THE FINAL FANTASY LEGEND
Nintendo Game Boy
The Final Fantasy series has had its hands in plenty of pots throughout the ages. The Final Fantasy Adventure was actually the beginning of the …of Mana/Seiken Densetsu series, a little known fact until Sword of Mana, the game’s remake appeared on the Game Boy Advance. In a similar vein, the SaGa series- Romancing SaGa, SaGa Frontier, etc.- started as The Final Fantasy Legend. While spawning two sequels and a few remakes throughout the years, this game was quite the ambitious undertaking in the days of the Game Boy.
In the game world, there is a tower that is rumored to reach to Paradise. The tower has been sealed for ages, but with monsters ravaging the land, the promise of Paradise- not to mention promise of a single wish granted for whoever reaches the top- proves to invoke the hero to recruit like-minded warriors to scale the tower to put an end to the evils of the world and see Paradise.
In scaling the tower, the heroes come across multiple ‘other worlds’ that differ from the world of Continent (yes, really) that they live in. The world of Ocean, Sky, and Ruins await the heroes, all plagued with their own monsters and full of their own inhabitants who need help. What are these other worlds, though, and what finally awaits the heroes beyond at the door to Paradise?
The game plays differently from many standard turn-based role-playing games. Much like Final Fantasy II or the other games in the SaGa series, your characters level up in different ways and depending on their actions in battle. There are three races/classes you can choose from. Humans can equip more armor and items, but they only level up by buying them items to raise their strength, agility, or hit points. Mutants (interestingly called ‘Espers’ in the Japanese version) level up depending on their actions. If you cast more magic, their Mana grows, whereas with more attacks comes more Strength. They also develop random abilities throughout their traveling, which can make them somewhat unreliable, as they can even change between battles without your knowledge. The last race is the Monster, who cannot equip anything but can eat the meat of fallen monsters to transform and gain more abilities to become stronger. While you choose a main character from these races, the rest of your characters can be hired through a Guild at any point in your adventure.
If you’ve never played a SaGa game before, you must know that this game is much like the rest of the series in that you have to grind to gain stats. Excuse me. You have to GRIND. Admittedly, after a good bout of grinding, I seemed to be decimating the bosses left and right, but especially in growing Humans, you have to be careful and watchful, as they can quickly fall behind. There’s a balancing act that isn’t at play in many other games.
One issue I had was with the limited amount of inventory you have. This stemmed more from the fact that plot important items do not disappear once they are used. Only toward the end of the game did I start to throw some of these items away with fear that I would corner myself and have to start the entire game over again. As a helpful hint, however, that did not happen. Still, it was a stressful decision to make, worrying about jeopardizing the game to acquire a fantastic and rare weapon.
The plot is almost paper thin throughout the worlds, though interesting spots appear here and there. One of the most annoying interesting spots involves the end boss of one of the worlds actively attacking you over and over unless you are traveling in underground paths to get around. The ending of the game is probably the most interesting part of the whole game, and while it’s not the most original ending now, it sneaks up on you in a very fun way. As a fun note to make, the final boss is actually still fairly well regarded by RPG enthusiasts. In the original Japanese, he was called ‘God’. Obviously, this was changed for the US, as were nearly all religious references, but it definitely smacks of bravado and speaks on the Square that used to be.
Uematsu supplies all sixteen tracks of the music for the game, and it shows through the limitations of the Game Boy’s usual audio. Many familiar melodies play through, even into the ending theme of the game. The graphics are your standard fare, though there are a lot of reused sprites. A sign of the times, but despite the effort to make the enemies different on the limited palette of the system, it’s very noticeable. Each of the worlds has a separate tone and visual feel, but outside of that, the visuals are somewhat sparse.
The game is a fun blast from the past, and if you like SaGa games, hunting this one down to play might be a worthwhile endeavor if you’re a SaGa fan, and a game to tentatively play if you’re curious about a new role playing experience otherwise. Apparently, the game also has a few spiritual links to Final Fantasy XIII, so maybe the thought of this game is still alive and well in the Square studios. Doing some research, I found that this game is apparently only in the US in two versions- the original release and a re-release a few years later- so it could be tough to come across. If you know what you’re getting into, though, it may be well worth it.