Reviewed on SNES
You know what day it is today? It’s Tuesday! And you know what that means? That’s the second day of the week! Real talk however, today is a special day: the day my mother brought me into this world. I turn 23 years old today, and what better way to celebrate than with the first game I have ever beaten? The SNES was the first console I’ve ever owned alongside the Gameboy and Playstation 1, but the latter was mostly property of my brothers and the SNES ended up in my possession. While Final Fantasy Mystic Quest was not the first game I’ve ever played—that title would probably go to Pokémon Yellow or Super Mario World—, it is the first game I remember beating. I indeed started my life with a JRPG; could there possibly be a better way? Well.. I can imagine a lot of people shaking their head because of this game in particular, so let’s dive into it.
There’s actually quite a funny backstory behind Mystic Quest. While it was developed in Japan by Squaresoft, it was geared towards the North American audiences. As a result, it released a whole year earlier in America than it did in the sugoii country of Japan itself. It was also the first Final Fantasy game to ever be released in Europe in 1993! Finally I can say something positive about Europe in the 90s, I thought the day would never come. Mystic Quest’s main objective was to become an entry-level JRPG which even kids could play and enjoy. The RPG market wasn’t too big over here yet, and Squaresoft thought that was because people outside of Japan were too dumb to understand the appeal. In Europe this game is known as Mystic Quest Legend because there was already a Mystic Quest on the Gameboy, namely Final Fantasy Adventure.. which was the first title in the Mana series. Yeah just.. I don’t know, Squaresoft had a weird habit of localizing game names. Final Fantasy Mystic Quest wasn’t received too well over here and has gained the honour of being the black sheep of the franchise, but does it truly deserve that title?
The world of Mysticquestia—I totally didn’t make that up—was a peaceful one, where life flourished and people enjoyed their lifes. As long as the four shining elemental crystals would remain in a good state, so would the world. Of course life ain’t that easy, and suddenly monsters appear from the Focus Tower which stands tall at the center of the world , and drained the crystals of their power. The four lands were closed off from each other by a magical.. door at the tower, and the world slowly decayed. It was then that a hero of the prophecy would show up and bring life back to the crystals. This is a story as old as they exist, but for a simple RPG that introduces westerners to the genre it’s.. not that bad of a start actually. Many RPGs follow this trend of being a hero of prophecy, destined to slay the darkness and rescue the world. I am not saying that the story is good, but if I had to describe it in one or a few words, “casual” and “beginners-friendly” do come to mind.
The same could be said about the characters. The main protagonist Benjamin is adventurous but simple-minded. When he’s told he’s part of the prophecy, he.. shrugs. And he does that the whole game by the way. Despite that, he is a caring man who never loses hope even when the odds are against him. The other characters all join him on his quest because of their own reasons, which mostly comes down to their respective lands decaying. Their personalities are also simple, as we have the edgy hopeless girl Phoebe who suddenly gains hope when seeing Benjamin, or the reckless Reuben who thinks he can handle the whole world. Spoilers, he can’t. Also his European artwork does not exist. I refuse. And then there’s Tristam.. he’s kind of a d*ck. The world might be dying, he may be in possession of something that could rescue someone’s life, but if you ain’t got money he ain’t helping you. His European artwork does also not exist. While they are simple characters, there’s one neat thing about them; their names are all based on historical or mythological characters. Reuben is from the Book of Genesis for example, while Phoebe is one of the original titans from Greece Mythology. This does not have anything to do with the characters as a whole, but I appreciate it regardless.
With there being four crystals, the world is also split up into four parts, each following an elemental theme. They also usually have one town, two or three dungeons and a few side-areas. Mystic Quest follows a grid overworld, where no free walking is allowed. This eliminates the possibility of random encounters, but also of free exploration as you can not stray away from your path. The map is also filled with battlefield squares, an arena of ten encounters with a reward waiting at the end. I do like this idea as you’re being rewarded for grinding, but it’s compensated by not having the ability to explore the world. The dungeons also have no random encounters and instead, there are sprites on the screen. You will have to fight them if they block the path however, so don’t expect to go through the dungeons without battling a few times. But! Enemies do not respawn as long as you’re inside the dungeon, so you can take your time and backtrack to see if you’ve missed anything without needing to battle countlessly which helps in the game’s favour for sure. The dungeons do have a puzzling element to them as well, making it feel like they belong more in The Legend of Zelda than actual Final Fantasy games. But honestly, you won’t hear me complaining here at all since dungeons with puzzle elements are awesome.
Up until this point we have a solid game, but now we get to the most controversial point of this review that has split the Mystic Quest community in half.. if that community even exists. The game allows for a maximum of two playable characters at once, one being the main character and the other being one of the four companions. By default the second character is set on automatic mode and will attack themselves, but fortunately that can be put off which I obviously did immediately. Both characters have a weapon to attack with and magic to cast. All magic is learnable for Benjamin and over time he also gains all weapons, but for the companions their weapons and magic are fixed and can’t be changed in any way. They also can’t level from experience, but they’ll always be higher than you regardless. Levelling up doesn’t benefit you anyways other than increase hitpoints and attack power, as spells are found within chests or rewarded after a battlefield. And this is a main issue many people have with Mystic Quest; your characters will always be the same every playthrough, unless you go out of your way to miss obtaining spells or kill as little monsters as possible.
The weapons would be the only difference in gameplay you’d get. You get them through story progression instead of buying them, but they all have different effects in battle. Some can possible hit multiple enemies at the same time, but their most distinct feature is having an advantage- or disadvantage against enemies like spells do. This is not able to be found out in battle through means other than trial and error, but most of the times it is obvious. Of course a tree would be weak against an axe, and ice enemies weak against fire magic. While there are no mana points, magic spells can only be used a certain amount of times before you have to visit an inn again. Again, simplifying it for the younger audience. The weapons also have an effect in the dungeons where it functions in helping you through the puzzles, like cutting down trees and breaking walls with bombs. It also leads to hidden rooms occasionally with treasure chests, containing everything ranging from gear to usable items. The laughable thing about lower-tier chests which contains the likes of potions is that they refresh when exiting a town or dungeon, so there should never be a point where you’d run out of items.
A feature in Mystic Quest that has rarely returned in any Final Fantasy since is the status of enemies in battle. Regular enemies usually have two sprites, one when they enter the battle fresh and one where they’re near death. Usually in RPGs enemies only have a default sprite, and it is up to you to guess whether they’re almost dead or not. Bosses even have four sprites, making it easier for you to strategize whether you should heal or can just go all out. Not that you really need that in this game but hey, I definitely think this is one of Mystic Quest’s defining features that not a lot of JRPGs use, even nowadays. It doesn’t really kill the suspense either of wondering when an enemy will die, so this is a harmless feature in general.
Final Fantasy Mystic Quest is not a difficult game, which I don’t think I even have to say at this point. If you do happen to die in a battle, you can restart said fight immediately so you don’t have to worry about saving, which you can also do everywhere. Which is another point of Mystic Quest I like to be honest: the ability to save anywhere I wish. Some games make it so difficult with save points, and to this day some still do. I don’t mind it too much, but I hate it when I’m not sure for how long I can keep playing and no save point is in sight. The game takes about 10 hours to beat and complete, give or take a few hours though normally it shouldn’t be longer than 13 to 15 hours. There is no post-game content or extra modes, so once you’ve beaten it there’s few reasons to return. Unless you’re me who has beaten this game around eight times..
Before I move on well.. let me get straight to the point: Mystic Quest is misunderstood and overhated. This game was advertised as an entry-level JRPG while also being geared towards a younger audience of gamers. When I played and beat this game, I was around four or five years old. I am from the Netherlands and as such, I didn’t know any English words except for ”yes”. Yet, I was able to beat it without too much trouble and I didn’t have to rely too much on my brothers either. I wouldn’t have too much trouble with battles because I could retry at any time, I wouldn’t get lost on the overworld because it’s grid based and since there wasn’t too much story—which was actually represented pretty well in the graphics and animations anyways—I didn’t miss out on much. And you also have to remember that the only alternatives in the early 90s as JRPGs were Dragon Warrior and Final Fantasy 1 and 4, amongst a few other lesser known games. Lufia and Breath of Fire would release a year after which I’d say would also be good entry-level JRPGs, but Mystic Quest at the time was one of the only entry-level JRPGs for kids with little knowledge about gaming in general. Of course in the current year we have a lot of alternatives, but it’s unfair to hate on Mystic Quest now for something that it accomplished in the early 90’s when there were few to none alternatives.
But with all that said, the presentation of Mystic Quest is actually pretty superb. While the graphics in general weren’t necessarily something to write home about, the sprites of enemies in battle certainly were. They looked both great with many taking mythological inspiration, but also having a kid-friendly design with how derpy they can look at times. The user interface is also good with a changeable health bar, as well as the usual settings like message speed and window colour. But easily the best part about Mystic Quest—and probably undeserved—is the absolutely rocking soundtrack. The soundtrack is simply amazing, with many outstanding tracks that I occasionally listen to outside of the game. My favourite would be the final boss theme but since spoilers, I picked the normal boss battle theme which is my second favourite anyways. It’s blood-pumping for a game that doesn’t need it, and I would absolutely play it in some games that have bad boss battle music to have that feeling going.
I might have sounded like I’ve been protecting this game and yes, I am biased, but don’t get me wrong: Final Fantasy Mystic Quest is a game which is not just easy, but also relatively dull because every playthrough will be mostly the same because of the simple combat. But you do have to take into account this game wasn’t made for veteran JRPG games or heck, even Final Fantasy fans. This game was made for young kids and newcomers to the genre, and while it isn’t the best option nowadays, for me personally it did a mighty fine job of introducing me to the genre. Its simple story and characters prepared me for later JRPGs, and nowadays I have played.. way too many to count. I have to be fair in giving this game a ranking, but this is my site so I can at least give a little bit of bias. So this is the advice I’d like to give: If you’re a veteran JRPG or Final Fantasy fan, just skip this game as it isn’t made for you. If you’re still curious or just a newcomer, give it a shot and beat the first dungeon which shouldn’t take you longer than an hour. If you like the game, I’d say continue but keep my review in mind. And with that, here is my final verdict for Final Fantasy Mystic Quest:
That was a long review alright, but worthy of a birthday special if you ask me. I won’t deny that my opinion on this game is biased since it is the first game I have ever beaten, but I truly feel the hate is undeserved and instead many people are just jumping on the bandwagon. The only way to play this game currently is on the SNES and Wii eShop.. if you managed to buy it before it was closed. There is a rom hack which increases the difficulty of the game but I’ve heard it’s very unbalanced so you might as well just play the original and check it out afterwards. Getting a physical cartridge of this version shouldn’t cost you too much as the game is quite common, usually around 20 bucks.