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Not So Mystic
After the release of Final Fantasy IV in both Japan and America, Square decided to make another Final Fantasy, especially targeted towards U.S. audiences, entitled Final Fantasy Mystic Quest, hoping to lure beginner RPGamers into the series. While the game came to America in 1991, the Japanese would have to wait until 1993 to receive the game. This move, of course, failed, with the game being to most the black sheep of the franchise, and my experience certainly confirmed this.
To start, Mystic Quest features rigid turn-based battles, with only the hero and his one ally fighting. I should mention that this is the only Final Fantasy to feature a collision system instead of random encounters, which somewhat relieved a little stress in my experience, especially given the tedious dungeon navigation at points. As for the battles themselves, you can fight, defend, use magic, use items, or run away with your characters, with the hero being able to switch weapons in the heat of battle with the L and R buttons. Since enemies can number more than two, battles, of course, can become unbalanced, and as usual with most rigid turn-based battle systems, enemies can beat your characters to healing. Additionally, you can have the A.I. control your ally, though avoiding this is naturally best. Most normal battles, as I saw, were unnecessarily slow and long, especially with enemies being able to deplete your characters’ HP quickly, alongside constantly inflicting them with annoying status ailments. Still, if enemies obliterate your party, you can always restart that battle with the same stats you had when encountering the enemies in the first place.
Interaction was better, but not perfect. Mystic Quest, I should first mention, is the only Final Fantasy letting you save your game anywhere. Furthermore, the menus are easy to navigate, although you can’t see the effects of spells and items. Additionally, dungeons contain special chests whose contents replenish whenever you leave and reenter the dungeon, allowing for easy stocking of items. Moreover, dungeons contain puzzles requiring the use of the hero’s different weapons. Finally, the world map system is simple, with the hero instantly traveling between areas through arrows present above areas; battlefields, where you can fight up to ten battles, and quite possibly win special prizes, also don the world map.
There’s nothing really wrong with the translation of Mystic Quest, what with no errors as far as my eyes could see; in fact, Ted Woolsey helped with translation, well before his infamous work on Final Fantasy VI.
As for originality, Mystic Quest didn’t really contribute anything to the evolution of the RPG genre, and doesn’t have very many innovations. Primarily, the game borrows the story of the crystals from the first Final Fantasy, and turn-based battles are, of course, nothing new. Still, I’ve never seen the battlefields system in any other RPG.
Story is where Mystic Quest is weakest. You play the hero, of course, walking along a mountain path, where he meets a crazy old man sitting on a cloud telling him to save the world by restoring the crystals. Reluctantly, he sees through his task, encountering many flat allies and other characters along the way, and eventually encountering the ultimate force behind all the world’s problems, which we don’t even get to see until the last minute. Please, I could pull a much better story out of my—uh, never mind.
Not being one of the main Final Fantasies, Mystic Quest, naturally, doesn’t feature Nobuo Uematsu as a composer. Nonetheless, his substitutes did produce some nice pieces, namely those played in the towns. The music does sound rather distorted at points, but for some strange reason, the tunes at many points really reminded me a little of the music in Lufia & the Fortress of Doom.
Graphically, though, Mystic Quest is weaker; in fact, the graphics actually look worse than those in Final Fantasy IV. Sprites are simplistic, environments are at many points unconvincing, color schemes are hardly satisfying, and monsters in battle are inanimate. Still, I did like how the monsters gradually changed appearance in battle as your party depleted their HP.
While some consider Mystic Quest to be easy, it was, in my experience, grossly unbalanced. Enemies did kill me often, though other than that, I never had any serious problems. That said, the game can beating the game can take from fifteen to twenty hours.
In the end, Mystic Quest is definitely unworthy of the Final Fantasy moniker, and certainly steered the series off track in both America and Japan. Both sides of the Pacific would have to wait a few more years to receive another true Final Fantasy, and because the series has since grown to monopolize the RPG market (in America, mostly), one can easily forgive the small sin that was Final Fantasy Mystic Quest.
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