There's a Crown for that.
Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light has been referred to as a "traditional" Final Fantasy title. The word traditional is simply another way of saying "Final Fantasy titles before Final Fantasy VII." The game can be difficult, it can be obtuse, the combat and inventory systems are idiosyncratic, and the story is relatively light fare by modern RPG standards. Regardless of what era the game was born from, 4 Heroes is an enjoyable RPG with a unique style.
4 Heroes of Light's defining characteristic is the Crown System. As you complete the story you gain access to "crowns", this headgear transforms its wearer into a different character class. Classes all have their own special moves, character stats, and traits. The game contains 32 such crowns, and combat strategy comes into determining which crowns to assign each character. Well-established classes, such as the White Mage, are joined by other specializations such as the Party Host (whose skills provide stat boosts to the party) and the Beastmaster (who provides a boost to all animal party members).
The game encourages you to experiment with classes, and you can change class without suffering any statistical penalty. As more crowns become available it often becomes necessary to upgrade some characters in order to advance. However, gaining access to a crown's skills require you upgrade the crown with gems. Gems come from defeating enemies, and selling gems is also your primary method of accruing wealth. As such, it is impossible to simply try out every crown, and it isn't always clear which crowns are useful. In fact, there are crowns that are distinctly deficient.
The game's combat system is restrictive, but enjoyable. Each character is limited to Attack, Boost, Item, and six skills. There are two types of skills, crown skills and book skills. Crown skills are unlocked by upgrading crowns and book skills come from spell books that can be purchased in stores. Skills use Action Points (AP); more powerful skills require more of the game's maximum 5 AP. Skills are equipped prior to battle, and assigning the right skills for a boss fight can make all the difference. Having proper elemental magic, attack skills, and healing skills is often the determining factor in some of the games difficult boss fights.
Each character can only carry 15 items. Included in that count is equipment (weapon, armor, accessories, and shield) and books. Since each skill requires a book, that often leaves magic users without much space for restorative items or drops. While at first glace this can be a nuisance, it is a challenge that can be worked around once a party healer is established.
The game's party structure also changes throughout the game. Sometimes a character is asked to travel some distance alone or with a single partner. This tends to happen soon after you get a handle on the game and begin to think that it is easy. Often this proves to be a trying experience when a character, left without the support of the party, has to manage to climb a dungeon all on their own.
On paper, all of 4 Heroes unique aspects sound intimidating. At times it can prove a challenge, but the game does a very good job of slowly expanding scope and it rarely feels like the difficulty increasing as you progress is too demanding. While at first blush some fights simply seem unfair, there is always an answer. Finding it can be rewarding, even if the experimentation can be frustrating.
The story, with its relative lack of depth and well-worn moral of "teamwork can overcome everything", uncovers like it's from a storybook. The game's cell-shaded pastel world matches the storybook plot. It is large, colorful, and varied. Floating cities, villages in trees, a castle town, and seaside ports are each distinct and whimsical. The dungeons are similarly well themed, but often less visually distinct. The character designs are charmingly simple, but each class in the crown system has its own colorful garb. The music and sound effects are nicely done and fit into the game's overall thematic appearance.
The game allows control with both the touch screen and the face buttons both in and out of battle. Both options work fine, but I personally tended to use the D-Pad and buttons outside of battle and the touch screen to select attacks in battle.
The story takes a long time to complete, even by handheld RPG standards. There are also a handful of side quests that extend the length beyond the main story. Lastly, the game features 2-4 player wireless multi-card play for local multiplayer.
Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light is a unique title. Its quirky combat and unique take on character development are welcome diversions from the RPG norms. The difficulty and lack of guidance will turn some people off, but people who enjoy the RPG genre should find the game a charming adventure.