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Feature: Celebrating 25 Years Of A Legendary Final Fantasy Title

Posted by Kerry Brunskill

When is a Final Fantasy not a Final Fantasy? When it’s a SaGa!

Way back in the mists of 1989; when we were all wondering how Nintendo’s Game Boy could possibly stand up to the mighty full colour Atari Lynx and whether it was really worth handing over $200USD/£190 for Sega’s new console, Squaresoft (as it was then known) decided to release an RPG — The Final Fantasy Legend (AKA: Makai Toushi SaGa) — on the Game Boy. This was a risky move at the time; the Game Boy was a new device and RPGs aren’t inherently suited to a format that won’t even turn on without 4AA batteries loaded into the back of it. But the development team was apparently unfazed by the challenges presented by their chosen format, and created a game that’s not only a good RPG for almost-90’s era handhelds but a pioneering title in its own right.

It’s obvious that the game is content to go its own way right from the start, asking you to create and name a character that can not only be a human male or female but also an esper (uncharitably referred to as “mutants” by the official English translation) or even a monster. Such freedom of choice doesn’t sound like much to those raised on earlier computer RPGs like Ultima, Wizardry and Dungeon Master, but for a new title on a relatively limited format to throw out the rulebook from the very beginning is as refreshing now as it was confusing then.

This unorthodox approach certainly didn’t end at the character sprites either, with each class having its own very unique way of becoming more powerful – humans don’t actually level up in battle at all, relying on stat boost potions bought from shops, espers gain new stats and abilities after battle in a semi-random fashion, and lastly monsters evolve based on the meat they consume from fallen foes.

With all these new and unexpected battle mechanics to get to grips with it’s a good thing the plot is a completely straightforward affair about climbing a tower to reach paradise, right? Well… while the plot has some pleasant nuances the combination of the Game Boy’s cart size and a classic late-eighties English translation mean that story sequences are short and sweet, which has the very welcome effect of cutting every scene to the chase; this gives players more time to focus on inventive party setups and experimenting with the various swords, bows, whips and more that the game offers would-be adventurers.

So, is The Final Fantasy Legend still worth playing twenty five years later? Absolutely. If anything this game suits modern RPG fans more than it did its original audience, as it’s one of all-too-few RPGs that doesn’t confuse a lack of time to play with a lack of interest or experience in the genre, and that makes the decision to keep the game’s remakes locked away on the WonderSwan Color (2002) and Japanese mobile phones (2007) all the more baffling. Whether you know the game as The Final Fantasy Legend or Makai Toushi SaGa, Squaresoft’s bold leap onto portable hardware was a successful one and remains an essential RPG experience for any gamer.

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User Comments (28)

Shiryu

#1

Shiryu said:

Super fun game, it was really nice to be able to carry a RPG in your pocket. I sadly only discovered it a few years ago, but hope to one day give it a run trough.

rtr0GMR1

#2

rtr0GMR1 said:

I've been thinking of this game lately. I remember playing it as a kid. This needs to be on the 3DS VC.

PvtOttobot

#3

PvtOttobot said:

Too young to have played this. Those sassy butts though, reminds me of FE:Awakening's character model fail with the feet xD

unrandomsam

#8

unrandomsam said:

So the never localised DS remakes of SaGa 2 & 3 are the direct sequels to this ?

How does Romancing SaGa fit in ? (I think the remake of Dragon Quest III for the Super Famicom and Romancing SaGa 3 are the ones I want to play the most. I like the look of Far East of Eden Zero as well but I don't know enough about it to determine whether I actually would like it).

Darknyht

#9

Darknyht said:

Owned Final Fantasy Legend I, II, and III. Beat the first and third many times, but never could complete the second one. Always lost to the final boss.

They were great games though, and makes me wish I still had them (still have the old original Gameboy somewhere, but gave the games and a GBC to a nephew).

memoryman3

#10

memoryman3 said:

Why are we celebrating Final Fantasy on Nintendo? Final Fantasy 15 is totally not coming to the Wii U! Check your sources!

Ryno

#11

Ryno said:

Missed out on this one but enjoyed Final Fantasy Legend 2 as a kid.

KingMike

#12

KingMike said:

Oddly enough, while they're called "mutants" in the game, they're called "ESPers" on the back of the box.

One thing different about other games is that this is one of the few RPGs where you have limited lives (though you can buy more, but they're expensive). So this may actually be the first console RPG with perma-death (predating Fire Emblem a few months).
They removed it in the second and third (which played more like a traditional FF), but it seems it came back sometime on the SNES.

belmont

#13

belmont said:

I love this game. I still have the original cart and this game introduced me to the Final Fantasy games that are my favourite series.

CaviarMeths

#14

CaviarMeths said:

The Final Fantasy Legend (as I knew them) games on Game Boy were some of my favorites as a kid. Would love to see them re-emerge in some form.

ariwl1

#17

ariwl1 said:

@Darknyht Yeah, don't feel bad. I don't think I ever beat the final boss of Legend II without using the Game Genie code that started out all your party characters with like 1,400 HP each.

CaviarMeths

#18

CaviarMeths said:

@memoryman3 ...because this is an article celebrating the 25th anniversary of a specific Game Boy game?

Nobody cares about FF anymore though, not even PS4 and XBO owners. FF has been irrelevant for years. I almost feel sorry for SE trying to pretend otherwise. FF13-3, with its monstrous install base of 160+ million, barely outsold Persona 4 Golden on Vita. FF14 is being sold for $30 with 2 months included. In other words, they're giving away the game for free.

FF15 isn't even worth funding on PS4/XBO, let alone the struggling Wii U. SE dun goofed.

Retrogamer88

#19

Retrogamer88 said:

they should put this game on the 3DS VC all the way! and it would be cool if square enix remade this game

Michi

#22

Michi said:

I've been replaying this recently, using only one Female Human and one Female Mutant. My only real complaint is how annoying it is to keep up with the random spell changes after a battle. You have to look at the spells and save after every battle to keep from losing the best magic.

River3636

#23

River3636 said:

I had all 3 of them. This one is good but the other 2 are better. Final Fantasy adventure what! that one is so good. I liked the mutants and the monsters. For some reason I liked the fairy or nymph whatever it was. I wouldn't mind trying to play it with a robot or a human.

Vader_MIB

#26

Vader_MIB said:

@ChessboardMan Final Fantasy Adventure. Remaked as Sword of Mana on GBA.
Final Fantasy Legend 2 is one of my best RPG memory. The story is so good to live, traveling to so many places, and top musics. The final boss was tough !
I still own FFA, FF Legend 1, 2 and 3. And I all imported them to France when I was a kid. Not easy but those games !

CaviarMeths

#27

CaviarMeths said:

@Collision_Cat FFXIV has about 2 million sales combined on all platforms and its monthly subscriptions were sitting around 600k in January and have probably dropped since then. Of those 600k, many of them probably only log on a couple times a week for events.

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