Final Fantasy Mystic Quest (SNES)
Squaresoft presents what they believe is a basic RPG adventure for the North American audience, with the hopes of widening interest in the RPG genre.
Content Warning: Fantasy violence, use of magic
Final Fantasy Mystic Quest is the story of a world in peril. In striking similarity to the original Final Fantasy, four powerful, evil creatures known as the Vile Four seal the Focus Tower and begin sapping the power of the four crystals, whose power balances the elements, keeping the world in its proper state. The only hope for the people is a prophecy, which states that when evil appears and monstrous overlords corrupt the land, a knight will appear to deliver the world from certain doom. While executed fairly well, it is demonstrably similar to the original Final Fantasy.
The game begins with Benjamin, a youth who finds himself separated from the world he’d always known when his village is destroyed in an earthquake. Escaping up the Hill of Destiny, he runs into an old man who proclaims young Benjamin to the be the hero of prophecy. After his first battle, against a Behemoth, he accepts the mandate given to him, and vows to restore the power of the crystals, and punish the evil responsible. With barely word in addition, the old man departs, leaving poor Benjamin alone and confused. Fortunately, safe haven is not far away.
Final Fantasy Mystic Quest contains many features common to all fantasy RPGs. For example, your life is represented by hit points (I personally opt not to use the health bar), combat is turn-based, you gather progressively better equipment as your adventure continues, you have access to magic, elemental strengths and weaknesses come into play, and of course, you wander a map that you unlock piece-by-piece. However, in a drastic departure from other Final Fantasy games, there are many features that have been either streamlined or eliminated.
For example, you do not manage your equipment yourself. Anytime you acquire a new weapon or piece of armor, it is automatically equipped on you. You can cycle between the weapons you own at any time. In fact, all of your weapons are useable in battle, and certain weapons work better against certain enemies, adding a slight strategic element to combat.
Another major change is the lack of a 3, 4, or 5 character adventuring party. Benjamin only ever has one companion at any given time. This does not necessarily make the game harder, but it is a fine distinction, especially to micromanagement addicts who thrive on plenty of party customization. You will not find that in this game. Additionally, spells are not learned from magic shops, nor are they automatically gained when leveling up. You have to find various spell books, hidden all over the world, in order to gain access to magic. Furthermore, while combat itself is fairly par for the course, the encounters themselves are not random. Inside the many dungeons, monster sprites are simply sitting all over the place, most of which are blocking your way. So, while Final Fantasy Mystic Quest may not feature random encounters, there is a definitive minimum number of fights you’ll have to win in order to reach the boss.
There is also the matter of the world map. Unlike other Final Fantasy games, you are not simply free to wander the map as you please. Each new area must be unlocked, typically by fighting your way through another area, or occasionally through storyline events. This mode of adventure is remarkably similar to that of Super Mario World, for those of you who find a similar reference helpful.
One final, and rather minor difference is the lack of variance in the damage of your attacks. Your sword strike will always do the same amount of damage to a given enemy at a given level. A given enemy’s attack will always do the same amount of damage to you at a given level. In virtually every other RPG game, your damage is calculated based on your weapon’s damage, modified by strength, less the enemy’s defense, with an additional modifier for resistance or weakness factored in, then a particular amount of variance is added, to make the attacks seem more scattered. In other words, in one round, you figuratively hit “a leg” and did 30 damage, and then the next round, you figuratively hit “the torso” and did 55 damage. In Final Fantasy Mystic Quest, however, that variance is gone. Critical hits are similarly static.
Now, while that is hardly anything to write home about, it does serve a tactical purpose. If your HP is getting low, you can figure out, by doing some simple arithmetic, whether or not you need to heal that round. If the enemy did 145 points of damage that round, and you end up with 160 HP remaining, you know that there’s a good chance you can make it another round before needing to heal. I say “good chance,” because there’s always a chance that the enemy can score a critical hit, causing a KO, and possibly a wipe, so don’t say that I didn’t warn you, and do use this information carefully.
Final Fantasy Mystic Quest has a mixture of artistic styles, blending both soft and hard graphics. There are rich, vibrant colors throughout, and you get reasonably detailed backdrops for your battles. Some of the color palettes are of a particularly high saturation, so you may consider adjusting the color settings on your television to avoid eye strain. This is particularly true of the world map.
One interesting quirk in Final Fantasy Mystic Quest is encountered during battle. As you fight, the enemy sprites will actually take progressive damage as they lose HP. A typical enemy has three different sprites to represent its various levels of injury, while bosses similarly have four. Additionally, there are some cute idiosyncrasies that some detail-oriented people may appreciate. For example, if you are hit with a blizzard spell in battle, your character will turn into a snowman, and you’ll only see two eyes blinking.
The music of Final Fantasy Mystic Quest is by far and away its crowning achievement. The themes for boss fights and the end boss are among the greatest pieces of music in Final Fantasy history, if not all of gamedom. Now, that’s not to say the other songs in this game are not good, because they are. The other songs just don’t quite have the energy of the two pieces I mentioned earlier. With that in mind, those who tend to enjoy the more serene tempos in video game music will appreciate the town theme, played in Foresta, Aquaria, & Windia, and the song played in the temples.
You also get little sounds that accompany every action you take. When you thrust your sword, you get a little sword sound. When you swing your axe, you get a strong swinging sound. You even get an adorable little squeaking sound when you jump. Likewise, the sounds associated with your spells are amusing and appropriate. There are cracks of thunder when you use Thunder, a violent rumble when you cast Quake, and a scorching sound when you use fire.
The dialogue in Final Fantasy Mystic Quest is straightforward and easy to read. You don’t come across a lot of big words or complex instructions, which makes it easy for kids at lower reading and comprehension levels to pick up this game and play it without feeling lost. The hero, Benjamin, actually has a voice, so it’s not a case of a world of NPCs talking to an otherwise silent hero. While your companions each have their own personalities, they are not fleshed out very deeply, so you don’t have the emotional investment that you commonly experience in RPG games.
This game has been viewed poorly by hardcore gamers and reviewed negatively by many game sites, citing its lack of depth in the story & character development, and slamming it for being too easy. Some have even taken it upon themselves to declare it “The Worst Final Fantasy Game.” That is a debate I’m more than happy to have, at another point in time. However, these individuals and organizations fail to take into account that this game was designed and marketed to be simple and easy. It says so right on the front of the box: “Entry-Level Role-Playing Adventure.” So, if you’ve been warned off of this game by scoffers and cynics, I will say to you now, ignore the haters and find yourself a copy, in any format you can get it.
Photo Credits: GameFAQs
+ A fun, simple adventure that almost anyone can pick up and play
+ Streamlined equipment management
- Party of two
- Occasional excessive grinding