Also available on Wii and Wii U via Virtual Console
Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest is a bit of an aberration for the Final Fantasy series in more ways than one. It was the first in the series to be released in North America before it was released in Japan (and a full year before at that). It was the first in the series to do away with random encounters in favor of having enemies appear in the dungeons. It was the unusually short for the series, and its difficulty was unusually low for the series. Because of this, it's a bit of a black sheep among fans of the series, but it's for these reasons that I think it's a nice change of pace from the standard Final Fantasy game.
Putting aside the "Entry-Level" label on the front of the box, it's immediately apparent that this is a game designed to introduce new players to Final Fantasy, not provide a challenge for veteran players. That doesn't necessarily mean that it's for kids, but it's definitely designed for a novice. The game, for the most part, fairly linear. There's an overworld map with flashing arrows to tell you what directions you can travel in, the game is always pretty clear about where you need to go next, and healing is almost always extremely accessible. That's not to say that the game is completely devoid of any challenging moments, but the challenges are kept very basic, and all of them can be easily overcome with a little bit of stubbornness. The only things likely to outright defeat you in this game are not paying attention to your health between fights or unlucky RNG shenanigans.
Visually, I'd place Mystic Quest between Final Fantasy III and Final Fantasy IV (despite coming out well into the Super Nintendo's life). That's going to be a matter of opinion, and some of this may be due to enemy and character perspective and design style, but it seemed to me like the sprites in IV had more detail than Mystic Quest. The soundtrack, however, is probably the best in any Final Fantasy game up through VI. That sound track - especially the background music that plays when you're in the volcano - is just fantastic. Some of the overworld tunes sound like standard, average RPG music, but when the music hits, it REALLY hits.
The game's weakest point (I'm not counting low difficulty as a flaw because it's not) is definitely the story, and that's a bit of a shame since Final Fantasy often tells great stories. At the very least, Final Fantasy games tend to do a really good job of telling so-so stories. The game's narrative follows this kid named Benjamin whose village was destroyed by an earthquake. He meets this creepy old man who says "Yer a hero, Benny!" and basically throws him to the wolves with monsters to prove that the kid's actually a hero. Once Benjamin decides "Okay, yeah, I can do this hero thing," he accepts the old man's quest to fulfill a prophecy and save the world. From there, your typical Final Fantasy stuff happens - you meet some character who are unfortunately flat and uninteresting, you save some magic crystals from evil monsters, you climb a huge tower, fight some dark king, and everybody celebrates your bravery. Then you LITERALLY sail off into the sunset to live happily ever after. It's not that it's bad, per se, but the story feels very lackluster and just tacked on for the sake of having some kind of a narrative.
Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest is the perfect game to introduce to a friend or relative whom you're trying to get into RPGs. It's low difficulty, short length, and low complexity approach to the JRPG formula makes it extremely approachable. Novices aren't the only ones who would enjoy it, though; I found it to be the perfect game to play while relaxing after a long day at work. Because of that low difficulty, it's a game that you can unwind while playing whereas more intense and difficult RPGs will do more to hype you up than chill you out. I can absolutely understand why a lot of more hardcore veteran Final Fantasy fans aren't crazy about Mystic Quest, but I found it to be a charming and laid back RPG. If you've been curious about the genre or just never given it a shot because the difficulty or length tends to be a barrier to entry, definitely give Mystic Quest a shot. If you want to play a fantasy RPG but also want to chill, then this might be a game worth looking to because I really enjoyed it.
My Rating - 4 Neps
I'm a teacher.
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach high school history; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.