Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest
Review by Mr. Grieves
"Complete and utter failure."
When asked what is the greatest game of all time, a plethora of answers is bound to come up. Some would claim gameplay as the most important element of a game, believing nothing besides the simple concept of fun matters. Others would take a more sophisticated standpoint, viewing games as an experience that should reach a deeper level, valuing them more as art than entertainment. Others would argue that replay value is the core element of gaming. If a game can consume you and dominate you for hours at a time, and then make you want to do it all over again, it surely must be great. In the end, though, it really doesn't matter what you would look for in the greatest game ever made, because Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest is simply not that game.
But you already knew that, right? For you have either played the game or took a look at the score I slapped on it. You are more than likely questioning by now why I would go in-depth about what characteristics truly make a game great, but the answer is actually quite simple. Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest (which will be known from now on as FFMQ) fails on ever level imaginable, more than almost any other game ever created. Now you must understand, I am not claiming that FFMQ is the worst game ever made, for as bad as it is, there are (believe it or not) worse games out there. Confused? Even though FFMQ is devoid of just about every quality you could possibly look for in a game, it has one redeeming factor that, although obviously not enough to save it, improves it slightly. What is this, you might ask. I will delve upon this aspect later, but for now it is more to explain why this game fails so miserably.
So what really exactly makes this game as bad as everyone says it is? Well, there is actually more to it then some people would make you think. Some people are too quick to claim that the game's simplistic and childish story are its biggest flaw, while others argue that the game's dull and lacking battle system are what brings it down. In the end though, there is no specific flaw that ruins the game. It is instead a combination of many things that contribute to the overall outcome. You can't just simply point fingers at one specific part of the game. Such actions should be condemned for displaying such ignorance. There is far more than just one area that FFMQ fails in, and it is only appropriate to put each one in to consideration. With that in mind, a good question would be were to start, so I guess I will start with the story.
A plot analysis seems somewhat ridiculous, though, considering that there really isn't much of one in the first place. FFMQ features one of the most simplistic and utterly boring storylines I have ever seen in a game. One might argue that it was supposed to be simple because this game was aimed towards beginners, meant to introduce them to the RPG genre, but that can't be true. There is no reason why this game could not have had a quality story and still have done a good job at introducing the concepts of an RPG. Hell, its starts out with some potential. Why couldn't it have finished with it? Take the opening for example. Rushing up a hill collapsing from vicious quakes, our young Benjamin is greeted by an old man hovering on a flying cloud. The man stares at the tower looming in the distance, known as the Focus Tower. As the tower glimmers in the background, he explains that the chaos erupting around the world is on account of the fact that four monsters broke into the Focus Tower and have stolen the four crystals, throwing the world into chaos. It is your job to recover the four crystals and save the world from these horrific events. Both simplistic and clichéd, but it could have done the job. However, this is as far as the story goes, and then it just stops. No longer is there any purpose to what you are doing. You just walk from point A to point B, and every once in a while someone might say two sentences, which will never be even slightly interesting. Don't even dare think about story development and plot twists. There will be none of that here.
Now you have to understand. Its not that a good RPG always requires a quality story. There are many RPG's out there that survive on their protruding quality in game design and world design. RPG's were able to survive before deep storylines came, and they'll be able to survive long after such things are gone. The entire point of an RPG is to pull you into a world and make you feel like you are really there. You are supposed to feel connected to the characters and the world they take part in. And that is really what an RPG is all about. Consuming you in a world that is simply enjoyable to take part in. A good story can most certainly do this, but it isn't always required. Which is why FFMQ didn't need the greatest story in the world. However, this game's story feels incredibly lacking and incomplete, doing little (virtually nothing, actually) to improve the game, and in fact takes away from it by forcing a couple of lame and uninteresting scenes down your throat. In the end though, it is tolerable, and is far from the games biggest flaw.
However, the characters are another beast entirely. Were as I can accept and tolerate the game's story (or should I say lack of one), the game's characters annoy me in ways unimaginable. For you see, one partner after another is chucked at you at a rapid pace, never pausing for even a minute to try and build upon them. Not that there really could be any character development, since the characters lack personality altogether. And no, that isn't an exaggeration. None of the characters stand out in any way. They have no character traits or defining qualities. They're just .there. Advanced concepts such as character development and relationships are impossible when there is no foundation to work with. This is far more of a blow to the game than its story, as you will almost always have a partner with you. It is almost insulting how little effort was put into them.
However, this is nothing compared to the battle system. You can kiss concepts such as strategy, customization, and tactics goodbye, because they have been replaced with one of the most simplistic and flat-out lame battle systems ever to be seen in a game. FFMQ's battle system is completely derived of everything you would look for in a game. Take the basic concept for example. You have two (count them, two) characters in your party. Do you see a problem with that? I do. Hell, you can even set your partner on Auto, meaning you don't even have to control them. And while your better off using your partner manually, you can easily get away with keeping them on auto. This represents both how easy and simple the game is. It also represents how lacking and stupid the game is. In fact, this one part of the battle system outlines the entire game and its design, for it grabs your hand and holds onto it throughout the entire game, ensuring that you will never come across any problems that could halt you.
Everything in the game mirrors this concept. You will never be challenged or taxed or pressed in any fashion, because everything has already been handed to you on a silver platter. Worried about dying and having to start over from the last time you saved. Don't worry about it. You can replay each battle over and over again until you win, and the game is designed to ensure that you can never actually lose. You will never come across an enemy that is too hard for you defeat if you keep retrying. And even if you do find yourself in a rut (which will never happen), fear not, because there is no risk of starting over and having to do an entire area over again. Why? Because you can save your game at any time. In other games this would be a problem, but not this one. There is no risk to saving in a dangerous area. Why? Well, for one thing, the game is so unbelievably easy that you won't have to worry about getting stuck, but there is another reason.
What is this reason? Well, you can see your enemies on the screen, meaning that on the off chance that you do actually get yourself into danger, there is no risk of being attacked while you escape. Your enemies just stand there blocking your way, waiting for you to attack them. Only then can you pass. Which brings me to the enemies in the game. When you enter a battle, you will see a few enemies appear on the screen. You are only given several options, including the ability to attack, cast a spell, or use an item. It might not seem too bad, but believe me it is. For you see, you will be fighting one mindless battle after another. It is nothing more than a simple matter of staring at the dungeons inhabitants for two seconds until you come up with the fastest way to kill them. Now notice that I said fastest. I didn't say best or most intelligent way, but fastest. Why? You will never be in any real danger, meaning that coming up with a good strategy is pointless. Instead, you will be figuring out the fastest way to kill enemies, even if it is at your overall expense. As you continue through this game, you will want nothing more than for it to be all over. Every time you miss, you'll get angry. Every time you die, you'll be mad. Not because you are in any real danger, but because it'll take just that much longer to finish this game. And due to how little options you happen, be prepared to do the same thing over and over again. With such a lacking battle system, it gets ridiculously repetitive, to a point were just making it through the game becomes a test of patience and human willpower.
Not helping this in even the slightest bit are the dungeons of which you will spend the bulk of the game. It could be argued that these dungeons are the only part of the game that haven't been dumbed down, and if you said that, you'd be right. Surprisingly, there is actually one part of the game that could be valued as complex. Hell, I even (dare I say it) got lost a few times. At this point, you might think that I am actually complimenting the game, but if you think that, you are dead wrong. This is actually one of the biggest flaws in the entire game. You see, FFMQ's lacking and repetitive battle system turn the game's dungeons in to an excruciatingly painful nightmare. Be prepared to fight battle after battle as you navigate these frustratingly long dungeons. Just keep on truckin'. The end will come. Eventually. Yep, anytime now.
Now, if you recall, I stated at the beginning of this review that there was one redeeming factor to FFMQ. So what is it? Well, the game can be unique at times, perhaps even mildly amusing. Spunky rock tunes play throughout your adventure, and there is an upbeat energy apparent throughout the entire game. I will not deny that there is something refreshing about the game from time to time. There is some amusement to be found as your character marches across the map, following the line from one area to the next. From time to time, it can be mildly funny. There is some enjoyment to be found in the more innovative ideas, such as being able to jump and using items such as grappling hooks and bombs to interact with the environment. However, it is by no means enough to save this game.
You have to understand now that I walked into this game with an open mind. I didn't allow previous things I had heard about the game get to me, so I played the game with neither high or low expectations. And things started off pretty good, in fact. I watched as my little guy sprinted up the top of a mountain. I watched as he had a conversation with an eccentric old man (the only character in the entire game that displays any sort of personality whatsoever). I even got a chuckle or two out of the slightly amusing dialogue. I then found myself thrust into a forest. I optimistically traveled to the nearby town to hunt for my axe carrying friend so we could chop our way through the forest. Everything seemed bright. Everything seemed happy. How could things go wrong? Several minutes later, my question was answered. Everything that had at one time seemed so promising collapsed around me. Déjà vu had struck me less than ten minutes into the game. Everything melted I trudged on, mindlessly hacking through mazes of enemies, desperately hoping things would get better. As I continued down this spiraling tunnel, I kept telling myself that the game was just in a rut, and that it would get out of it eventually. As time wore on, the inevitable truth sunk into me. Things would not get better, as FFMQ would continue to follow the pattern that had ruined it in the first place. And as those credits rolled down the screen and the game died down, my hope died with it. The game had failed me in every way imaginable.
At this point, I am sure I have made my discontent with this game clear. FFMQ failed me. It failed, plain and simple. So what caused this failure, you might ask. Well, that's simple. Stupidity. Stupidity gave birth to this game. Stupidity is what created it. Stupidity is what defines it. Stupidity that flows over every end, saturating it until it becomes overrun in its own stupidity, drowning in it. There is no other explanation for this game than stupidity. For you see, any sensible person can see the game's flaws clearly. They are obvious, hovering over the game, noticeable from a mile a way. No one in their right mind could have created this game without realizing such things, so it can only be credited to Square's stupidity that this game was ever made.
And at the conclusion of my rant, you may argue that all this is acceptable because this game was meant to be a beginners RPG. Well, you are wrong. FFMQ's flaws are not forgivable because of this, because the game fails even on that level. This game isn't a beginners RPG. It has far too much innovation for it to be called such a thing. Calling this game an introduction to RPG's is like false advertising, because it is far from a standard RPG. It teaches nothing more than the outer shell of the genre. The kind of stuff that can be learned within five minutes of playing a real RPG. So you see, FFMQ fails to be even that, which is truly sad. The idea of a beginners RPG isn't necessarily horrible, but this games execution sure is. I actually feel bad for all the people who had this as their first RPG, for there is a very good chance that it turned them away from the genre. And wasn't attracting new people to the genre the entire point of this game?
I really wanted to like this game. I really did. I gave it more than enough chances to defy the odds and prove me wrong, but in the end, I already knew the truth. FFMQ is a failure. It fails to be a good introduction to the world of RPG's and it fails to be a good game in general. It fails to accomplish anything and everything it set out to do. It failed. Period. There is little solitude to be found in the hollow game. It is nothing more than a memory. A memory of Square's foolish mistake and a memory of how unknown the RPG genre was at one time in America. Luckily, I am not the only one who believes that the game failed, so we won't be seeing Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest 2 anytime soon. And perhaps that's the greatest thing that came out of this game: we'll never see another game like it. But hey, at least its not completely useless.
Best damn paperweight I ever had.
Reviewer's Score: 3/10 | Originally Posted: 06/29/04
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