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Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest (SNES) artwork

Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest (SNES) review


"FFMQ has light hearted everything and is a warning to unwary players that growth through sacrifice is real."


FFMQ opens with a spinning “Q” followed by a succession of coloured crystals. It makes no bones about the central goal of your quest. You press “Start” and are greeted with a name entry screen. Pound in those letters and choose "End" to lock it in. Away you go!

An excited theme of a disaster unfolds has you walk, not run, up a mountain path as a 16x16 pixel sprite with brunette hair and grey-blue armour. You are the most generic hero in the history of Role Playing Games. At the top of the mountain an old man drops a heap of exposition on your lap; you are to recover the tokens, climb the tower and restore balance to the world!

Then a large, tusked enemy ambushes you. You turn and begin the fight of your life! It’s actually possible to easily lose this fight as your character is evenly matched against this foe. Fear not, as death in battle merely prompts if you wish to retry:

“Yes or No?”

That is the principle theme of FFMQ; reduction of Japanese RPGs to their most fundamental mechanics and plot elements. It was developed after the North American release of Final Fantasy II failed to become the smash it was in Japan. We wouldn’t appreciate it until a little while later, and I firmly believe that FFMQ helped to naturalize NA players into the JPRG way of doing things, but I digress.

MMFQ is not a great RPG, in fact, it’s not even a very good one. The story happens very fast, everything is terribly easy and you are all but spoon feed every piece of equipment you’ll need to win. Except that it’s not that simple. Looking back it’s easy to forget that MMFQ has a challenge all its own.

The Level Forest, beginning area, introduces you to everything you’re going to need to know and does things that most RPGs weren’t at the time. Interactive switches; selectable weapons; AI controllable allies; interactive map scenery; a level cap; multi-function magic (“Life” restores all HP and removes all ailments, but can kill enemies).

I played FFMQ after completing FFII and remember thinking how basic the world map seemed. How was it the interactions in FFMQ were so much more interesting than FFII’s? Map interactions are a staple of RPGs, as they change the pace of the action and engaging your mind in different ways.

Speaking of engaging, did you know that FFMQ’s music was so popular in Japan that it was played live by a band on tour? Mostly the rock/battle themes, but its soundtrack is sweet, pretty, memorable and downright rockin’ with double kicks (literally). It’s so good that you’ll be humming or whistling well after you’ve walked away from the game.

Squaresoft wanted to learn about what piqued our interest, and it wouldn’t be the last time they did so. You may remember Thread of Fate, which had a very similar style to what is a now massive franchise: Kingdom Hearts. There’s nothing wrong with dipping your toe before slapping your whole body down on the water.

Square created in Mystic Quest a fun, comfortable experience that was easy to pick up and put down. These are qualities that are essential to what is now an industry of mobile RPGs. There’s little emotional cost involved, even less time demand, but like sewing it gives you the satisfaction of accomplishment whilst you whittle away at the health of large, colourful enemy sprites.

If you think it’s possible to breeze through and win without any effort, that would be a mistake as well. Bosses will trample you and task you to stay on top of your available spell counts; some areas hide weapons away behind puzzles barriers of on-screen enemies. It’s possible to entirely miss upgrades and spells if you’re not diligent in your exploration.

AI controlled allies sound like a great idea, but they’ll blow through their magic like it’s going out of style, and you’ll most likely just turn them to manual control. Defeating average enemies becomes an art form of efficiency and patience as you manage your weapon stock along the way. Heavy hitting bosses can bowl you over, and you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment when you find the chink in their armour.

FFMQ has light hearted everything, but its gameplay is not to be underestimated. It is a warning to unwary players that the JPRG mantra of growth through sacrifice is real. It’s also quite a bit of fun once you stop taking it so seriously, because it knows it’s just a great big tutorial.

What’s fun?
Combat is a breeze, just pay attention. Everyone gets a turn, quite literally. Enemies show their damage in a “E” rated way which is useful and entertaining. The music is fun, energetic and fondly memorable. The save function works everywhere, so you can take your time and play in short sessions. You get the satisfaction of upgrading your gear and becoming a powerhouse capable of saving the world.

What’s not?
Final Fantasy Mystic Quest is ridiculously easy. Enemies are presented in RPG Maker style patterns of very few variations and once you know how to defeat them quickly, no battle lasts longer than a minute. You can’t change or upgrade your armor as it is all preset, and pickups are automatically equipped. By end game you’re immune to almost all status ailments. The game is short, less than 20 hours. Combat is highly repetitive, and you may find yourself taking breaks between realms.

Recommendation
If you’re looking for a comfortable, easy going RPG for a newbie, or yourself so you can learn the ropes without any fear of failure, this is your game! I remember this game with fondness for the mechanics it introduced to me that impressed my friends who played more “serious” RPGs, like Phantasy Star. Find yourself a copy on eBay or Wii Virtual Console; it’s cheaper to buy now than it was at launch!

4/5

hastypixels's avatar
Community review by hastypixels (October 03, 2016)

Once upon a time Asteroids was all he ever needed. Over twenty years later poor optimization still ceases to faze him. Remember kids: bandwidth isn't the answer. Fun is.

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