Review by NojEsco

"A Pleasant and Cheerful if Overtly Simple RPG"

A man once said: "A man is the sum of his memories," and when I think about a game like Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest, I suddenly realize how important my memories are when reviewing it. The fact that the game is almost eleven years old, and I was with it near the beginning, makes me smile upon thinking about it, just a bit...but seriously, while not a terrible game by any means, it really isn't good. It just is what it is. Luckily, like going through an old attic, I was able to scrounge up enough material for an ever-so-slightly positive review.

This game has newbie written all over it. Unlike the first Nintendo game everyone played: Super Mario Bros., this game wasn't ungodly hard, and friendly to those of its young target audience, who haven't yet self-evolved to having their thumbs being their primary, most agile digits. It's a nice breeze for even the most elementary of players, while there are still parts that are challenging to me today, an entire decade after having first beaten it. If you ask me, I think it's necessary to make more games like this…just, let's make it a bit better, okay?

The game's interface is clean and simple...very simple, that is. You move, can use items and magic, can use weapons to knock down doors and trees, talk, sleep, buy, and jump. Oh, yeah, and fight, of course. All of this is basic and standard issue, except for a few of these; and those which are conventionally found in games is simplified further, such as fewer people to talk to, and an item inventory much, much smaller. Most locations are also somewhat small as well, especially at the beginning. Smartly done by Squaresoft, as one progresses through the game, the uncivilized locations become progressively more and more mazelike, and complicated. In fact, the Volcano, where you fight the fire fiend, is still the most complicated and time-consuming maze I've ever come across. While frustrating, I do put its amazing complexity as a serious pro to the game's status.

Tragically, while I say that for young audiences the limited interface was a good thing, the limited and simplified battle system isn't quite the same. Actually, I personally feel it somewhat backfired. Having two characters in battle at a time is simply too little; especially how Final Fantasy IV is still the only Final Fantasy to have five, which had come out a year earlier. Since they made the plot happier and simpler, did they also think that having more than two playable characters would be too complex? With few items, and the battles usually being between easy and too easy, "going overboard" with simplicity is somewhat of an understatement.

One good example of simplicity in the battle system is that there are only twelve spells, which are universal between characters. Also, the main hero is the only one who can willfully change weapons, and he only has four to choose from. All have different aspects and attributes, but you'll really just use the one that does the most damage. Also, on each level, the amount of damage you and your friends either give or receive is a constant integer, unless it's one of those rare super attacks or a clean miss. The battles are no longer fully random, as you can see all of the enemies before engaging them. However, Square smartly made them guard either items, or paths of advancement. The one real innovation, however, to the combat system, is that when an enemy is hurt, the more you hurt it, you see the image of it change; a feature that I still haven't seen much since. Hopefully in the new era I will start to be able to tell who's weak by more than just cartoonish damaged sprites, but wounded stances, AI deciding to fall back, or perhaps even blood.

What makes the game ultra G-rated would have to be the simplicity of the writing, however. True, one cannot expect much with either a post NES RPG, nor during a time of heavy censoring. However, while softly-written games of the time such as Final Fantasy IV or Destiny of an Emperor had easy-going dialogue in it, they had potential for darker dialogue and more grim themes. Mystic Quest doesn't have any real dark narrative potential, as it's not only happy, but amazingly short in length and somewhat shallow in character depth. However, since the targeted audiences are young and usually imaginative, it'd be easy enough for them to gain a liking for these characters anyway, just like I did when I was playing it, about twelve years old.

With such weak writing, it's a wonder the story made it intact...that is, until you actually play through it. Frankly, while in nice small-epic size, mostly during its early SNES release date, it's really a story that could have stayed at its level of magnitude if sprites told us the story by playing charades. The story is extremely small and childish, only somewhat inventive, and remains a mystery as to how this game spans a good 20 hours of play. Due to the far less impressive emphasis on plot when compared to Final Fantasy IV, many simply don't acknowledge Mystic Quest as an actual entry to the series. Although there were a few moments that I did like, such as the bit involving a giant tree, it's somewhat formulaic with fairy tales of past.

However, while the plot wasn't very well written, the same cannot be said about the music within this title. I'm pretty sure that Nobuo Uematsu wasn't involved in the musical aspects of this game, but this is one of those times, like Final Fantasy Tactics, where frankly, it doesn't matter at all. I stand as one to say that Final Fantasy Mystic Quest holds some of Square's greatest musical pieces ever. Tracks like the ones inside Doom Castle and the multiple battle themes have a hard rock edge that somehow remains epic, while tracks like the temple track is beautiful, and the Focus Tower theme is heroic and catchy. Each cave has its own track, each one just screaming of wonder, and the final battle theme is quite possibly the most well composed last battle theme pre-Dancing Mad (Final Fantasy VI's end battle theme...a four-part track), because it holds the emotion of any other powerful track ever written, and is almost twice the length of the infamous Zeromus track! Frankly, to me the replay value of this game is decently high simply because this game is easy, and has a mind-blowing musical score! I would play through it every year or two like clockwork if I only had a SNES working again…maybe the Wii will allow it? If only the MIDI was at least as good as that of Final Fantasy's IV & VI, then it would've been amazing.

Finally, the graphics in this game continue the simplicity, although they are in some ways a nice step up from Final Fantasy IV's…that is, much more than Final Fantasy V's were. The monsters look quite good, change depending on the amount of life they have, the locale maps use nice SNES depth-of-field effects, the spells and battle locations look quite good, and the color palette has increased in use just a little. However, there are several issues that I noticed that prevent me from saying that this game is a SNES visual feast.

One is that Final Fantasy IV was made a full year earlier, and while this is an improvement, it isn't as much a year's graphical improvement should be; just look at Secret of Mana over this, for that was one year later. Second is that the monster count doesn't seem anywhere near as high as that of the SNES FF before it, so now monsters are recycled more often than before. Thirdly, in the Tower of Babil in FFIV, lights pulsated blue, and the pits in the caves around the paths you walked believably went forever. There was none of this cool artistic-ness, or wonder involved in the game's graphics except for the nice SNES 3-D effects when on a mountain. And finally, when in battle, the squat characters remain squat, without transforming into the taller, more elaborate warriors.

Having to select a more professional score for this game, I'd have to rank it a five out of ten, since I find it hard sometimes to analyze this game without my mild sentimentalities getting in the way. Like I said, I could play this game over and over every few years until the day I die, but that doesn't justify any reason for anyone else to have to attempt to enjoy it. They may not. For all interested in simply having one more RPG beaten and under their belt, or a great MIDI soundtrack, and those who aren't afraid to look a lousy plot in the eye and accept it should possibly give Mystic Quest a fair shake. For others, feel free to just skip over it.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Originally Posted: 08/17/06

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