Review by Tenshi No Shi
"The first offical game of the Seiken Dentsu series."
Final Fantasy Adventure is a strange entry in the book that is the Final Fantasy Universe- It is an action/adventure game that begat the Seiken Dentsu series (Secret of Mana to us North American gamers) yet is still has a lot of familiar Final Fantasy trappings. You may have even read other reviews that tell you this is not a Final Fantasy game because it is, in fact, a prelude to the Mana franchise. I'm going to set the record straight right here and now- Final Fantasy Adventure is most definitely a Final Fantasy game. Its full title (in Japan) is actually Seiken Dentsu: Final Fantasy Gaiden, which basically means it was intended as a side story to the main series. That having been said, be forewarned that this game isn't anything at all like a traditional RPG.
The plot in Final Fantasy Adventure is surprisingly deep for a portable role-playing game, especially one as old as this. Basically, you play as a gladiator-turned-hero who has escaped captivity and finds himself caught up in a struggle to save the world from the Dark Lord. The key to ultimate power is Mana and, with the Pendant of Mana, the Dark Lord can open the path to the Mana Tree that, as the name implies, is the source of all Mana in the world. In your quest to rid the land of the evil that is the Empire of Glaive, you'll not only uncover the secrets of your past, but also cross paths with one of the legendary Gemma Knights. Interesting characters and a few surprise plot twists round out a very solid tale.
Let's face it, any game for the original 4-color Gameboy isn't going to win any awards for its graphics, yet Final Fantasy Adventure still manages to paint a world rich in fantasy despite the limitations of the hardware. For those who need a comparison, this game looks (and even plays) very much like Legend of Zelda for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Your super-deformed character moves from one screen to the next; Be it traversing a forest, trudging through a snowy field, scaling a rocky mountain or descending the dark depths of a dungeon, you'll find plenty of similarities (and obviously variety) between this and Nintendo's A-List franchise. And if you can overlook the Gameboy's archaic visuals, you might find yourself just a little surprised by how much Square managed to squeeze out of the portable's graphics processor.
It's no secret I'm not a fan of the Gameboy's audio capabilities and Final Fantasy Adventure does little to change my opinion. Sure the MIDI soundtrack has something to offer (there's even a few catchy tunes that'll stick in your mind even after you've quit playing), but nothing on par with Final Fantasy on the Nintendo Entertainment System. The sound effects , however, are far less impressive, failing to compare to even the worst on Nintendo's 8-Bit console (yet, not surprisingly, equal to just about everything else on the Gameboy). I really can't fault the game designers for the unimpressive audio presentation given the limitations of the hardware. But, then again, just about every first-party title to come out has, at the very least, been palatable (and, in most cases, actually pretty decent).
I can't count the number of times I've said this (well, I probably could if I went through the review archive with an abacas), but the single most important aspect of any game is how it plays and nothing illustrates this point more than a classic Gameboy game like Final Fantasy Adventure. While comparisons have been made between this title and the Legend of Zelda, the gameplay is actually far more complex. With multiple weapons (most of which double as a puzzle-solving tool) that you can build your skills up through repeated use, an experience point-based leveling system (which also increased various attributes) and a CPU-controlled partner to accompany you during most of your journey, the differences between this and Nintendo's hallmark adventure series are pretty apparent.
Square set out to establish a new brand with Final Fantasy Adventure (after all a new platform deserves a new gameplay experience) and for the most part, they succeeded in their task. Despite later becoming an entirely new and separate franchise from the Final Fantasy series, this first deviation from the traditional turn-based RPG norm proved to be a milestone for Square as they managed to take the best elements from both Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy and mesh them together to create an adventure RPG unlike any before it. The creative use of weapons as tools adds a layer of depth that makes the game more than just typical hack-n-slash fair. Add to it a plot that goes beyond the typical "save the princess cliché and challenging dungeons filled with originality in their design and you've got yourself a masterful little chunk of portable gaming goodness.
No bonuses, no extras, no rewards for your efforts. Not even so much as an electric sausage tucked away in some dialogue. Nope, you get nothing. Well, I should say nothing- there is a sound test, but since most of the music is decent at best, would you really want to listen to it if your not playing the game?
It's kind of hard to justify recommending the purchase of Final Fantasy Adventure to anyone but the hardcore fans (due to its age and rarity) but it is worth the time and effort to track down if, say, you have a pet dog you've named Moogle. Seriously, only the old-school fans will appreciate the game while the post-Final Fantasy VII generation should just take the easy way out and play the less-than-impressive remake for the Gameboy Advance titled Sword of Mana.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.0 - Great
Originally Posted: 08/12/09
Game Release: Final Fantasy Adventure (US, 11/30/91)
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