The Final Fantasy Legend: I Like to Picture Jesus in a Tuxedo T-Shirt
by Robert Fenner
Yeah, it’s actually a SaGa game, but we didn’t know that at the time. The Final Fantasy Legend was not the first turn-based RPG I’d ever played, but it was the first I’d ever owned. At age 5, I was probably too young for it, and I never made it much further than the World of Ocean — not-so-coincidentally the point where the manual’s mini strategy guide left off. However, I was also pretty content to endlessly restart it with different parties, something I’d never have the patience or time for as an adult. The manual specifically advised against making a party of four monsters, so you know I did exactly that just to see how far I’d get. Imagine how ghoulish my band of skeletons must’ve looked striding merrily into town!
The Final Fantasy Legend was a sparse and strange game, light on narrative and lacking in detail. It did that ’80s RPG thing where it dumped you unceremoniously into a world and told you to figure things out. A giant tower stands in the middle of the land, but the door is locked. You want to get in, so you ask around to learn you need to track down a special Sword, Shield and Armor, each held by a king of the same name. You visit these kings to ask for their equipment, and you end up getting embroiled in all sorts of weird quests. King Armor wishes to marry his one true love, but she’s being held captive by her jealous ex, who happens to be a bandit. You charge into the bandit’s lair, and he’s a lizard named P-Frog — he’s not even anthropomorphised, he’s just a quadruped lizard (and he’s definitely not a frog). You rescue the girl; she’s a cyclopean tentacle creature and King Armor could not be happier about it. It rocks. The other kings prove to be challenges in their own way; King Sword is simply homicidally insane, his castle filled with killer knights and ominous music, while the unfriendly King Shield is murdered by his own Steward, who you must best in combat to retrieve his treasure. Once you have all three, you dress up a statue in them, at which point Gen-Bu, the giant black turtle of the Ssu Ling, bursts out of the statue to attack. What the hell is going on in this world?!
For me, part of the fun of The Final Fantasy Legend was attempting to parse the limited visual information I was presented with. I always thought the Steward was holding a bouquet of flowers, and because of his name I also imagined him as a flight attendant. This inaccurate read made me so confused as to why I’d been attacked by chivalrous service staff, which just enticed me even more. Looking back at his sprite now, he doesn’t have a bouquet at all, yet I can only ever envision him with a dozen paper-wrapped roses in his left hand, larger than his head. It’s these strange concessions of the limited hardware and memory of the Game Boy, recontextualized in a faulty memory from nearly thirty years ago, that gives me the warmest feelings when remembering The Final Fantasy Legend. A part of me wants to return to finally challenge God in his dapper top hat and tailcoat (or was he wearing something else entirely?), but maybe it’s better to let sleeping dogs lie, and preserve this very personal illusion.
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