"The folks at Square Soft try their hand at a beginner RPG......and fail miserably."

Remember Nintendo’s “Mario’s Early Years” series of games? Or Sega’s “Ecco Jr.”? These games were designed for the younger less skilled gaming crowd. Now although I don’t personally care for the idea of putting well-established gaming icons in so called beginner games I’ll admit the idea could potentially work well for the game companies in question if only they could execute the idea properly. It seems to me that the main problem with these beginner games is that the developers seem to take the easy user-friendly approach too far and slack off. The end result is usually a sloppy thrown together product that provides little if any entertainment to the gamer when in fact they should really be taking extra effort to help ensure it's success. Unfortunately Square Soft carries on this trend with their Final Fantasy Mystic Quest game for the SNES.

Mystic Quest is essentially a spin off game in Square’s hugely popular Final Fantasy series. Mystic Quest follows the same basic style of game play as Final Fantasy and is probably most closely comparable to Final Fantasy II/IV (one of Chrono’s all time favorite SNES games) and throughout the adventure (or quest if you will) remains very reminiscent of it’s predecessor.

Let’s have a look at Mystic Quest’s game play shall we. Well it should come as no surprise that this game is really easy (It’s an entry level RPG after all). Advancing is a cinch as you can save anywhere, open the same treasure chest to receive useful items a million times (not that you’ll likely need them though), and most enemies have very low AI. Basically there are no overly challenging elements to this game. Mystic Quest has crossed the thin borderline between easy and ridiculously easy game play. I’ll flat out say that this is the easiest RPG I’ve ever played and a likely candidate for one of the easiest games ever made period. Even the most inexperienced RPG gamers should have no problem advancing. Now to be fair the game actually does require a little bit of thinking in a few areas but usually that’s just in figuring out which weapon is best for that particular situation.

Battles in Mystic Quest take place on a sub screen as most RPGs of the time did. You will however be able to see your enemies in plain view on the over world screen. Since enemies don’t move around you have the option of avoiding the majority of battles. Of course leveling up is actually somewhat important to advance so don’t get the idea that you can skimp too much on battles. An honorable mention is that the game play in Mystic Quest actually has some slight adventure elements to it. This makes it fairly unique among most of Square’s games particularly the Final Fantasy’s, which have generally stuck strictly to the tired and true traditional RPG route. On the over world you can use weapons some of which are important to advancing further in the game (ex: setting bombs to open up new passage ways, cutting away terrestrial obstacles). Your assortment of weapons includes a sword, axe, bombs, claws, ninja stars, bow and arrows, and the morning star. Most of these weapons can also be upgraded as you advance in the game. You also have the ability to jump.

Even though Mystic Quest was released in 1992 the graphics still look very dated. Yes they could have done a lot better with this one. The graphics are dull and unimpressive, the recycled sprite syndrome runs rampant, and the battle animations for spells pale in comparison to the coolness of it’s cousin Final Fantasy II. The series’ cool look has also been swapped for lame cartoony graphics. I’ll grant them this though the enemy sprites despite being lame in design do make good use of the SNES’s large colour pallet and are quite colourful as are most of the backgrounds. Unfortunately nothing in the game is very detailed looking and it suffers a lot from the square syndrome as I call it. What I mean is the screen seems to be divided into a bunch of equal size squares each one fitted with objects. As a result your character, enemies, trees, mountains and pretty much everything else is exactly the same size. If you’ve played Final Fantasy II you know the deal. Adding to this problem is that almost everything (character sprites in particular) is way too small and unproportionate. It’s a pain on the eyes. The only sprites of any significant size are the enemies on the battle sub screen (unfortunately your party still consists of midgets in and out of battle). I also thought it was kind of cool how the monster animation changes when they are weakened or defeated (usually in rather comical ways) a nice touch on Square’s part. Since Final Fantasy II was ported to the SNES format at the last minute (it was originally set to be an NES title) Square has somewhat of an excuse for it’s mostly mediocre visuals. As for Mystic Quest it has no such excuse for not looking better since it came out well after the SNES launch. Most of Mystic Quests graphics could quite easily pass for an NES game with slightly more colours.

The sound is not horrible but it is by no means exemplary and compared to every other game in the Final Fantasy series it just can’t hold up. The game is very much lacking in variety of sound tracks making for very repetitive audio. This might not be such a bad thing if the audio at least had quality behind it to back it up but unfortunately this is not the case. Like I said the music isn’t horrible hell it beats most of the game music out there but for the most part it’s nothing stand out either and once the novelty wears off it becomes too repetitive to keep your attention. I’ll admit one track did manage to keep me hooked though. I liked the music in the towns. It has a very pleasant soothing melody to it and didn’t become old after a while like the rest of the mix. The sound effects are your typical video game bleeps and bloops nothing great but nothing out of the ordinary for older RPG’s like this.

The story behind Mystic Quest is about as generic as they come. It’s your typical save the world from destruction theme, but while Square added all kinds of side quests and plot twists in the other Final Fantasy’s they did next to nothing with this game. All you do is go from one easy level to the next with the occasional boss and town in between. The plot never develops further and while several companions, who offer additional spells and weapons on your quest, will join you periodically there was no effort taken to develop them or even your main character’s personality. No character development equals not good. Come on Square just because this game was meant to be aimed at newbie RPG gamers doesn’t give you an excuse to slack off and give us a second rate story. The whole reason to play RPG’s is for their story that’s what games like Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger are remembered for after all.

The game’s controls are for the most part very simple and user friendly as is typical of RPG’s. My only complaints are that your character moves too slowly on the over world and you are limited to only four directions of movement (left, right, up, and down). It’s nice to have at least eight.

Unfortunately Mystic Quest really doesn’t offer much of anything in the way of replay value. It’s a linear quest through and through.

Now let me get down to the nitty gritty here. While I can live with bad graphics and sound, a bad story and especially bad game play just won’t cut it for me when it comes to my RPG’s. Mystic Quest is just too easy and generic to keep me entertained. Plain and simple it just isn’t fun to play and gets very boring very quickly. Now I know that some people will try and tell you that this game is good or even great but personally I think they are just biased because this is a Final Fantasy game (well sort of anyway). To be fair the game can be somewhat enjoyable to a true newbie gamer and if that is the case multiply the game’s score by 2 and give it a 6/10 but if you’re an experienced or even casual RPG gamer trust me you will not enjoy this game.

Here are Chrono’s thoughts on Final Fantasy Mystic Quest

- Slightly above average music
- Probably the best “beginner” game out there
- Some elements of game play are unique to the Final Fantasy series

- Unimpressive graphics
- Repetitive sound
- Weak story and character development
- No real replay incentive
- Pales in comparison to other games in the series (lacks that certain something)
- Seasoned gamers will likely hate it

To be honest I really wanted to like Mystic Quest and even though most of the people I talked to said it was crap I still thought that Square would pull through and provide at least a semi enjoyable gaming experience for me. But unfortunately Mystic Quest simply has too many glaring flaws to remain fun for long. Sorry Square it was a nice try and probably one of the better attempts at a beginner game but unfortunately you missed the mark. For all you hardcore RPG gamers out there take it from me you should definitely steer clear of Mystic Quest. Trust me you won’t like it. As for little kids or newbie RPG gamers who knows maybe you will get a kick out of it but for everyone else this game is probably not for you. Unless you are a die-hard Square fan and have to own every Final Fantasy game I wouldn’t bother with this one it just isn’t fun.

Reviewer's Rating:   1.5 - Bad

Originally Posted: 09/04/02, Updated 09/04/02

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