Final Fantasy Mystic Quest (1992)

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Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform: SNES

© Copyright Square Enix

© Copyright Square Enix

Numerous friends have warned me to stay away from Final Fantasy Mystic Quest as if it were the incarnation of pure evil. I eventually came across a used copy of it for two dollars. As soon as I popped the game into my Super Nintendo, I realised that my friends either didn’t understand the concept of a target audience or missed the prominent message, “Entry Level Role-Playing Adventure”, on the front of the box. If you let out your inner child and experience the game through the eyes of a young novice trying out his first RPG, you might find the game is, in fact, a hidden gem.

The plot consists of a simple, no-nonsense throwback to the original Final Fantasy. You and your companion must restore the four elemental crystals and then kill the big bad at the end. Compared to the rest of the series, Final Fantasy Mystic Quest comes across as the pinnacle of clarity: no complicated sci-fi concepts that require you to reread the text sixteen times, no convoluted twists that undermine every prior event, no last-minute revelations that add nothing to the final boss fight to follow… The writers at Square should always target a younger demographic, if only to prevent their narrative from turning into gibberish every time they try to add depth.

A big point of contention for hardcore Final Fantasy fans is the absence of random encounters. When travelling on the overhead map, you select your next location the same way Mario reaches a new level in Super Mario Bros 3. Once in a dungeon, you can see all the mobs and engender an encounter by walking straight into them. I don’t understand how Final Fantasy Mystic Quest could have garnered so much hate from this. Whether you engage twenty enemies at random or by running into them makes no difference to me.

© Copyright Square Enix

© Copyright Square Enix

I do, however, have a problem with the battlefields in Final Fantasy Mystic Quest. Spread throughout the overhead map are areas where you can trigger exactly ten fights. Clearing the battlefield earns you a reward like a new spell, a piece of armour, a truckload of experience, or gold. Unfortunately, they prove so easy you could place a heavy object on your controller’s action button and leave for a drink. Instead of wasting our time, I wish the developers had simply added extra monsters and rewards to the story-related dungeons, especially since the combat system is so tight.

In Final Fantasy Mystic Quest, attacks are executed with any of four weapon types: swords, claws, axes, or bombs. Most enemies are vulnerable to a specific type of weapon. Magic spells are also conveniently grouped. There are three magic schools: white, black, and wizard. Each comes with its own point count, making it easy to see how many spells you can cast. With a near limitless quantity of items available to restore your health and magic, you should be able to plough through any fight without too much difficulty.

Yes, the game is easy, but, at a time when RPGs were getting needlessly complicated, Final Fantasy Mystic Quest allowed new players to get acquainted with the genre without walkthroughs or painfully lengthy tutorials. To this day, I have trouble understanding how anyone could complain that Mystic Quest is a kids’ version of Final Fantasy when it flat-out say so on the box. To me, that’s like ordering an anchovy pizza and then complaining that the pizza has anchovies on it.

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