Final Fantasy Mystic Quest is a JRPG that bears almost no resemblance to any other game in the franchise. It’s a self-proclaimed “entry-level role-playing adventure” apparently designed to be approachable for American children. Though it is certainly a more streamlined experience, it didn’t turn the millennials into a generation of JRPG appreciators. That feat would be achieved a few years later by games like Pokémon Red/Blue and Final Fantasy VII.
In spite of the prevailing negative consensus on the game, I’ve always wanted to play the game to see for myself, and so I did just that. Final Fantasy Mystic Quest is the 237th video game that I’ve completed. Here are my thoughts:
It’s not terrible, but it’s not good.
Mystic Quest is a deconstruction of nearly every aspect of the JRPG. It just doesn’t construct anything sophisticated out of its genre’s components. The story, characters, world, and battle system are simplified to a fault. As a result the game ends up being so limited—and limiting—that I saw everything the game had to offer long before I reached the end of its 20-hour adventure. As a result it started to feel like a slog to the final battle with a cartoonishly evil dark lord.
But it’s not really fair for me to judge Final Fantasy Mystic Quest by the same standards that I might judge other games in the franchise. That would be like comparing any roller coaster at your local county fair to The Diamondback at King’s Island. They may be built from similar materials and concepts, but the experience of riding The Diamondback is more thrilling by orders of magnitude. The degrees of separation between the two don’t make the carnival ride bad.
Not only that, by Mystic Quest stumbles into a few nice quality-of-life features in its attempt to streamline the experience. There are no random battles. You can save anywhere and at any time. The computer-controlled party members are surprisingly adept. If you die in battle, you can try again. Unfortunately, none of this is quite enough to keep the game from being rather forgettable.
So, why did I play it to completion? Well…
I recently got my Retroid Pocket 2 Plus, and I was so excited to carry it around that I didn’t really give any consideration to what I might actually play on the thing. I arbitrarily settled on Final Fantasy Mystic Quest as the go-to game to test while setting up the device and tinkering with its settings.
It’s such a cool little device that I found myself picking up the device when I wanted to play a game but didn’t have the time to tuck into anything more substantial. And in the absence of a strong desire to choose a game, I just kept playing Mystic Quest in small bursts. I found myself sneaking in a few minutes of adventure at my in-laws house, while my daughter watching children’s television programs, or while lounging in bed before sleep took me.
Before I knew it, I was three-fifths of the way through the game, having a decent enough time that I thought I might just see it through to the end. And so here we are. I can’t give this game a ringing endorsement, but you could certainly do worse.
I’ve tentatively ranked it 231 out of 237.