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Final Fantasy Adventure (Game Boy) artwork

Final Fantasy Adventure (Game Boy) review


"You control a gladiator enslaved by Dark Lord, but within moments, you escape.....and have the bad luck to immediately run into Dark Lord and his pal Julius while they're plotting nefarious deeds. They notice you and decide that tossing you off a cliff is a fitting punishment for eavesdropping. Fortunately, since you are the game's hero, you survive and embark on all sorts of heroic tasks — in particular, attempting to protect a young woman from the dastardly forces of evil, as she seems to be essential to their plans. "



There's a certain simplistic charm to Final Fantasy Adventure. This was the first Seiken Densetsu game and, much like the next installment in the series (known to Americans as Secret of Mana), it benefited from being released before Square decided to make these games over-complicated to the point anything resembling enjoyment had vanished. Don't believe me? Then play this game and then the GBA remake (titled Sword of Mana). The original is enjoyable, despite being a bit rough around the edges.....the remake will tempt you to put cigarettes out on your skin. Successfully tempt, in my case.

Ha ha, I jest. Sword of Mana is bad, but not quite THAT putrid. With it, Square simply erred by adding a million unnecessary sidequests in order to pad the game's duration, while transforming a simple, yet poignant, plot into some overly-dramatic monstrosity where everyone seems to have a tragic past influencing their actions. Seriously, when a character is named "Dark Lord", do we need to know anything about him other than he's an evil dude? I think not.

You don't have that problem in the original version. The Game Boy didn't have enough memory to handle a War and Peace-sized script, so the game winds up flowing almost as smoothly as my writing. You control a gladiator enslaved by Dark Lord, but within moments, you escape.....and have the bad luck to immediately run into Dark Lord and his pal Julius while they're plotting nefarious deeds. They notice you and decide that tossing you off a cliff is a fitting punishment for eavesdropping. Fortunately, since you are the game's hero, you survive and embark on all sorts of heroic tasks -- in particular, attempting to protect a young woman from the dastardly forces of evil, as she seems to be essential to their plans.

Nice and simple, which is good, as a simplistic game shouldn't be burdened with 550 million plot twists. That sort of thing would cause the actual adventuring to be overwhelmed by the dialogue. As the hero, you can use one of a variety of weapons with one button and either use items or cast spells with the other. Most of the weapons you can pick up have uses outside of battle. Equipping an axe allows you to chop down trees impeding your progress, while the whip can be used to cross chasms (assuming there's something to affix it to on the other side). Also, you'll find out that many monsters in the game seem invulnerable to certain weapons, causing you to switch back-and-forth between your inventory to find the right tool for the job.

This is the biggest weakness of Final Fantasy Adventure. Not just because it gets tedious to regularly go to a sub-screen to equip a new weapon, but because the game isn't all that keen on illustrating whether you're actually causing damage with each hit. Occasionally, a monster will bounce back upon absorbing a good whack, but you can't count on that. Oftentimes, what I found myself doing was flailing wildly at a foe and if it was still alive after a number of swings, I'd assume I had an ineffective weapon and would switch. Sometimes I'd have to do this three or four times before finding the right one and taking care of whatever needed killing.....and then I'd usually find myself going right back to the sub-screen to equip something else.

The game's dungeons also were pretty bland. You'll get a bunch of caves, towers, castles, etc. that all are little more than a cluster of Zelda-esque square rooms connected by doors. There was one where I had to ride a mine cart and activate switches to progress, but most were the sort of place where I just wanted to jaunt through as quickly as possible, kill the boss and move on to my next destination. This was oftentimes easier said than done, as when going through a few dozen rooms on multiple floors that all look the same, it's not exactly difficult to wind up covering the same terrain a couple of times before figuring out I screwed up somewhere. The game does map dungeons for you, but it's minimally detailed and no help whatsoever if you're looking for little things like staircases or teleporters to, you know, assist in getting the hell out of the place.

With flaws like that, Final Fantasy Adventure comes out looking like one of those games that probably was awesome back in the day, but just hasn't aged all that well. You have a competent plot that doesn't dominate the fast-paced and simple gameplay and a number of useful weapons. There also is a tie-in to Final Fantasy, so you get to do things like ride a chocobo and wonder exactly why Kary (Fiend of Fire) is in the game's ice cavern. But there are also lame dungeons and the lack of a consistent enemy reaction to being damaged makes fighting a bit more tedious than it should be -- things that would be corrected in future Seiken Densetsu games. Still, this is a quality prototype for Secret of Mana.....and gave me far more entertainment than its remake could dream of providing.

Rating: 6/10

overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (September 30, 2009)

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

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Masters posted October 26, 2009:

Ha, I remember this game. I tried it out on a GB emulator and thought it was charming, as you say. That was years ago, but I think even then, your score/review would have been appropriate.

The Game Boy didn't have enough memory to handle a War and Peace-sized script, so the game winds up flowing almost as smoothly as my writing.

WIN
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randxian posted October 26, 2009:

While I agree with everything highlighted in the review, I don't like how it's structured. You start by more or less arguing how it's far too superior to its remake, yet the last half of the review is mostly a negative slant.

I realize it's a decent game with a few annoying flaws, but I think your review would work better if you didn't spend so much time trying to contrast this to the remake.

Otherwise, having played through this game several times back in the day, I pretty much agree with everything you pointed out. However, I think you could've worked in the unique (at the time, anyway) level up system that lets you pick between strength, magic, will power, and annother attribute. Not sure if I have those right, but I thought letting you customize your own character was kind of cool and really handy because you could cater to your own playing style.
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Masters posted October 27, 2009:

I see what you're saying Rand, but I also get why he structured the review that way. To me it reads like, wow Square used to make quaint fun--if flawed--RPG 'romps' and now they make bloated, self-important messes. Which didn't lead me to believe this game was great, just that simpler is better.
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randxian posted October 28, 2009:

now they make bloated, self-important messes.

True that.

Although I'm skeptical the remake of Final Fantasy Adventure can be any worse than Dawn of Mana (Ironically part of the same series. Maybe Square just hates this series.) for the PS2.
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Masters posted October 28, 2009:

I love how we're discussing OD's review in here and he hasn't shown up.
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Felix_Arabia posted October 28, 2009:

I've purchased the rights to all of OD's reviews for a six-pack of Natty Ice. Natty Ice! Direct further complaints/compliments toward me. Thanks.

-The owner of OD's reviews
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Masters posted October 28, 2009:

WTF is natty ice?
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overdrive posted October 28, 2009:

1. Felix. You have to make a better offer than that. Natty Ice? I might give you the GameFAQ reviews that didn't make the cut to be moved over here (except for Captain Commando) for that, but not the ones I like! Oh, Marc, Natty Ice is the ice-beer version of Natural Light, which is one of our lovely cheap domestic pisswater beers.

2. I was just in shock and awe that people had so much to say about my review it took awhile for my heart to settle down so I could respond. And now I shall.

Rand, I'd say Marc essentially said what needs to be said as far as why I wrote the review how I did. FFA is a decent game that's not great. If you're a retro-game player and you haven't played this game, you're not missing out on some old-school sensational work of art. As the first Seiken Densetsu (Mana) game, it has that going for it as far as nostalgia goes, but I wouldn't call it an essential, must-play game for fans of retro stuff.

It is a reasonably fun game, though, and a big part of that is simply because you're essentially just playing it instead of having to sit through bloated story-telling followed by a dungeon here or there. When Square remade the game for the GBA (Sword of Mana), they did one really good thing in that they made the dungeons look good (as opposed to the FFA Zelda-style strings of identical square rooms). They also added roughly a billion side quests (many of which were along the lines of "find me this item and I'll give you that item") and what seems to be a 100,000-word manuscript. That was sort of the main point I was going with. As a simple GB game, FFA flows well and is pretty fun. As a convoluted GBA game, it's bloated and dull. I'll have to play all the way through Sword of Mana (I think I lost my patience around when going after Medusa) and review it sometime. I think my FFA review might read a bit more clearly as a companion piece to that potential Sword of Mana one after I skewer the crap out of it.

3. Thanks for mentioning the "flows as smooth as my writing" line, Marc. I was hoping someone would notice that! ;)
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Masters posted October 28, 2009:

Well well well! Look who's here! :P

So Natty Ice, then, has got to be the worst name ever, for any product, ever.

Ha, I remember judging you in some competition and saying how you're the one of the Original Kings of Flow--one of the smoothest reviewers going--so I'm gonna take credit for you saying it now. =D
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zippdementia posted October 28, 2009:

Just to chime in here, this is one of my favorite OD reviews. I have a personal connection to the game, as my ex loved the original and was always trying to get me to play it, and also because of a musical mishap that led to me loving the music from the game (I bought the orchestrated CD from some strange Japanese vendor who assured me it was for Secret of Mana. He wasn't aware of the fact that here, Secret of Mana was the SECOND Secret of Mana.)

My favorite thing about this review is that it captures that SE and other companies apparently think the best way to "remake" a game is to add tons of dialogue and emotion. It's why I'm not clamoring for an FF7 remake.

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