Back in 1992, role-playing games were still largely ignored outside of Japan, but Square tried to remedy this with the release of Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest. The game not only added a bit more action to the experience, it also greatly simplified the gameplay mechanics as well. While this certainly offered up a more user-friendly RPG experience for gamers who were not as versed in the genre, it ended up alienating the already small percentage of RPG fans who were hoping for something a bit more epic and similar in style to previous Final Fantasy releases.
The first thing seasoned RPG fans will notice about Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest is that it takes most of the gameplay mechanics of the series and simplifies them. You won't have to roam around on a world map in this adventure, instead you'll simply jump from one area to the next as you progress through the game. There are also no random enemy encounters, replaced with actual enemies that you can see. Of course since you won't be doing battle in random encounters, the game does offer up the occasional battlefield where you can do battle with ten sets of enemies in order to gain experience and earn gold.
Instead of the Active-Time battles of previous Final Fantasy games, Mystic Quest keeps things simple and only offers up a handful of menu commands to select from. The game will even take control of the additional characters you'll have in your party from time to time, although you can choose to control them manually if you'd like. Even outfitting the characters with weapons and magic spells is carried out for you with newly-acquired equipment basically replacing the old. It's quite streamlined and intuitive, but a feature that gamers who like to micro-manage their characters might find a bit too restrictive.
The low level of difficulty might turn seasoned RPG veterans off a bit, but there's something refreshing about the way the game reduces the experience down to its essence. Sure the game's difficulty isn't terribly high, but there's still plenty of challenge to the game if you're willing to stick with it, and with the ability to take control of several aspects of the game you can still carry out the turn-based battles in a fairly strategic manner. It pretty much depends on how much control you want, something that should at least make the game accessible to a wide audience of gamers.
If you've played any of the Final Fantasy releases on the Super Nintendo, you should have a pretty good idea of what to expect from a visual standpoint. The game pretty much sticks to the basics, meaning plenty of forests, dungeons and villages to look at. The enemies are all very well done and even have several sprite poses that show them degenerating as they take damage. It's a small touch, but given the fact that they don't openly animate during combat, it's a nice one nonetheless.
Placing the name Final Fantasy on a game automatically raises expectations when it comes to the musical score. Mystic Quest features some great tunes, many of which have the same familiar sound fans of the series have come to expect from the 16-bit releases. Some tracks obviously stand out more than others, but they all do a solid job of carrying the various moods of the game.
Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest is certainly not a bad game, but its low level of difficulty and overly predictable storyline might prove to be a bit too minimal for long-time Final Fantasy fans. Of course gamers who've never really given the series a chance or those who've found the standard releases a bit too difficult and complicated might want to check this far more accessible title out. At the very least it's a fitting introduction to the world of RPGs and a nice starting point for those looking to delve into the world of Final Fantasy and all that it has to offer.