|Jami (irreversibly) wrote,|
@ 2009-12-28 17:05:00
|Current music:||이정현 - 난 죽지 않아 (I'll Never Die...)|
|Entry tags:||final fantasy, reviews|
Okay, some time for impressions of the 光の４戦士-ファイナルファンタジー外伝- (Four Warriors of Light: Final Fantasy Sidestory) game. Got it this Christmas, I'm...actually, I don't have a clue how many hours in I am, don't recall it saying anywhere. but pretty damn many hours anyway. Judging by the crowns (jobs) unlocked I'm a bit less than half-way through the game.
If you're not familiar with the title, it was made with the intention of presenting it like an old-school game, complete with music (not actual orchestra playing, the music sounds like it came off a SNES) and game play (overworld, turn-based combat on a battle screen, complicated dungeons/cities/houses that don't even attempt to make it look like they came out of a real world, etc), with graphics replicating the SNES-look in 3D (which mostly just means the charas are SD. The backgrounds looks like they came out of a story book).
This will include some minor spoilers, but no major points.
Music and graphics
First off, when I booted up the game for the first time... immediate flash-back down to the good old days of gaming. And I wasn't even a gamer back then. The music sounds like it came straight out from 90s games. For that matter, in the rest of the game the sound world is incredibly simple and charming. The jingles are new but still manage to sound iconic, the music is general FF-fare - not composed by Nobuo Uematsu but resembling his works quite closely. Naoshi Mizuta previously worked on at least FF11, and I've enjoyed his works very much.
What I like specifically about the music is how in battles, the music changes as the battle goes on. In random encounters you'll get one 'normal' music and one for when you (or at least one of your characters) is in critical health, and switches between the two based on your current HP. The change is really seamless too, it just flows from one to the other. The same with boss battle music, there's one for normal boss HP, and one for crit boss HP. I think there might be the variation for your crit HP too? Not too sure about that though.
So in short, the music is good. What's bad about it is that there's no variation between dungeons. Enter a dungeon, you'll always get the same music. It was nice enough the first couple dungeons, but after that it's gotten seriously old. Battles too seem to have only two different ones (not counting the HP-variants), one for random encounters and one for bosses. Aside from the repetitiveness, I think music might be this game's strongest point.
As for the graphics...I'm not too fond of the eyes on the people, they're just dark brown blobs on the characters. I guess it goes with the SD-look they're going for, but I'm not too fond of it. It does make it easy to see expressions on them, though.
Other than for that minor annoyance, the style fits the game well. There's bright colors and large areas of one color layered on top of other large areas of one color - change the colors, you might end up with a tree or some sky or whatever. It looks surprisingly charming. You can also see your weapon, shield and armor change along with your job (= crown=head equip), although accessory is invisible. That was to be expected though. General FF fare, when they do allow you to see those equip changes.
What I especially like is how some armor go through minor changes as you change your job. The general look will be the same, but the details will change.
The game is incredibly easy to figure out. It plays just like any NES/SNES-era Final Fantasy, although with the addition of touch-screen controls should you happen to want them. Those, I've found, are no use other than in battles when selecting your commands, just stick with the regular controls otherwise.
As I said before, there's an overworld! This makes me a happy little camper. I hear you get to fly around on a dragon later, but while I've managed to see the dragon once I haven't actually gotten control of it yet. I've obtained a ship though. So seems to be general FF vehicles, with dragon taking the part of the airship and minus the chocobos. While there's appeared tons of different animals in the game, I've yet to see even a hint that chocobos could be included. Bah.
Anyway, on the overworld day passes into evening to night to morning to day again. Depending on the time of the day you enter a city in, you'll find the NPCs in different places, and some previously locked shops might have unlocked themselves. It's a nice touch, but gets annoying when all you want to do is access to that one shop that opens during the night, but entering during the night renders the city otherwise completely useless to you. I guess to that purpose they made time pass on the overworld even when you're not moving...but even that gets annoying. Look away for a while, and when you look back you notice that night has already passed and it's morning already. The pace of the change is pretty fast.
That's made easier by how the overworld music has two variations, one during morning/day/evening and one for the night. To get any help from that you're gonna have to keep the music loud enough though.
There's also a save point system. That's slightly bothersome. You can't even save on the overworld, your only option is finding a save point. It comes in the form of an NPC called Adventurer, and thankfully you can find one in every important point at least - towns and the end of dungeons. Sometimes the beginning of a dungeon too, depending on if you've had access to a save point recently.
There's a nice perk that comes with the Adventurer, he has a fox who'll tell you what to do next if you're lost. You can only talk to the fox if you have the ability to turn into an animal though, so in the beginning of the game you won't have that aid. Thankfully, the beginning is pretty linear anyway.
The job system then... Well. I don't know how to say this. At first I was overjoyed to actually get to play with it (you start with no job, and the crystal gives you to them 1-2 at a time), but... Well. Let's start from the beginning. At its base is the regular FF job system, seems to resemble FF3 the most from the actual FF games, although the jobs are different. For that matter, the jobs are different from most other FF games too. The only job I've come across so far that's named the same as its traditional counterpart is 狩人, Hunter. You might not be familiar with it if you haven't played the Tactics games, though.
Anyway, the job names. There's (literal translations) Black Magic User, White Magic User, Poet (= Bard), Robber (obviously Thief, although they're clothed in black instead of green), several different item-use specialists... what else... Hero (= Paladin), Player, Spirit User, Pugilist (= Monk. Translation of 武道家 from FF14, that uses this translation) etc. I don't understand why they felt it so necessary to change the job names. It just makes it more difficult for the person playing the game. I'm also not very fond of how they changed the looks of the jobs. Poor black mage no longer has the conical hat, but instead a long black top hat. And the clothes that go with it is a clean and sharp black coat... Looks more respectable than the traditional FF black mage, but..yeah. Most every job (if they can be connected with a traditional job) has gone through changes like that. I'd be fine with perfectly new jobs, but what's the point when you can see perfectly well from the abilities what it's supposed to be? At least most of the designs (that I've seen so far) are good, but some of them are really clumsy...like that Hunter. Which is a real shame because it's the first physical DD job you get (not counting Robber as one), so you'll be stuck with it for quite a while.
At least the basic job system is good, it's just that there's some limitations on the battle system that pretty much forced them to add too many specialized jobs. Seriously, half the jobs you get have absolutely no use, or at most very situational use. Why would anyone use a job whose only special function is lowering or raising elemental defenses, and they can't even use strong attacks? It's hard enough to decide what useful jobs to bring with you with a full party of four, and most of the time so far I've only had 1-2 people in my party. So yeah. You can't even (disclaimer: not at the end of the game yet) use abilities from another job so those overtly specific jobs are rendered perfectly useless.
Abilities and battle
The ability system is otherwise pretty good. You can learn new job-specific abilities as you evolve a job through the use of various gems (just insert them into the job's crown. You can evolve weapons and armor this way too), and you have six ability-slots you can customize to your heart's content. Besides those six there's the three static slots of Attack, Accumulate (action points) and Item. It bears noting that spells are not job-specific, and instead if you want to use a spell you must have a book of that spell for your character to use. Then you can insert that spell into one of your six action-slots. Each ability/spell I've seen so far takes up one slot, although I've seen screenshots of abilities that take several. There can't be too many of those, I have almost half the jobs unlocked and some even fully evolved.
In battle, each ability takes a set amount of activity points. You can have a maximum of five, a basic attack or ability takes one point and the most advanced ones I've seen so far take up to four. Base-level spells take two points, unless you're a Black/White Magic User, who get a reduction of one point for each of their own school's spells. So those more powerful ra-level spells take two points instead of three...I haven't come across ga-levels yet, but I'd presume they use up 3/4 points per use. Anyway, the Accumulate option doesn't take any points to use and lets you accumulate points instead, and you gain one point per turn automatically. If you don't think ahead in battles you're definitely going to end up in trouble. If your only chara who can heal just used all their points and they aren't a White Magic User, you've just landed yourself in trouble, your next possible heal being two turns away...
Basically, I like how they've set up the ability system. The only thing I'm kind of missing is the ability to pick what enemy to attack or who to heal, although the AI does a pretty good job of picking the right target generally. It's just useless to attack on a support job, they can't one-hit KO enemies anyway and your attacker will attack the same enemy, even though they could in fact one-hit KO the enemy next to it that has full HP. On a side note, spells target enemies in the back row, and attacks target either front or back row depending on your weapon's type. Just take into account those, and you'll be doing just fine. There's even nothing to remember on that front, as the attack/ability's slot says straight out who it'll target (and for that matter, what element it is).
My verdict is that they would've had a lot more work on balancing out the jobs. As it is, the Black Mage User can either one-shot or two-shot bosses with its evolved one-star ability (highest a job can evolve is three stars). My two physical DDs so far, Hunter and Pugilist, can't deal even nearly the same damage unless they're hitting a monster in a random encounter and happen to have the right weapon equipped to hit their elemental weakness.
We'll see, my Black Mage User has gotten slightly weaker recently, but..yeah. Definitely would've needed more balancing.
Items though. This is my greatest gripe about the game. The item system sucks big time. Each character has a separate inventory of 15 items. Think on that for a while. Each character...up to 15 items... Then take into account that no item stacks. None. Bring two echo screens, they take up two slots of your character's 15 inventory slots. Then take into account that if your character is a mage, the spell books each also take up one slot. And you can't use spell books in another characters inventory. Also take into account that you'll want to have a weapon, shield, armor and an accessory. Yeah. And you might want to pick up all that wonderful loot in the dungeons too...that aspect is slightly better if you have 2+ characters in your party, but frequently enough you're going at it alone. That means many trips to the dungeon and back to town.
And what if, far from a city, you encounter a dark dungeon that you need a torch to go through? You either bring that torch preemptively, carrying it around just in case, or you return to town to buy/pick up one every time you find one of them. :/
Character inventories also don't switch automatically when a character leaves your party (or you switch to another character), and they aren't accessible if the character in question isn't in your current party. The only way to transfer items between characters is if they're all in your party, or by leaving the items in the storage in towns while they're still in your party. That means knowing beforehands when the characters are going to leave, or just taking the hit of buying those expensive things every time you switch characters, or hunting down those rare drops (and prey that you still have access to an area that has the enemy that drops them...)
Well, at least the storage in towns seems to have endless storage in a way, each item stacks up to 99 there and there's no word you wouldn't be able to store every different item you want. But still. It's cumbersome, and highly restricted inventory is one aspect of old games I never wanted to make a comeback.
Story and setting
If you were wondering, this is the part with the most and biggest spoilers.
The story...the story..! It's good old-fashioned Final Fantasy fare. There's a blue-green crystal that snatches you out of the real world every now and then and gives speeches about saving the world and gives you access to new jobs. There's kings and dragoons and demons and a bad witch, and there's a kingdom cursed and a princess to be saved, elves hiding away in their own country and a phantom city hidden away in the sands for hundreds of years... Look at almost any aspect of the story and it's taken directly from a previous FF game, maybe with some changed detail or two.
...in fact, that's probably the story's (and the setting's) downfall. There's simply too many flashbacks. First thing, go out to save the princess from the witch. Come back, notice there's now a curse on your home town. Go out to find a cure for them...find a Lunarian. And the phantom city of the sands. It continues like that, with rampaging pirates, some fairies, a viking giving you a ship. There's simply too much of those flashbacks, and despite their best efforts it makes the story feel a bit stale.
Oh, it's entertaining enough, I'll give them that. But it plays more like a game made by Final Fantasy fans than a real Final Fantasy. By the way...the game isn't exactly made by Square Enix. Instead, it's made by the same company who remade FF3 and FF4 for the DS. While there's certainly some familiar FF names involved in its making...well. I don't think they were enough, the scenario writer is completely new and that's where the problem lies.
My judgement so far? A good distraction, but falls a bit flat on its face in certain aspects.