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Final Fantasy Legend (Game Boy) artwork

Final Fantasy Legend (Game Boy) review


"For example, in the very first world, all a player has to do is go to three castles and get a specific item from each king to open the next few floors of the tower for exploration. One king gladly does so if the party kills a local bandit living in a tiny cave. Another fights the party for his treasure in what could be considered a mini-boss fight. The third is assassinated, leaving the party to slaughter the weak usurper and claim the third item. All of this could be done in 15 minutes — if I hadn’t had to spend a good hour or so fighting monsters to earn money for equipment and to build up my humans."

I was drawn to console role-playing games back in their early days of existence, long before they became commonplace. The aura of vastness these games had intrigued my imagination and, in my eyes, none seemed more immense than the Game Boy’s Final Fantasy Legend.

Picture a tower. Not just any tower, but one that, in essence, serves as a hub between worlds. By climbing this massive building, supposedly to reach a land of paradise at the top, one is actually traveling from one world to another. I found this an intoxicating concept and couldn’t wait to play.

And as a result, I wound up muddling through a game that has to rank highly on Overdrive’s List O’ Great Disappointments. Thanks to an interview I read which said the impetus for this game’s creation was that an RPG-loving Nintendo executive wanted a portable one he could play through on the three-hour flight from his company’s Japanese headquarters to its American branch, I had an inkling the game’s “vastness” was an illusion. However, its other failings were what really ruined this game for me.

When a company feels the need to utilize false advertising to sell a game, it makes one wonder if they were that confident in their effort’s merits. Regardless of what the name insinuates, Final Fantasy Legend has nothing to do with the actual Final Fantasy series, other than being created by Square. But in the days of the Game Boy, it seemed any Square game with RPG elements got that name tossed onto it, so the first Mana game was called Final Fantasy Adventure and the first three games of the Saga series got the FFL moniker.

Far more important is that all three of FFL’s character classes have crippling flaws that detract from any possible enjoyment I may have gotten from the game. With this set of humans, mutants and monsters on your side, advancing through these worlds can become extremely frustrating. Just take a look.....

Humans are high-maintenance. Unlike most RPGs, characters don’t gain experience points and level up. Instead, humans are expected to buy their improvements. Vast amounts of money will be spent to give them more hit points, as well as improve their strength and agility. On top of this, nearly all weapons in the game can only be used a finite number of times (50 or fewer for the most part), meaning that players will have to spend tons of money on those, as well as stat enhancements. A four-character party loaded with humans will have trouble advancing throughout the game, as they’ll be spending hours upon hours of time fighting endless random battles just to earn money to stay afloat.

Mutants are messed-up. You only have to buy these guys weapons, as they gain their stats through combat experience. Using various weapons and abilities raises their strength, agility and mana (magic power), while simply being in fights and taking damage raises their hit points. The problem is that this is all pretty random. I’ve heard complaints by some people that their mutants wound up worthless as they’d scarcely gain anything and wind up as pathetic weak links. As for me, I had the opposite problem. My two mutants gained power at an amazing rate and dwarfed my humans for nearly the entire game. I was beating major bosses in one turn solely because my mutants were way too strong for that stage of the game.

Monsters are miserable creatures. On the surface, they’re an intriguing idea, as they start out weak, but can evolve into powerful creatures by eating the bodies of fallen foes. Unfortunately, this process is as random as that involving the growth of mutants, which leads to a lot of frustration during any of the multitude of times a decent monster will chow down on some meat and transform into a pathetic early-game foe with no useful abilities. Even worse, unless a monster has a great ability or two, they likely will be FAR inferior to the average, well-maintained human or mutant. Intriguing idea or not, these critters are nothing more than liabilities.

And, sadly, the game itself did nothing to take my mind off how poorly programmed characters are. Of the 20-plus floors of the tower, nearly all are tiny, meaningless chambers. Four contain actual worlds, but they really don’t offer that much. For example, in the very first world, all a player has to do is go to three castles and get a specific item from each king to open the next few floors of the tower for exploration. One king gladly does so if the party kills a local bandit living in a tiny cave. Another fights the party for his treasure in what could be considered a mini-boss fight. The third is assassinated, leaving the party to slaughter the weak usurper and claim the third item. All of this could be done in 15 minutes -- if I hadn’t had to spend a good hour or so fighting monsters to earn money for equipment and to build up my humans.

I could go on with complaint after complaint, such as how it seems there’s only a dozen or so constantly repeated designs for regular monsters or how the special abilities of mutants are changed on what seems a fight-by-fight basis, making it near-impossible to count on them for anything but melee combat as a killer offensive attack could be replaced with an utterly worthless ability at any time -- but all that would do is bloat this review. To put it simply, while FFL had a lot of potential, it’s just a really bad game. I found the concept behind the game to be ambitious and one that still intrigues me, but the execution is so flawed that this game wound up being impossible for me to enjoy.


overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (September 07, 2007)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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dagoss posted June 08, 2021:

I know this review is over a decade old, but I'm curious if you've ever revisited this or tried it's sequel (which reduces a lot of randomness)?

I grew to really like the SaGa series after playing SaGa 2. The first SaGa is still a lot of fun to me, but I can recognize why it has the reputation that it does. Entertaining review, btw.
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overdrive posted June 09, 2021:

Once upon a time, I did start both the second and third games, but didn't stick with them due to other projects. But always could revisit them. The third one, which played more like a traditional RPG, was pretty fun in the early going, while the second one at least felt better than the first.

But I've not had the best luck with enjoying SaGa games. Romancing Saga III was decent, but not great and SaGa Frontier was hurt by how you did a lot of the same quests with every single character -- at least if you wanted to power up your party with things like good spells and weaponry.
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dagoss posted June 09, 2021:

I actually dislike the third one because it drops a lot of the weirdness. The DS remake of SaGa 3 actually makes it weird again and closer to the first two.

There was Alliance Alive on 3DS, which was pretty SaGa like, but much more approachable. I've heard really good things about Octopath Traveller, but it'll probably be years before I invest in a switch.

I really want to try Unlimited SaGa because it gets so much hate, but at this point I'm not going to track down a PS2 just to suffer it.
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honestgamer posted June 09, 2021:

I didn't play deep into Unlimited SaGa, but I liked what I played because it offered what felt to me like a compelling fusion of typical tabletop RPG elements with strong JRPG vibes. I need to go back and play it again, but Square Enix is going really hard for SaGa right now (including the recent SaGa Frontier remake on PS4/Switch and the collection of the first three SaGa games on Switch, along with Romancing Saga remakes on both platforms and assorted other goodness). I've even heard they are looking at probably bringing Unlimited Saga back from its grave, and possibly SaGa Frontier 2, so I am ever hopeful and will probably put off playing the original releases until such time as its clear whether or not remakes/ports are indeed happening.
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dagoss posted June 10, 2021:

I didn't know SaGa Frontier had a remake until I read your post. It looks like it fixed a lot of issues I had trying to get into the original (like many, I tried it after playing FF7 and was left scratching my head). I should probably never get a Switch; my backlog would be too big!

It's neat to see this series get some love. Most of the games have some broken bits, but there's something lovable about it.

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