Final Fantasy Mystic Quest is a curious game. To really discuss it, you’ve got to decide how you want to talk about it. Back in 1992, Square wanted to make an easier and more action packed Final Fantasy game. The theory was that an easy cheap game would catch a younger audience, and make for more sales. The game itself is largely considered to be a spinoff rather than a main series game.
Why is this? Well, let’s look at it like this. A game in a series can be examined in the context of the series and the common elements of the series. When examining it that way, Final Fantasy Mystic Quest uses different battle mechanics, different exploration mechanics, and focus on a much more linear progression. This means that if you started the game, expecting typical Final Fantasy gameplay, you’d likely be surprised. If you started the game expecting a typical RPG, you’d also be surprised. As the image above shows, the game defaults to showing no hit points for the hero. The vague old man tasking you with saving the world is meant to be goofy and humorous, but the amount of dialogue is very small.
Of course, a younger player might like the fact that the game has very little text and there’s not a lot of numbers. Elements for younger players include a linear map, forced areas to fight to level up, free healing, free reappearing healing items, fairly non-threatening status effects, retrying battles, automatically equipped weapons and armor, information about weaknesses and strengths toward your attack with every attack on the monster, and different monster portraits according to health. A good example of the status effects is poison. Early in the game, you can get poisoned fairly easily, and it does about 12 HP damage if you have about 200 HP. It inflicts this damage after a turn in battle. Walking around does no damage, and most battles can end before the “end of turn” damage is inflicted. At any point, you can change your weapon by hitting L or R and then attacking / using it on the dungeon / town map.
This exploration is mostly just walking / jumping around monsters / townspeople. It feels a lot like Final Fantasy Legend III, and the game seems to share graphical elements with that game. In a later area, you can push around items to make paths. Unfortunately, there is a freezing bug in one area that results in the game crashing while you are doing this exploration. It’s rare enough to be mostly avoided, but it does make it unpleasant to explore. You can also use weapons for exploration. This includes things like using an ax on a tree, bombing a blocked passage, or poking a statue with a sword.
Plot wise, the game is pretty repetitive. You go to an area, meet a partner, fight some forced battles, get a new weapon at some point, go to a dungeon, and save a crystal. Often, each area has a set of monsters for that area, so if you have treemen weak to axes, you’ll see a lot of “This monster is weak to axes” throughout the entire area. It is clever that finishing an area will cure the blight on that area of the land, as shown below.
What’s my opinion on the game? Mostly, I find the game to be one that is competent, but not the kind of game I enjoy that much. The early game isn’t bad at all, but late in the game it’s a mess of monsters that you can’t avoid and need to fight along with fairly long and maze like dungeons. The plot usually feels like it’s told by a young kid. For example, in the intro, the hero volunteers to save the old man from an attacking monster, and after the fight, there’s a basic “Oh, now I know you’re the hero,” and “But I thought you said I was the hero before I saved you” style joke accompanied by the “why me” animation for the hero. Perhaps the translation made this feel more awkward than intended, but it still feels like the humor painted on with very broad strokes. The graphics are cute and the enemy sprites are nicely done. The music is quite nice in several areas. It’s the gameplay, the plot, and the game design that I really find unappealing.