Squaresoft stands out to most gamers as being one of the greatest RPG creators this world has ever seen, and not just in Japan anymore, Squaresoft has spread it's dominance to every corner of the Earth. That is no understatement; you can easily gain the attention of any RPG fan simply by saying the two words Final and Fantasy. Right now Squaresoft is a multimillion dollar company, but everybody starts out small and works their way up, Squaresoft earned it's claim to fame through their famous Final Fantasy series, but before Final Fantasy Squaresoft was a nobody. The Super Nintendo library is like a history book for Squaresoft, this is the era that they gained most of their fame, and so as sort of a love letter to the American Market that Squaresoft had earlier neglected they released a game here called Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest but in Japan they referred to it as Final Fantasy USA. This was the second Final Fantasy game I ever played, and this is really the game that got me hooked into the franchise.
Before I start this review there's something I should tell you about Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest; it's an extremely linear RPG. There are no side quests in this game; and you are forced to play the game in a specific order, and on top of that every single village that you go to is like all the others; the monsters are draining the power of the crystal from that land and so natural disasters have been occurring rampantly across the world. Essentially you go about the land slaying the monsters that are draining the crystal's power.
Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest is a turn based dungeon crawling RPG, and I believe it was the first Final Fantasy game to appear on the Super Nintendo. Most people haven't heard of this title, mainly because there wasn't a whole lot of advertising on Squaresoft's part, and the Final Fantasy series had yet to establish itself as the household name it now is. The main gameplay element of this game resides in it's uniquely designed dungeons; Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest has some of the most intriguing dungeons this side of Final Fantasy, these dungeons will usually take you quite some time to complete and are full of small puzzles.
As I mentioned earlier, Gameplay consists of your character traveling from town to town, dungeon to dungeon in search of the 5 crystals of elements. You move from place to place via the world map, it's similar to the map in Super Mario World in the respect that you use the directional pad when on it to go to different places; meaning that the world map has set places you can go to, but you don't actually get to move their yourself, you just press left right up or down once and your character will go to the nearest place of significance in that direction. This really makes the game linear; there really aren't many options when it comes to exploring.
Traveling around the world through the world map may not sound veryÖ wellÖ adventurous, but there are plenty of elements included within this game to make it long. Of these elements my favorite are the battlefields; on the world map there are several places you can optionally go to destroy monsters, these are called battlefields. To destroy a battlefield you must defeat 10 sets of monsters, upon defeating them you are rewarded with either extra experience points, or with an item, or protective gear. A player looking to get every article of treasure in the game will definitely want to beta some of these battlefields.
The battles are played out in your usual turn based combat fare, meaning that you select commands through menus and your character will do what you want them to. The cool thing about these battles is that the enemy won't attack until you have chosen a command, unless of course they sneak up on you with a surprise attack. From the attack menu you can make your character do a number of things; attack, run, defend, use an item, cast a spell, you can even change your character's weapon in combat. Sometimes battles in this game tend to last a long time, and they can actually become pretty stressful if you keep losing, thankfully if you die the game will give you as many chances to win the fight as you like without even being moved back to the last point that you saved at.
Not everything is perfect in this game, in fact one aspect of this game is horrible; you can only carry 2 people in your group at one time, and you never get to choose whom the other person is. Of course you always have to have the hero of the game in your party, but plenty of characters occupy and leave your party throughout the game; 5 characters join and leave the hero at their leisure during the course of this game. Still, with only 2 characters in your party this limits the battle options severely, if one character dies you are suddenly in danger of losing the whole battle.
One very nice thing about this game is that you can actually set the other character in your group to be controlled by the Artificial Intelligence; and not only is this AI pretty useful, but the computer can often find things that you may have missed, like say for example the hero of the game is low on HP, but you donít realize it until youíve already made your selections, if you have the other character set to Auto control then they will automatically heal the hero. This is the reason why I always keep the second character set to the artificial intelligence, I often miss small details why playing games, especially when Iím distracted.
Dungeons are pretty fun to play through; they often require you to think instead of mindlessly pursuing the exit. While wandering through these dungeons you can use your weapons out of battle, some dungeons may require you to blow away at a sealed door with one of your bombs, or even hit a switch using your sword. Sometimes the game isn't clear on what you are supposed to do, so sometimes I have spent a lot of time figuring out how to hit the switch in a room. Weapons aren't the only things you'll need to complete these dungeons with though, as sometimes you are required to move pillars around so that you can jump from ledge to ledge whenever this tactic is needed.
Instead of battles occurring randomly in this game, Squaresoft opted to go with the less stressful battle system that allows you to see the monsters before you fight them, so you can avoid them at your leisure. There is however one thing about this system that really takes away from the strategy sense of dodging the monsters, and this is the fact that every single monster in the game holds totally still, you actually have to walk up to them to initiate combat. While this might make the tactic of simply avoiding every monster in the game feasible, it really doesnít work out like you think it does. First of all, Squaresoft has made it completely impossible to dodge every, or even most of the monsters in the game; many of these monsters block paths that you need to follow, and so the only sure way to get through is to fight and destroy them. Also, your character can jump, but sadly enough he canít jump over any of the monsters in the game, and lastly fighting bosses are essential to completing this game; you are forced to fight the bosses to continue playing.
Travel the Land in Search Of Adventure
As one would expect, progressing in this game revolves around gaining experience points and moving from town to town. One of the non-traditional aspects of this game lies in how your Hp Is displayed during battle; instead of the typical Final Fantasy fashion with the Hit points being measured in a number, Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest seems like it was designed more for a younger audience, because hp is measured in small yellow lines at the bottom of the screen. Despite the simplistic design of everything in this game I really enjoyed it.
The Gameís Characters
Despite the fact that there are only 5 characters in the whole game that join you, some of these characters are pretty memorable. A couple that stick out in my head are Phoebe and Tristan, both join your plight earlier in the game. To give you an idea of how these characters differ from each other Iíll explain their personalities. Tristan is a treasure hunter thatís always willing to strike up a deal, he eventually grows to like the main character of the game, while Phoebe is a little shy and she secretly has a small crush on the hero, even though she never confesses this in the game.
A person from nearly every city you go to in the game will join you, and so itís actually pretty easy to tell when you are about to receive a new addition to your party. Still, I wish that Square allowed you to carry at least 3 people in your party at once, 2 just simply isnít enough and limits your options severely. This is still a very fun game even with the restrictions.
Magic and Skills System
Now this is another aspect in which this game differs from all the other Final Fantasy games; Magic is learned from finding spell books. These spell books are everywhere, but only the main character can use them, sure other characters can use magic in the game, but they can only use their own spell books. There are several different elements f magic; thereís ice, fire, wind, and more, some magic can even be used to heal you or even bring characters back to life. One very impressive spell in this game is called ďWhiteĒ, itís one of the last spells that you learn. Like any other RPG, casting these spells costs Mp; this can be recovered using the items called seeds, and I believe that you can stay in Inns to replenish this power.
The battle system in this game is the easiest Iíve ever seen in a Final Fantasy game; which makes this game perfect for RPG beginners. When a battle erupts you are brought to a new screen, your characters are located on the bottom of the screen facing the enemies, which are at the top of the screen. Like I mentioned earlier, if you have another person in your party you can set them to auto control, and they will act on their own. From the command menu you can do a number of things; fighting a huge pack of enemies has never been so easy. Most battles are overly simple in this game and donít really require a whole lot of strategy to be implemented into the gameplay; Square added plenty of strategy outside of battle and that makes up for the simple battle system. Of course you can expect to fight plenty of bosses in this game, there are far too many to remember, and not all are in possession of the crystals that you need to free.
My Ratings For: Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest
Now Iím a big fan of 2 Dimensional graphics, I was actually a little turned off of the Sega Saturn, PlayStation and Nintendo 64 because of their 3-Dimensional aspects, I really like the look and feel of sprite based games. In this respect Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest is a very nice looking game, itís a nice mix of detailed backgrounds with memorable looking characters; all is bright and colorful an put together is a very easy game to look at. One of the more impressive looking areas of the game is the Volcano, itís really the one place in the game that I can remember above all the others, but I really like the design for the city of Windia, Squaresoft has proven to us many times that they have any talented artists working for them.
The character designers didnít put out the coolest characters ever seen before, but some of the characters are pretty interesting. The hero of the game may appear to be a little on the bland side, but there the other characters do a good job of carrying the overall feeling of the game along. Personally I think the coolest character in the game is Tristan, he reminds me a little of Locke Cole from Final Fantasy 6. While this gameís dialogue isnít the worst, it still fails to entertain nearly as much as one of the many translation jobs of Squaresoftís later projects.
Colors are nice and vibrant throughout most of the game, but they can become a little glum in certain areas like Focus Tower or some of the cities that are being affected by the crystals. Really, I like the volcano area of Fireburg the bets out of every place in this game, it has got quite a bit of detail put into it. The dungeons are pretty nice to look at also, the Ice Palace requires you to look a little harder than usual at everything, but itís not a major problem. The world map looks pretty nice itself, plenty of detail was put into it also.
I canít help but compare this gameís story to those of the other Final Fantasy games, and to tell you the truth it doesnít quite stack up. The story doesnít contain the typical Final Fantasy elements of betrayal and romance, and so it isnít quite as interesting to read through than the other games. Whatís worse is that we donít get any background information on the main character, so in the end I didnít know anything about the character that I was controlling throughout the game; I wish that Squaresoft had offered a little info on him, it would have progressed the story a little better. Other than that everything seems to be intact, we have a supporting cast of characters with their own personalities, but there really isnít a main antagonist until the very end of the game, well you donít get to see him until then anyways.
A hero watches his hometown quickly crumble because of an earthquake; he sits at the top of a hill and watches the final minutes of his home. Upon the mountain he meets an old man that urges the young hero to follow him, he then explains to him that he is looking for a hero to fit the prophecy. The old man tests the hero against a monster; to the old manís delight the hero slays him without a problem, it looks as if the hero from the prophecy has come to restore the power of the crystals.
Like most RPGs, Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest operates on the simplest of control schemes, you are never required to make brash movements or anything, so maneuvering through the world is really quite simple; the most complex concept of the controls lies within the ability of the main character to use his weapons out of battle. Sometimes it isnít always clear to which weapon you are supposed to use, or where, but all in all nothing is overly complicated or difficult. The world map is especially easy to move about on, and the integrated movements are never confusing, as arrows on the map show the possible directions that you can move.
The music in this game is nothing to write home about, but it works perfectly at serving its purpose. Some of the songs in this game, such as the song that plays whenever you are fighting a boss are especially enjoyable and fast paced, while others like the Windia theme are perfect for relaying the sorrow of the people in the village. Everything is good in the sound department, except for the somewhat weak excuse for a battle theme, but the boss theme more than makes up for this small mishap. The Focus Tower has a mysterious tone that really gives a mysterious and urgent tone to the game.
The sound effects are above average, the swords, bombs, axes and claws all sound pretty good in battle. There are plenty of different sounds in this game, but sometimes certain effects are overused, the only thing about this that is annoying is the fact that Phoebeís arrows and Tristanís ninja stars sound exactly the same when they are used against the enemy.
Fun Factor 8.5
I hate to say it but Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest is among the worst games in the series, only the series has always been fun, so this game is still pretty entertaining, still, this game is much better than Final Fantasy 8!. The quest is fairly long, even though itís considered a little on the short side when compared to the other Final Fantasy games, but the length is just right for your average gamer. One thing youíll notice right away is that this game feels different from all the other games in the series, Iím not sure but I believe that the American branch of Squaresoft handled it, and it kind of shows. The entire package consists of a fairly fun, Final Fantasy game on the Super Nintendo, and I think that everyone should give this game a chance if they can find it. Still, this game is much better than Final Fantasy 8!
Overall Score: 8.7
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