are probably on par as far as advancement. However, FF's systems are so opaque that, objectively speaking, I have to hand this one to 4HoL. It's an interesting system even without a guide.
Series tied 2-2

Game 5: Characters
The main characters in 4HoL have laughably poor character development. Brandt has just come of age and is sent on a quest, Jusqua helps him for no apparent reason, and the third character is so boring I already forgot her name (but she was protecting the princess and fourth character, who I've named but have yet to meet). None of the peripheral characters I've met have much personality, either. The only exception is the king, whose contribution is to send a boy on a quest to do what his knights could not. Because that seems totally reasonable.

FF's party has absolutely no personality, by design, and there are few peripheral characters. We have a king that wants you to save a kidnapped princess (where have I heard that before?), the princess herself, and Garland, who kidnapped her. He does threaten to "knock you all down," which is... actually not very threatening. The crown jewel of the characters early on is Bikke the pirate, who talks a good fight, but immediately gives up his ship the moment you beat his crew. Man, piracy ain't what it used to be.

This comparison is frankly sad. I feel like a little more effort went into making random townspeople in 4HoL interesting, but not much. I have to give the nod to FF just because its king is sending four prophesized warriors on a quest to save the princess from one guy, as opposed to sending an unproven kid after tons of dead guards into a haunted mansion.
Final Fantasy leads 3-2

Game 6: World
I don't know much about the world of 4HoL, except there is a town with a castle, and a cave to the north leads to the lair of a witch. The witch is apparently evil, since she kidnapped the princess, but more than that I can't say. The town has a tradition of having boys who come of age meet the king and go on adventures, a fact which the king abuses immediately.

You learn a lot about the world of FF from its intro text - the seas are wild, the wind stops, and the earth is rotting. I find it particularly noteworthy that they don't mention fire in the intro, since all the fire fiend is doing is setting off a volcano, and that's really far from where you're likely hearing this prophecy. It makes the intro feel less like a game and more like a real world. Beyond that, there isn't a whole lot to go on, but it's something.

FF wins by virtue of actually establishing more than just one tiny area of the world. Not only that, I actually saw two towns and several important characters were mentioned but haven't yet appeared. FF is actually not bad at all in terms of world building for such an old RPG.
Final Fantasy wins 4-2

Conclusion
This was a competition between two games that just didn't want to win. it's actually shocking how much 4HoL has in common with FF1, given that they hardly play alike at all. It's much more of a spiritual successor than I gave it credit for - even if maybe it shouldn't be trying to succeed FF1 in the ways it does.

Next Game: (2) Final Fantasy XIII-2 vs. (31) Dissidia Final Fantasy

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There is no Mythril Sword in Elfheim
Cuzzdog (1522 posts) Head of Gamer Corner R&D
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Hooray for the battle of the underachievers!

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