Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest was created to be an entry level RPG. The low complexity and easy difficulty made it appropriate for gamers new to the RPG genre. This simplicity is also part of the reason that Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest fell into obscurity among experienced RPGers.
When the game begins, a young knight, whom the player names, is fleeing from his old hometown. After witnessing the devastation of the city, the confused, frightened lad runs to a mountain, which, like the town, is also falling apart. Barely managing to keep up with the crumbling mountainside, he reaches the summit where he is greeted by an old man riding on a cloud. The old man explains to the youth that the powers of the world’s four elemental crystals have been stolen by monsters, and until this power has been returned to the crystals, the forces of nature will continue to wreak havoc on the world and its inhabitants.
Then, the two men are attacked by a large behemoth. When the young hero manages to defeat this monster, the sage announces that he has found the one with the strength and courage needed to restore the light to the four crystals. The bold hero is still confused, but nonetheless agrees to investigate the problem. With that, our hero is sent to the town of Foresta, where he will learn about the Earth crystal. That’s where the adventure begins.
The aforementioned hero is usually accompanied by a partner, but never by more than one ally at a time. Early in the game, the allies will be much more powerful than the hero when they first team up with him. However, these partners do not gain levels, or learn new spells while they are traveling with the hero. So, it usually works out that the hero becomes as powerful as his partner fairly close to when that character will leave to take care of something else, and be replaced by a newer, stronger teammate. Players have the option of either picking battle commands for both the hero and his current ally, or the ally can be set to ‘Auto’, where the ally will become an automated NPC. When characters are set to Auto control, they will usually act in a manner befitting the situation, although they use items and spells somewhat profusely.
Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest uses a traditional battle system with rounds. All characters perform one action per round, and characters take their turns in the order of their speed scores. There are no random enemy encounters in FFMQ; all enemies can be seen before you fight them. Monsters on the screen will attack you if, while standing in an adjacent block on the screen, you walk towards them, or press ‘A’ or ‘B’ while facing them. Monster fights occur in dungeons, castles, and caves, as well as on battlefields located on the world map. There can be a maximum of three enemies present in a single battle. While most battles aren’t very hard, every so often there will be a troublesome fight. Even if you’re fairly powerful, you may die once or twice if enemies use attacks that cause confusion, stone, or death. However, in FFMQ, if you die in combat, you may try the battle again without going back to where you last saved. When you choose to try again, the battle will start over, and everything will be just the way it was when the fight started (ex. current HP, MP, conditions).
While there are a few particularly dangerous regular enemies, the most exciting battles in FFMQ are the boss fights. When fighting bosses, it’s important to find their weaknesses, heal often, and use good battle strategy. I found battles in FFMQ to be fun, and they rarely get tedious since you can often find ways to avoid fighting some of the monsters.
While individual battles and big boss fights are occasionally hard, surviving in dungeons is easy. Once an enemy has been defeated, it won’t come back until you’ve returned to the world map. As a result, if you want to leave a dungeon prior to acquiring the “Exit” spell, or if you want to go back and check an earlier part of an area, you don’t have to worry about fighting more random enemies. Also, healing items and spells are plentiful. Plus, the game can be saved any time other than during a battle, so if you need a break, you need not worry about searching for a save point. Some players however, will find that this detracts from the difficulty.
Like many Square games, Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest put an important focus on the four elements: Earth, Fire, Wind, and Water. In addition to being the themes behind most of the places to explore, those four elements are much of the basis for damage dealing. Most attack spells deal elemental damage of one of these types. When heroes and monsters are hit by a type of attack they are either weak against or strong against, a message will appear indicating the strength or weakness, and the damage will either be doubled or halved. In addition to elemental damage, there are also a few other types of damage that enemies can be weak or strong against, including axe attacks, arrow attacks, and bomb attacks. Other than the possibility of a miss or a critical hit, there is no randomness to the combat damage. For example, if the hero is at Level 1, and attacks a Slime with a Steel Sword, a normal attack will always do 48 points of damage.
Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest has a simple set of weapons and armors. The four ally characters have their own armaments, but the hero finds new equipment over the course of the game. His armor consists of a torso, a helmet, a shield, and an accessory. When he finds a new piece of armor, his defense will raise, and he will gain new strengths against elemental damage or against conditions such as poison or paralysis. The hero’s weapons include swords, axes, bombs, and claws. Swords and axes are the basic high-attack weapons. Bombs start out by having very high attack power, but they eventually become obsolete because their attack power doesn’t increase as the hero gains levels like the other weapons do. Bombs can be used to hit all the enemies at once, but they must be used on all of the enemies and the damage per target becomes less when there are more targets; there is no option to only attack one enemy with the bomb. Finally, claws have the lowest attack power, but they make up for it by inflicting conditions on the enemy. In addition to being used in combat, the hero’s weapons are used to remove trees and obstacles, climb walls, open cracked walls, and hit switches. Weapons can be switched at any time in or out of combat.
FFMQ also has a simple little magic system. There are four spells in each of the three spell categories: White, Black, and Wizard. White Magic is used for healing, whereas Black and Wizard magic is used to deal damage. Similar to the MP system in Final Fantasy 1, in FFMQ, characters have three different MP quantities, one for each type of spell. For example, let’s say the hero’s magic meters read:
White: 20 Black: 10 Wizard: 5
If he were to cast Blizzard, a Black Spell, he would have 9 MP for Black Magic remaining.
Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest featured very nice graphics for its time. Map screens were tile-based, but many of the sprites for trees, boxes, monsters, and people looked very unique and detailed for single block characters. Some of my favorite examples of terrain art from this game were the cold, slippery Ice Pyramid and the hot and dangerous Lava Dome. However, on the whole, the terrain graphics were fairly simple, and were outdone by later Square Super NES games like Final Fantasy 6 and Chrono Trigger.
FFMQ’s real graphical strength, though, was in the battle scenes. FFMQ has spectacular monster art. The backgrounds used for the battles provided a natural arena fitting the place you are exploring, whether it’s a mountainside, a high-tech tower, or a shrine in the desert. Heroes and monsters face each other directly, giving the image of a fight between the two groups. Enemies are large, detailed, and sometimes frighteningly lifelike for a Super NES game. Although only the most important boss enemies had animation sequences for their attacks, all monsters in the game would change appearance to reflect how healthy they are. For example, a Slime will look whole at first, then it will split into a puddle after taking some damage. Most enemies have only 2 different phases, but some of them have 3 or 4. Special effects for magic featured huge images of fire, tornadoes, and snowmen. Weapon attacks came complete with animation showing the monster getting pelted by numerous little arrows, explosions, or ninja stars, or showing a sword or ax sinking into their body. Attacks directed at the heroes were notably smaller and less impressive than attacks directed at the enemies, on account of the heroes being the same shape and size as they are on the map screen.
Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest also has an excellent soundtrack. Many of the songs, especially the battle and boss music, have a very loud, almost hard rock sound to them. While some of the songs used for the dungeons are a little too simple and get repetitive, most of the music is exciting and enjoyable.
The sound effects for FFMQ are very realistic for a Super NES game. The sounds of explosions, swinging swords, chopping axes, and burning flames are very convincing. Other sounds in this game are standard issue video game sound effects.
Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest is not for everyone. Its target audiences are first-time RPGers, and experienced players may find it overly simple. It is a great choice as a first RPG for beginners. The battles are fun, but dungeons aren’t as much fun to explore as those in a lot of other RPGs, since there isn’t a great deal of treasure or hidden secrets. The game does not have a vast variety of weapons, armor, characters, or magic, nor does it have a particularly fascinating story or memorable characters, and it is not very long or very hard. However, even if you’re a veteran RPG player, as long you don’t thrive on complexity too much, give it a chance: You just might like it.