Review by Jerec

"Not bad for a couple of dollars..."

If there ever was a game to support the whole “RPG’s are for wimps” argument, Mystic Quest is it. Most RPG’s in general are easy to finish, only providing a real challenge to those who have trouble pressing buttons and defeating monsters in a turn-based environment. The unsuspecting newbie to the genre would have to come to grips with the whole idea of ‘stats’ as well as a host of other things like multiple party members, weapons, magic, abilities and turn-based fighting. Square decided that Europe and Australia were unfit for these sorts of games, and as a result, we were denied such classics like Final Fantasy IV and VI, Chrono Trigger and even Super Mario RPG. But we did get Mystic Quest!

Apparently we weren’t smart enough to figure out the complexities of a real RPG, so Square held our hand, as we were lead into the shallow end of the kiddie pool, with flotation devices wrapped around our upper arms despite the water not even reaching our knees. Mystic Quest is an RPG in its simplest form. Weapons are managed by the press of a button, enemies will not pop up randomly, but are sitting on the map waiting for you to go up to them and press a button, and you can save at any time you wish. The less brave of us would save right before a boss, just in case we were killed. But why? If you lose a battle, you are allowed to repeat it. No depressing game over screens, no restarting from the last save point, you just get as many chances as you need until you defeat your foe.

There are no encounters on the world map either, as they are confined to designated ‘Battlefields’ where you can fight 10 battles to win a prize, and some extra experience. It’s quite boring, and the prizes aren’t that helpful either. I’d rather just encounter an enemy every so often, but with the set paths on the world map, it isn’t possible. You can’t just go about and explore every last crevice in the world map like you can with other games bearing the Final Fantasy name. You are on a track, and from each location, there are dotted lines that will take you to the next location. You can’t go past these locations until you have completed a task there either, so the game ends up being very linear and tells you what you should be doing next.

The battles aren’t all that intense. They never create that sense of urgency that you get from harder games, as you nearly always have more energy than your opponent, often tripling their HP, and their AI is so stupid that you’d have to be a complete loser to face defeat. The battles are turn based, and as a result, controlling a party of 3, 4 or 5 members may be a little much for you. Don’t worry about it! In Mystic Quest, you only have one partner at a time, and you can even set it up so that the AI will control it for you.

The aforementioned classics all had deep (or at least attempted it) storylines that made the gamer think, and characters you could really connect with. Well, you won’t have to think here, as the story is about a little man who is actually a chosen knight, but he just doesn’t know it. As a result, he must trek through many easy locations, some even have puzzles to test your noggin, but none are strenuous in the least. Once you’ve cleared out the area of the boss, one of the crystals will be saved, and you will go along and save the other crystals. You’re only saving these crystals because four monsters broke into the “Focus Tower” and stole them, running off to hide in some labyrinth resembling the element of the stone. The characters aren’t too exciting either, as they seem to only join your party for brief stints and as soon as they can get away, they will. You don’t even get to know your main man too well, as he says and does very little. For a knight, he’s quite helpless and always at the mercy of the odd passing man or woman who decides to lend a helping hand.

Like FFIV, it isn’t much of a visual feast. Some locations will whet your appetite, such as the majestic waterfall surrounded by intertwining cliffs as you make your way down to search for treasure or the backgrounds for the battle, which make the otherwise dull scenery come alive. But most will make you lose that appetite, such as the poorly designed caves and the insides of houses, with their blocky walls that look so amateur in their construction, that they just look silly. The characters are what you’d expect from an early SNES RPG: they are squashed, and not very detailed. In battles, the characters look like they are constantly running, but never get anywhere. Monsters in battle look good, much like they did in FFIV and VI, which is a flat but sometimes well-detailed portrait of the monster.

The music is possibly the best part of Mystic Quest, as nearly every tune is vibrant and enjoyable. Every town’s theme fits the mood perfectly, because although it is the same theme, it is remixed in every town you visit. Aquaria’s theme sounds like any water logged town you could imagine in the same way Fireburg sounds more coarse, hot and prone to loud base in its theme. The battle theme is decent, but soon gets irritating when fighting 10 battles in a row, only hearing the first 30 seconds of the theme (most monsters can be defeated in one hit). The best piece of music by far is that of the Focus Tower. It creates a sense of urgency and adventure like few tunes can do, and never gets dull.

In the end, Mystic Quest may be a simple and easy ‘baby RPG’, but it is actually fun. Sure, you might get annoyed at the way things are handled, leaving little for you to do, but you’ll probably want to see this one through to the end, if only for the music. On the other hand, you might just think it’s a complete waste of time.

Reviewer's Rating:   2.5 - Playable

Originally Posted: 01/30/03, Updated 01/31/03

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