Before there was Final Fantasy III (AKA Final Fantasy VI)… following Final Fantasy II (AKA Final Fantasy IV)… was Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest. It was a sidestep in the beloved franchise, being an entry level based RPG aimed toward a younger crowd (and those new to the genre). It has been deemed by some as the black sheep of the Final Fantasy family; some go as far as to call it an albatross and a waste of cartridge space. But surely, being from Square during their hey day, it can’t be THAT bad, can it?
Of course, as it often is the case, with one extreme you have the flip side. There are many Mystic Quest defenders who not only proclaim that this game isn’t bad but rather it’s actually pretty good. As it is with many things in life, there’s only one way you can find out for certain: by experiencing it yourself. And way back 12 years ago, during the Christmas season of 2007, I set out to do just that.
RPG: REAL POOR GAMES?
Growing up I was a huge fan of any game that granted instant explicit gratification from the moment I pressed start. Fighting and action games were my main go-to genres when it came to video games back in the ’90s. My brother, on the other hand, was obsessed with RPGs. I never could understand why as a kid. Why would anyone want to spend all day conversing with boring townsfolk, or engage in slow, plodding turn-based combat? What the heck is SO appealing about that, my 10 year old brain at the time wondered. I couldn’t figure it out. As far as I was concerned 25 years ago, the acronym “RPG” might as well stand for “Real Poor Games.” But in late 2003, SEGA SATURN MAGAZINE’s constant championing of RPGs slowly but surely opened up my eyes. Suddenly, and for the first time in my life, I began to see RPGs in a new light. It didn’t take me long to procure all the Sega Saturn RPGs, from Albert Odyssey to Panzer Dragoon Saga. Sadly, I never got around to playing any of them thoroughly. Flash forward to January 2006. Upon rediscovering my childhood love, the Super Nintendo, I was determined to finally beat my first RPG. Super Mario RPG perhaps? EarthBound? Chrono Trigger? None of those, actually. I knew in my heart my first RPG could only be… FINAL FANTASY: MYSTIC QUEST.
Sure I had read some negative opinions on it and heard through the grapevine it wasn’t worth playing, but that didn’t sway me one bit. Ever since I first laid eyes on the Mystic Quest blurb in EGM issue #43 (February 1993), part of me was always a bit curious about it, despite my disdain of RPGs even back then. There was just something about Mystic Quest that appealed to me and stood out from other RPGs. I guess part of it was the whole training wheels approach. I’d decided that if I were to ever play RPGs, Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest would be the very first. Besides, it’s not a bad idea to start at the “bottom” and work your way up. This whole SNES resurgence of mine was another chance at gaming redemption and fulfilling the wavering fantasies of my youth. In December of 2007, I decided it was time to finally quell a near 15 year curiosity. Having experienced the likes of Brandish, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Soul Blazer (and enjoying those adventures immensely), the time had come to ‘level up’ and conquer my very first RPG. All things considered, I can’t think of a more “perfect” RPG to begin with.
THE STORY GOES…
For centuries the Focus Tower stood at the very heart of the World. It had been a center for trade and knowledge, and the people of the World met there to peacefully settle their differences. But on one warm summer day, the Tower was suddenly transformed into a symbol of the purest evil. For on that day, vile monsters battled their way into the Tower, stole the four Crystals of the Earth, and took off with the magical Coins that had kept the Tower’s doors unlocked.
With the Tower doors sealed behind them, the monsters relaxed their guard and turned their attention to the Crystals. As they basked in the radiant glow of the Crystals, the monsters grew stronger and even more wicked than they already were. The more light the monsters consumed, the more the World was drained of its warmth and color. Tremors soon shook the land. The sky grew cloudy and dark. The seasons went berserk. Monsters then appeared everywhere and terrorized the people. The World was thrown into total chaos. Something had to be done. A hero was much needed…
Enter Benjamin, the most normal youngster you could imagine. Like most responsible villagers his age, he arose at the crack of dawn to lead his family’s livestock to the upper meadow to graze. Other kids teased him because he read while tending his herd, and because a village Elder had taken him in as a promising student. Although he seemed mature beyond his years, he still dreamed of being more than he was: faster, stronger and more daring.
USE YOUR HEAD, SON
In battle mode you can attack with your weapon or by conjuring a variety of magic spells. Spells are usually stronger but eat up magic points. Also, some enemies are immune to certain spells, further adding to the strategy. Gotta use your noggin’ a little bit!
Starting out at the Focus Tower, before all is said and done you’ll travel to 29 regions, ranging from ice pyramids to volcano mines. Unoriginal but hey, all the classic themes are represented.
Having the novice RPG player in mind, your movement on the overworld map has been simplified. You’re quite restricted but at least you’ll never get lost.
Your party can only contain two members at any one time, and not by your choice. Along the journey various characters will join you for different reasons. Discover many items, weapons, magic spells and armor. It’s nowhere as extensive as other RPGs, but again, this was made with the novice in mind. Let the journey begin!
THE ADVENTURE BEGINS
Follow the old geezer and leap safely to the other mountain before the one you’re on crumbles. Unlike many other RPGs, you can jump in Mystic Quest. Jumping serves a very handy purpose.
“Look over there. That’s the Focus Tower, once the heart of the World. An old Prophecy says, “The vile four will steal the Power, and divide the World behind four doors. At that time the Knight will appear!” The Prophecy has now come true. Four monsters have locked the doors of the Focus Tower and escaped with the keys. They’re draining the light from the 4 Crystals of the Earth, and the World is in chaos. The people are in extreme desperate need of help. STEVE, only you can save the Crystals and the World, AND ONLY YOU.”
But before the Old Man and Steve can chat some more, BEHEMOTH shows up! The screen shakes and roars. It’s time for Steve to prove his worth…
You have the option to attack, use an item or spell, or defend yourself.
After your choice of command is selected, a big yellow square appears on-screen. Place it over any enemy, yourself or your traveling companion, in case of using the Cure spell, f’rinstance.
Occasionally, a critical hit occurs, accompanied by a flash. Triple damage!
Ah, the infamous heroic shrug of our main chap! It adds an enjoyable and quirky touch to the festivities. Any time that Steve is confused [Oh boy -Ed.], he’ll look at you and give a stumped shrug of the shoulders.
“That depends. What do I get out of it, gramps?”
“… Something more valuable than your eyes will ever believe!”
“Precisely. No! I mean uhhh… something beyond your wildest dreams!”
“I’m just fuckin’ with ya. My pleasure! Step aside.”
“A withered piece of wood… gee… thanks…”
“Silly kid. Open your eyes, and open your heart. Then find the young girl in Foresta. The rest is up to you, son…”
“Okaaaaay. That was not creepy at all.”
Treasure chests are littered across the land. Items actually regenerate, so you can abuse the system if you so desire. Cures are invaluable [You don’t say -Ed.]
Speaking of cures, there’s a certain bed in a certain town that won’t cost you a dime and will fully recuperate our hero. Judging by the look of ecstasy on his face, I think he did more than take a nap, if ya know what I mean.
Well, you heard the old fart — off to Foresta with the Tree Wither in hand.
Some folks give you a valuable clue to progress the story while others simply add to the atmosphere of the town, and ultimately, the game itself.
“KAELI! Don’t you dare storm off with this stranger! You DO remember what happened last time, don’t you?”
“Awww, mom. Look, I have to do this. I hope you’ll understand some day.”
“Yes yes, down a little more, Steve. You’re doing very well my son!”
“No, up some more now. Up up, THERE ya go.”
“On second thought, it’d look real nice to the right…”
One thing I hated about RPGs as a kid whenever I watched my brother play were the insane amount of random enemy encounters. Sometimes it seems like you can’t take 3 steps without the screen flashing into battle. In Mystic Quest however, there are no surprises since all enemies are shown on-screen. In the words of Borat, “IZZ NICE!!”
Speaking of cool touches, here’s another one. This is a typical enemy screen in any RPG, no? Sure but…
Wait, what’s that? Yep, enemies show wear and tear as the battle progresses. Some of the weakened states are rather amusing to behold, such as the band-aid this goof sports. What a git!
Unfortunately for our diplomatic hero and lovely heroine, their moment is shattered by the appearance of a most vile creature.
Scattered across the land are battlefields. These regions host monsters dwelling deep below the surface. Not only do you gain experience points from killing the monsters, but you may win key items as well. You don’t have to fight them all at once, so make sure you heal up when your health runs low before reengaging in battle.
See the importance of clearing out the battlefields? Here you’ve won the Charm Necklace, which protects you against *drum roll* charm attacks. Don’t be a sorry wimp, kill ‘em all — courage and bravado pays off!
“I just wish I knew what was inside that temple…”
“YOU ARE INSIDE IT! IT IS THE PLACE OF LOST SOULS. ALL NEW SPIRITS MUST PASS THROUGH THERE…”
“But we’re not dead!”
“OOPS. WELL, NOBODY’S PERFECT YA KNOW. OH, AND BY THE WAY, NO ONE STILL ALIVE HAS EVER COME OUTTA THERE IN ONE PIECE!”
Ah, Ghostbusters. What a big fun part of my childhood you were.
TRISTAM TEAMS UP!
As Steve is confused and perplexed [what else is new -Ed.], a strange fella appears seemingly out of nowhere. Who is he, and what are his motives?
It would be loads of fun if you could hack the enemies there, but an action RPG this ain’t! If you’re in the mood for one of those, might I recommend any of the following: Soul Blazer, Illusion of Gaia, Terranigma, Secret of Mana, Seiken Densetsu 3 (AKA Secret of Mana 2) or the criminally underrated Gunman’s Proof.
Personally, I enjoy taking my time and not rushing to the exit or end of a game. Taking side trips to stock up on items and such makes the game easier not to mention more enjoyable for me. I like taking my time and exploring the game’s world!
This ugly Sand Worm (Beetlejuice, anybody?) is basic yet effective at conveying the kind of nasties you’ll be up against. Just wait until you see some of the boss characters. The graphics won’t blow anyone away, but they get the job done.
Loading up on Tristam’s ninja stars is your reward for taking this little road trip. I find it most gratifying to take your time and really feel the ‘pulse’ of a game rather than rushing for the exit.
You’ll come to an entrance blocked by a ton of rocks. Never fear, for Tristam shows off his handy bomb attack. He will then offer to sell you 50 bombs for 30 GP. Buy it!
Aw bummer, I thought you meant the first person shooter.
At the far northern region of the Bone Dungeon lies the final skull cage. What horrible creatures lurk beyond these realms?
The best thing about ol’ Rex is seeing his sorry sack of bones deteriorate bit by bit. Mystic Quest is no visual tour de force, but this is a great touch you don’t see in many other RPGs.
“I’LL NEVER DIE!”
“Well, I hate to break it to ya bud but you’re breaking up.”
“WE SHALL SEE ABOUT THAT!”
Rex battles to his grave. You gotta admire that about him.
Slaying my first RPG boss. I know it sounds corny but you never forget your first time.
“WHOA, take a look at this, kid!”
“NOW THAT’S WHAT I’M TALKIN’ ABOUT!”
“Now this Dragon Claw on the other hand… now THIS is something to gawk at! Check out the reach on this baby!”
“Yeah, that’s pretty good.”
“Oh yeah kid, don’t forget our deal now ya hear.”
“I know I know. I keep everything. Well thanks… for everything!”
“HA HA HA, nice try, kid!”
“Here ya go. Your very own bottle of Elixir. But the Dragon Claw, I KEEP.”
“Aw gee, THANKS. I’m overwhelmed by your generosity, really I am.”
Before you go charging into battle, be sure to switch out the Cat Claw to your bombs — bombs are far more effective. Don’t take my word for it, just look at the difference in the ATTACK ratings above. Also, because you can see enemies on the map, you’ll know when to switch. You can also switch on the main screen without having to flip to this menu.
I get up in the evening, and I ain’t got nothing to say.
I come home in the morning.
I go to bed feeling the same way
I ain’t nothing but tired.
Man I’m just tired and bored with myself.
Hey there baby, I could use just a little help.
You can’t start a fire.
You can’t start a fire without a spark.
This gun’s for hire.
Even if we’re just dancing in the dark. Even if we’re just dancing in the dark. DAAAAANCIN —
[Ahem. THIS boss says you’re fired, again -Ed.]
Actually, the Centaur is on fire, hahaha…. ahem, I’ll go pack my bags now.
An eyeful of arrows is not a fun way to spend a Tuesday night, or any other night for that matter. Quite a strong mini boss this one is. Well, looks like squid soup for dinner!
You gotta use your head a little bit, knowing when to attack and when to heal.
“Well STEVE-O, let’s see what we win for slaying that stupid squid, shall we?”
“I wonder what’s inside that chest?”
“Only one way to find out…”
“Uhhh, you first, Phoebe. After all, ladies first!”
“Alright, just stay behind me….. !! STEVE!”
“That better be a flashlight!”
But before traveling to the Ice Pyramid you must pass Falls Basin. Push ice pillars to solve puzzles and slay the evildoers that stand in your way.
The enemies get bigger, badder and a whole lot uglier!
“Is someone getting the best, the best, the best, THE BEST OF YOU?”
Jinn is actually nothing to make fun of. Jinn refers to a form of demon. Back during my college days, I met a pretty interesting friend who knew a lot about the supernatural. He emailed me about the Jinn once. Here’s what he wrote:
- So who are the jinns?
The jinns have long accompanied the fantasy and magical world of the human imagination for centuries. They compromise the world of fairies, genies, wish masters, aliens, ghosts, demons, and other supernatural beings. Humanity has long been interested with the jinn and has placed them into films, stories, legends, and even beliefs. We have all seen Aladdin with his genie that would spring out of the lamp, we have all seen Alice and her dreamy “wonderland,” and other such tales. In Christianity, when they warn against doing salvation or having trust in SPIRITS besides THE HOLY SPIRIT, they are talking about these dudes.
Ultimately, the jinns are mortal, carnal, lower spirits that dwell in the lower heavens and on earth amongst mankind. Rather than regarding them solely as demons, Islam regards them as a race or life form that dwells in a world parallel or maybe even perpendicular to that of mankind. This world called “The World of the Jinn” is also referred to as the SUPERNATURAL WORLD.
The word jinn in Arabic means “the unseen.” Therefore, we cannot see the jinn. The light that illuminates off their forms have different wavelengths from visible light (they’re either infrared or ultraviolet).
When a jinn possesses the living, it can make them ill both physically and mentally. That’s why possessed people act crazy. They can also tempt or convince them to do things to other people or themselves that may be bad for them.
Because they are mortal, jinns like humans copulate, consume and drink. They need to survive just like human beings.
They have their own customs, languages, rules, and beliefs. Their ways are different, however they can learn and follow our customs, languages, rules, and beliefs. They can follow our ways because they can see, hear and sense our presences, but we can’t do the same to them. HOWEVER, they can make their presences known to us by taking on the forms, voices and smells of things familiar to us. Never do they ever show their true faces; nevertheless, so forever they remain the UNSEEN [I see, or not, rather -Ed.]
Because they can hear, they can learn and speak our languages and religions. Jinns that dwell in England can speak English, those that live in China can speak Chinese, etc. There are jinn families, boyfriend and girlfriend jinn, young and old fart jinn, nerd and jock jinn, etc.
These spirits are also associated with curses. They dwell in places that are filthy, old, dark and abandoned (public baths, public bathrooms, caverns, deserts, historic ruins, sewers, garbage disposals, shit tanks, etc.). People should avoid entering such places where they dwell for it can harm their well being. In fact, most jinns don’t like it when humans enter their dwellings and can hurt or even kill those folks who trespass into their lairs! People in the past especially archeologists have died soon after picking up cursed ancient artifacts.
[Who is this guy?! Your friend huh? ‘SPLAINS A LOT! -Ed.]
At any rate, when I fought Jinn in Mystic Quest I immediately thought back to that email my college buddy sent me so many years ago. Pretty cool to see folklore make its way into the enemy roster.
This is a good time to stock up, refill, take a leak, do whatever you gotta do. Being able to see where enemies and bosses are on the map is extremely helpful to RPG virgins who detest random battles. So before tackling Medusa or any other (sub)boss, make sure you’re at maximum power.
Sure, she doesn’t look too hideous here, but wait ’til you see her second and third forms — ugh!
“So Steve, you want my magic potion do ya?”
“Well… you can’t have it.”
“What? Why not?”
“My tree friends, you’ve chopped them down!”
“Oh THAAAAT… haha… yeah my bad.”
The Dark King is easily the strongest foe in Mystic Quest and it’ll take much healing to get through this one. Oh and fair warning… if you hate spiders, you’ll love his later forms…
Who could forget these strange Mystic Quest ads back in late 1992? It caught my eye back then and has stuck with me ever since!
USA VS. JAPAN
FINAL FANTASY: LINK TO THE MYSTIC PAST?
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
Mystic Quest fared well with the critics. EGM gave it scores of 8, 7, 7 and 7 while Super Play rated it 79%.
Final Fantasy Mystic Quest is one of those divisive games that has as many supporters as it does detractors. Myself, I quite enjoyed it. I’ll always remember it my first official RPG playthrough. And as an RPG starter kit sort of game, it does its job rather well. Enemies can be seen on screen. There aren’t a load of characters or items to tinker with. It’s about as bare bones as a 16-bit RPG can be, and for me at least there’s a certain amount of charm to that. Mystic Quest isn’t your typical epic RPG… if you want something along those lines then try Final Fantasy III, Chrono Trigger or EarthBound. But for those seeking a basic beginner’s RPG, look no further. Mystic Quest is a good “gateway” game for those new or unfamiliar to the genre.
Graphically, it won’t blow anyone away. Yet the visuals get the job done. Our protagonists are small but adequately detailed, and things such as the !! bubble and shrug add a nice touch. The monsters are well detailed, particularly the giant bosses. I was in awe the first time I laid eyes on the first boss, Flamerus Rex. Speaking of bad guys, you can see the physical deterioration on them as battles progress. Some bosses display as many as four different health status stances, and some of them are very cool. A perfect example being the Ice Golem, who almost melts but hangs on by a feeble grasp of what remains of his once giant hand. It’s a superb touch that adds to the fun of dismantling all the nasties found within. The game’s music is flat out terrific. Battle themes are appropriately intense while towns have a more subdued theme, adding to the adventurous atmosphere of the game.
In terms of difficulty, Mystic Quest is a cake walk. The plot is simple and moves along at a brisk pace. Sure, it doesn’t have the most elaborate plot in the world and granted, the character development isn’t as in-depth as what’s found in other RPGs, but I ask you this… what other 16-bit RPG allows you to see all your enemies on screen, jump, move pillars, or chop down trees as you’re walking about town? Don’t forget about the ability to hook on to platforms high above with the grappling hook either. There’s plenty to do in the short time the game lasts, which is roughly 8-12 hours depending on your play style. If you can ignore the lofty Final Fantasy label and take the game for what it intended to be, you just might enjoy it as well.
Time: 17 hours, 5 minutes*
*Most people finished it a lot faster, but I typically enjoy taking my sweet time