Being referred to in Japan as “Final Fantasy USA,” Final Fantasy Mystic Quest offers a nice, more casual challenge for a junior RPG experience. Of course, it offers a whole lot more than that as well, which is strangely overlooked and often scoffed at by various RPG veterans. Read on to find out why this game is more than mere child’s play.
Available For: SNES
Release Date: 1992
Archetype: Puzzle, RPG
When you initially hear the concept, even if you haven’t played it, you probably turn your nose up in disgust. Final Fantasy Mystic Quest was originally meant as a starter RPG to help newcomers get used to playing RPGs. There are a number of elements, however, that mainstream titles are only now starting to use in their RPGs that, guess what, had been used in MQ all these years ago.
What kinds of elements? Well, casual ones. Again, from the ground up, it’s designed to be casual. First off, there are no true random encounters. There is a dungeon where the enemies are invisible, but within that same dungeon you can find an item that will make them visible. You bump into enemies to engage in combat. This is something we’re seeing more and more today, but the difference is in this one they stay perfectly still, often serving as choke points or puzzle elements to the area.
Now here’s the deal…doesn’t that sound fun? Doesn’t it sound…modern? That’s the thing. The more I go back and dig up just plain basic information about this game, the more I see modern gaming, not just in what’s already being done, but how it could actually be done BETTER…and by an older casual game, no less. There are also arenas where you can participate in battles whenever you’d like to beef yourself up which operates very similar to calling enemies to you in Breath of Death 7.
Anytime you get new armor, it immediately replaces your old set. Furthermore, there are only four types of weapons (sword, axe, claw, bomb), each with Zelda-like tool/puzzle elements attached to them and when you find newer versions, they automatically replace the older ones for you as they automatically satisfy all previous weapon and puzzle elements and often add new ones.
That’s the other thing. With the sheer amount of puzzles there are in the game, it often becomes more of a puzzler than an RPG, which forces you to think in yet another way, not just strategically. You can adjust the layout of the HUD to be either a lifebar or a standard, all text HP readout. Beyond that, the game focused heavily on appealing to a wide audience and therefore had a lot of really cool music that focused on guitars, trumpets, and so on.
You also get and lose allies on a regular basis, but cannot have a party of more than just your main character and one ally at a given time. Now, that sounds like it would make it harder, but here’s the deal: your ally is usually super beefed up and has their own AI. You can also use every single spell that there is in the game, so even though your character represents a standard fighter class, you are technically also some sort of archmage.
Now again, you might think this makes the game overly easy and…well, it does from time to time. Yeah, especially with the ability to save anywhere (which is now considered a must have for any RPG), it does make the game fairly easy at times. However, adding in the puzzle elements, straightforward combat, and traditional turn-based elements and you have an RPG that’s easily overlooked…just because it’s a little easy…which is exactly what people want nowadays.
You’re also offered the chance to continue for any battle you lose. I mean, come on. So far, from everything I’ve described it’s like I’m describing features for a new age RPG. This is another reason I never understood why people dismissed it so readily. It’s fun, it’s got great music, and while it doesn’t have nearly the challenge that would be expected of a classic RPG, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Really, if there’s one thing I had to harp on the game about, it’s the story. Granted, the characters help make the story fun and a little silly at times, but the story overall is very basic and highly unmemorable. It surrounds typical FF crystal elements, but beyond that I couldn’t tell you who the main villain was or even if there was a main villain or what your hero’s motivations were beyond oh hey, crystals, better save the world and stuff.
The bottom line is that yes the game is very basic compared to other RPGs, but with so many elements that are easily aligned with modern games, I honestly can’t understand why there isn’t a stronger push for this to be a sort of archetype for modern RPGs. It’s worth going back and checking out because it’s fun, but also because of how prophetic it truly is.