Final Fantasy Mystic Quest can’t really be considered a Final Fantasy game by any stretch of the imagination. It has virtually nothing in common with other games bearing the same title: you can’t equip items, there are no random battles, you can jump, and the characters are as paper-thin as the story. The failure of Mystic Quest to create anything resembling a coherent plot or interesting characters is more or less its downfall, yet its consistent weirdness lends a certain personality to the whole thing that begs to be experienced. Also, you can name your character “sexy ham” because it gives you more characters for your name than most RPGs allow. That may not be a selling point per se, but it’s always a plus.
First, a note about the characters: they’re all so dull and indistinguishable from each other that I could barely tell the difference between them in dialogue. They each fight in their own unique way, of course, with some being chronic item-users and others relying more on spells, but once a conversation starts you’ll find yourself amazed by just how same-y everyone is. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though, because every character you meet is a complete weirdo. In a good way (most of the time).
What kind of weirdness does Mystic Quest have in store, you ask? Well, just take a look at this:
That’s not a rare one-off. Every bit of dialogue feels completely removed from reality, like everyone on the entire planet is on a steady diet of antidepressants and coffee that renders them completely manic. Sentences that really shouldn’t end in exclamation marks do, and the main character ends up doing a bunch of things for no real reason outside of people enthusiastically telling him to do those things. There’s an element of “the future of the world is at stake,” but everything’s so vague that it’s never really clear exactly why you’re on your quest to begin with. I mean, you’re finding crystals, but those crystals do what, exactly? I’m not certain that anyone ever tells you. They’re just… there.
Because of this weirdness, the whole game comes across more like a parody of early Final Fantasy games and their reliance on crystals and “saving the world” scenarios than an actual game of its own. It’s basically Final Fantasy 1 plus a world filled with hyper-caffeinated Starbucks patrons. Of course, there’s also some more atypical stuff that veers away from the normal Final Fantasy trends. Jumping is a crucial component, being both necessary for getting through areas and occasionally interwoven in the game’s little puzzles. I use the word “puzzles” lightly, because they’re barely puzzles at all. Every so often you have to move a beam to create a platform to jump across, and it’s even less complicated than this sentence probably makes it sound. You’re also able to use your weapons much like you can in Lufia 2, though their role is far more simplistic here. Most of the time you’re just using them to blow open an obvious passage, chop down a tree, or stab a weird-looking statue.
There’s no saving up to buy awesome armor or anything in Mystic Quest; despite there being a few people in towns that sell you a specific piece of gear, the vast majority of your equipment will consist of things found while out and about. Littered throughout maps are treasure chests that look more important than the ones containing normal healing items, and in them you’ll find important stuff (obviously). Shields, helmets, spells… that kind of thing.
Outside of dialogue and the occasional puzzle, combat is what you’ll be doing most. You can use any of the weapons you possess and switch between them freely before attacking in order to use whatever weapon the enemy is weakest against, and this lends some strategic depth to an otherwise simple combat system. It’s turn-based like all older Final Fantasy games are, though the spells you can use don’t rely on MP. Instead, you have different kinds of spells (white healing spells, black attack spells, and the stronger wizard spells), and you can use each kind only a certain number of times. As you level up, the number of times you can use each increases.
Combat is initiated by touching enemies. They just stand still and just wait for you to touch them, which kind of makes you seem like the evil one in that you’re going around killing things that are otherwise minding their own business, but it’s probably best to avoid getting into the ethics of in-game heroism. You’ll occasionally be unable to see enemies due to fog, which makes things seem a bit random-battle-ish, but you can soon after get the mask, an item from one of the “important” chests that makes all of the enemies in such areas visible.
The graphics are simplistic, below even Final Fantasy 4’s level of sprite detail. It’s kind of a turn-off, but it does allow different areas to look visually distinct (and even kind of pretty in a bare-bones sort of way). Sadly, the lack of detail in the characters contributes to their lack of memorability. I mean, they’re basically a few sprites removed from what could be achieved on the original Nintendo. The SNES was capable of so much more.
The music isn’t as memorable as it is in many other Final Fantasy games, with most of the “area” themes being boring and dull. There aren’t any of those standout themes that Final Fantasy games offer up at crucial story junctures either, likely because there’s nothing resembling a coherent story to be found anywhere in Mystic Quest. That being said, the battle themes are seven shades of retro awesomeness:
Here’s what you should do: