“The following is a guest post by Brent Mead (@ABXY_Reviews).”
“I can’t resist it when I hear about an adventure…”
I suspect that, like me, many of you were introduced to the Final Fantasy franchise through one of the main series, numbered titles. I am certain that when people talk about Final Fantasy Mystic Quest with less-than-favorable opinions, it is because they too had that same experience.
So, it is important to begin this with an important reminder: Final Fantasy Mystic Quest was intended to be simplistic, and was geared toward new gamers and gamers who were new to the RPG genre.
Keeping this in mind, the game is not perfect. And, while some of the criticisms may be valid, I think that it does still have enough on offer to serve its initial purpose as well as entertain those who aren’t so new to RPGs.
“I’ve discovered a lost part of the prophecy…”
Initially released in North America in 1992 (Japan & Europe in 1993), the purpose of Mystic Quest was to try and get more people into RPGs and the Final Fantasy series.
Convinced that the difficulty of existing RPGs was the reason that western audiences weren’t bigger fans of the genre, it was decided that Mystic Quest would eliminate or simplify many of the known RPG elements of the time.
One of these changes included the elimination of random-encounter battles which were replaced with Battlefields (consisting of ten battles each) on the world map, and visible enemy sprites in dungeons. While this makes the world map battling quite boring, it does allow you to skip some battles in dungeons. Mystic Quest also has a slimmed-
down magic library, you are forced to move along a set path on the world map, and only the main character acquires new weapons and armor, which equip automatically.
Other notable changes include the removal of save points (you can save at any time) as well as the addition of action/adventure elements, such as jumping, puzzle-solving, and using your weapons to interact with the environment, in an attempt to appeal to fans of
that genre (although they’re barely implemented).
“Only you can save the crystals and the world…”
As is the case with most Final Fantasy games, the world is in danger of being taken over and destroyed by an evil being (in this case, The Dark King). To accomplish this, he sends minions to steal the Four Earth Crystals from the Focus Tower and drain their energy. The draining of the crystals causes a wave of destruction across the land (poisoning forests, freezing lakes, and earthquakes). One of the earthquakes destroys the Hero’s town, setting you off on your adventure to collect the crystals, one by one, before facing off against The Dark King.
Is it a simple story? It is. Does that make it bad? It does not. In fact, that’s possibly as much story, if not more, than the very first Final Fantasy had. Unfortunately, coming after FFIV, it probably did seem pretty bare-bones, even at the time. Still, there are more little details written into each different section of the game and a frequently changing, if small, cast keeps you interested without getting you emotionally invested.
“You come with me and help…”
Keeping in line with the narrowed elements, your party will only ever consist of a maximum of two people; the hero and one of four friends met along the way. These friends come and go at various points, have their own family, friends, and stories, and bring their own strengths to the team. This adds a subtle depth to both the story and the
When it comes to battle and the other party members, the developers decided to give you a choice on how cut down you wanted this to be. You could either set the other character to AUTO which meant you would have absolutely no control over their actions in battle or MANUAL which means you control them the same way as you control the hero.
This is actually kind of a weird double-edged sword because on AUTO, you can focus on just the hero, but on the other hand, the other party member could be using up items, casting pointless spells, or not attacking who you wanted them to attack. As someone new to the genre, you might never realize, but as an experienced RPG gamer, this can be very frustrating. In my opinion, if you have played RPGs, but not this one, it would likely be more of a challenge for you to leave them on AUTO.
“I need a little more adventure in my life…”
Something Mystic Quest does well is scale its difficulty. Remembering that it was made for newcomers to the genre, it was done very well. In fact, any seasoned RPG fan who may have dismissed this title only a few hours in, would be clueless as to the difficulty progression.
In the beginning, dungeons are fairly small, mostly linear, and enemies are easy to defeat (provided you pay attention to you HP). When you have another party member, they are usually stronger than you are, and therefore provide a lot of help.
Into the next section of the game, the dungeons get a little bigger, with a few additional (usually dead-end) paths, and enemies that can both do more damage and give you status effects.
Another section in, and the dungeons not only get bigger and more complex, but there are more of them. In addition to that, there are more enemies, more enemies that can inflict status effects, and more status effects.
In the final stages of the game, enemies team up to inflict maximum amounts of status effects (including petrifying both party members, resulting in game over) and damage. Some enemies counter-attack, some counter with status effects. Not only are there even more dungeons, but now they are massive labyrinths, especially the final castle, which has multiple floors that each have a supercharged version of a previous boss.
“Now see what I really am…”
One of the best things about the game are the enemy sprites. They are colorful, varied, and seemingly simple, yet detailed. However, their best feature, is that after losing a certain percentage of their health, the enemy sprites will change to reflect their damaged status. Some will lose appendages, some get angrier looking, some lay down in near defeat. And, this is for every enemy in the game. The regular enemies all have two stages while some of the bosses have three or more.
“We Crystals now entrust you with our power…”
Final Fantasy Mystic Quest may not be a standout title from the series, even for a spin-off. However, if you’re not new to the series, and you don’t expect a FFIV or FFVI, then it’s worth playing through.
If you are new to RPGs, then this is a great place to begin. It’s an especially good jump-off point for younger children. So, if you have kids, and want get them into RPGs and Final Fantasy early on, I can think of no better place to start than The Hill of Destiny.
“Go, and enjoy all that the world has to offer…”
This article is part of a community-wide Final Fantasy project. Links to articles for the rest of the series, written by other contributors, can be found at this hub.