The NES was a weird era for video games. There was a lot of trial and error with a big emphasis on error. The best games of that era laid the foundation for future genres. However, even some of the best games needed work. They were either excessively difficult or overly complicated or both, and RPGs were no exception. Final Fantasy Mystic Quest was a more simplified entry in the RPG genre. It offered players an easier entry into the genre that previous games in the genre did not.
The Role You Play
You play as a nameless protagonist whose village is destroyed. He can equip four different weapons: Swords, axes, claws and bombs. Each weapon varies in effectiveness depending on the enemy you’re fighting. Each weapon can also be used throughout the world to solve different puzzles and navigate around obstacles. The protagonist can also learn a wide variety of magic which can be used for healing, dealing damage, curing status ailments or escaping dungeons.
After a brief prologue, you meet a mysterious old man. He tells you that you are destined to bring light back to four crystals and peace back to the world. You have to defeat four different bosses in four different temples that are each protecting the different crystals. This is about as generic and clichéd as RPG plots come, especially since it’s just a watered-down version of the plot of Final Fantasy.
The gameplay does have a little bit of variety. While the actual combat is rather simple. It does get gradually more complex with the variety of monsters thrown in and their different weakness to the new weapons you acquire throughout the game. There are also the different obstacles and puzzles you have to solve throughout the dungeons by using weapons you acquire to open switches and break open doors. Which varies up the gameplay quite a bit.
While Mystic Quest can get a bit repetitive, it never overstays its welcome. There are battlefields where you can battle groups of ten enemies to acquire prizes like money, experience points or items. Other than that, the game is rather linear. It shouldn’t take much longer than 8 hours to finish.
Mystic Quest feels like one of the first games that really got to show off the new level of immersion that the Super Nintendo had to offer. Instead of the traditional fantasy production, there is a lot of drum beats and electric guitar production mixed in with a lot of the soundtrack. It makes it feel like the quality of the music has ascended and there are some memorable tracks in the score, including the Final Focus Tower theme.
Throughout the game, you will almost always have a sidekick. They can either be controlled automatically or manually by you. If you choose to have them be controlled automatically, they will make a lot of sporadic decisions like burning through their best magic on weak enemies or healing with weak items.
Additionally, if you try to engage in combat when you don’t have a sidekick in your party, you will more than likely get defeated easily. There is no benefit to not having them in your party since they don’t gain experience.
The Talking Parts
All of the dialogue in Mystic Quest does little more than help you get from Point A to Point B. Any time you speak to one of the other characters, all they’re doing is explaining where to go next. There is the slight exception of your sidekick explaining why they are entering/leaving your party, but that’s about it. The tone is always rather flat, and the slight hints at comedy are not funny at all.
Z…We’ve Reached the End. Anything Else?
Final Fantasy Mystic Quest feels like a game that was meant for beginners into the RPG genre, and it was marketed as such as well. The ads in Nintendo Power called it the ‘World’s first role-playing game for the entry-level player.” As strange as the claim may be, it feels very true. The combat is simple but frequent, the icons are very large, and the paths you have to take are straightforward. It is also a stark contrast to the rather complex RPGs that game the generation before, such as Dragon Warrior and Final Fantasy.
Final Fantasy Mystic Quest really does give off the feel of a beginner’s RPG. While it’s simple and streamlined, it’s also very unambitious. There are no memorable characters or dialogue because that was not the game’s purpose. It was to serve as a stepping stone for newer, better RPGs that would be delivered later down the line. I can safely say that many newer, better RPGs did come out for the SNES, but Mystic Quest isn’t a bad entry point to the genre.