This game might need a little bit of introduction. This is a fan hacked total conversion of Final Fantasy based on My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. I picked this up as an impulse buy at BronyCon 2014 in the vendors' hall when the folks who made the game - NPCtendo on DeviantArt - were selling cartridges. It wasn't cheap by any means - $60 - but for a My Little Pony RPG on one of my favorite consoles and (most importantly to me) made with all original hardware rather than the cannibalized donor carts that I hate so much, it was worth it. Anyway, the game includes references and foes going all the way up through season 4 of the show and through the second Equestria Girls movie.
The game progression follows the normal Final Fantasy formula but instead of charging four orbs, you have to recover four of the Elements of Harmony. The items and classes are all the same as Final Fantasy; Twilight Sparkle is your black mage, Fluttershy is your white mage, Rarity is your red mage, Applejack is your warrior, Rainbow Dash is your black belt, and Pinkie Pie is your thief. My playthrough featured the stalwart BoneSnapDeez (Bone) as the warrior Applejack, the sage MrPopo (Popo) as the white mage Fluttershy, the indominable BogusMeatFactory (BMF) as the black mage Twilight Sparkle, and the steadfast Marurun (Maru) as the black belt Rainbow Dash. What's incredibly impressive, however, is that almost every else has been changed. The world map is completely different to match Hasbro's released map of Equestria, most of the music has been changed to 8-bit versions of iconic MLP songs (although two or three Final Fantasy songs - most notably the venerable battle theme - have been left in). The sprites are all new, and not just the player characters. The NPCs have all been changed to ponies, dragons, buffalo, or sea ponies.
On the topic of changed sprites, the enemy sprites have all been changed to either enemies from the show or just generally redesigned foes. You fight parasprites, diamond dogs, manticores, hydras, changelings, bugbears, and even the Ursa Major. The bosses are the most impressive - they're all bosses from the show, and they're extremely well done. You fight King Sombra in the Crystal Empire. You have to fight your way through the Changeling Hive to defeat Queen Chrysalis. You have to travel to the bottom of the sea ponies' castle and defeat the siren Sonata Dusk. You have to fight the fully powered Tirek (the legitimately epic DBZ-esque final fight from the season 4 finale). They even included as bosses the Smooze and Katrina, enemies from older MLP series. While he's not a boss, Discord makes an appearance as the de facto dragon ruler and grants your heroes their class change. The only major MLP foe that's not included in some form is Nightmare Moon, and since she was just Princess Luna possessed by a demonic entity of malice and this took place before that (Princess Luna is included in the game alongside Princess Celestia as a guide of sorts), that makes sense.
So let's talk about the plot a bit. The story, as I said, is similar to the base Final Fantasy, but it's not identical. Four of the six ponies in the "Mane Six" (since you can only use four characters) get sent back in time roughly 1000 years by a magical anomaly with a portal. During the trip, their Elements of Harmony get scattered, being spread across the land. The girls have to travel across Equestria, fighting a host of foes, to recover their Elements in order to activate the portal and return to their own time. Because shit hit every inch of the proverbial fan in Equestria 1000 years ago, you end up having to save Equstria from several major threats (the aforementioned enemies from the show). Garland in this game is King Sombra, an exceptionally evil and powerful unicorn who conquered the Crystal Empire and plunged it into darkness. Naturally, he's the first boss you fight, freeing the Crystal Empire from his grasp. At the end of the game, of course, he's the final boss as well, though he's now at the peak of his magical prowess and hell bent on slaying the girls (farther) in the past to prevent them from defeating him in his present (1000 years in their past).
Naturally, Pony Quest is only going to have real appeal for fans of MLP: FiM, but for those who are fans of the show, it's got a LOT of appeal. I've already mentioned a lot of the enemies from the show who pop up and the music redone for an 8-bit sound chip, but the game is filled with humor based on show references. For example, when you go to Discord to upgrade your classes, there's a random human in his cave with him - the only human in the entire game. When you speak to him, he says "Hi, I'm M. A. Larson. I taught Discord a neat trick!" Now this part requires a bit of explanation. M. A. Larson is one of the writers for the show, and he was the writer for the season 3 finale that ended with Twilight Sparkle ascending to be an alicorn (she had previously been a unicorn) and becoming an immortal goddess. There was a strong negative backlash in the fandom over this change, and a lot of that anger got directed at Larson for writing the episode. Through various convention panels, however, he explained that he hated the idea, too, but that Hasbro assigned him the episode and basic plot, so there wasn't anything he could do. In his characteristic dry humor, he started jokingly threatening to turn the other five main characters into alicorns from time to time, and this turned into a huge inside joke. Anyway, when you talk to Discord with the cane key item (another show reference), he turns all of your characters into alicorns. There's even an NPC in one city who says "I see you met Larson" if you talk to him after your characters all become alicorns. The game also references the fandom joke that Sonata Dusk is completely and totally obsessed with tacos (even though she only mentioned Taco Tuesday once in the movie).
For those who don't know, an alicorn is a pony with a unicorn horn and pegasus wings. In MLP, alicorns are immortal gods who must either ascend to godhood from one of the three regular pony races or be born from an alicorn mother.
Pony Quest isn't a perfect game, but it's a damn good one for fans of the show, and it's easy to pick up if you're familiar with the original Final Fantasy, complete with the bugs and non-functional spells and special weapon ability bugs. It's clear that the folks at NPCtendo put a LOT of care and effort into this game from arranging songs from the show for NES hardware to drawing new sprites for pretty much every enemy. This wasn't a half-assed project; this was a major labor of love, and even if the items and spells are all the same as the original Final Fantasy along with a few of the musical tracks saying the same, it's clear that they went all out on this one and poured their hearts into it. I've played a lot of fan hacks of games on emulators over the years (mainly MLP and Pokemon), but this is without a doubt the most impressive and the most thoroughly redesigned. I can't give these guys enough kudos; this is a love letter to My Little Pony and 8-bit gaming if there ever were one. While they sold the cartridges at BronyCon, they freely distribute the ROM of the game, and if anyone reading this is a fan of MLP, I STRONGLY urge you to play this game. Heck, even if you're not super into MLP but like 8-bit JRPGs and want to see an impressive hack and a bit of the artistic side of the MLP fandom, you ought to check out Pony Quest.
My Rating - 5 Neps
I'm Mr. Deck
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 history at a high school in central North Carolina; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.