For those uninitiated, the Final Fantasy series are role playing games with an overhead perspective and turn based combat against random enemy encounters. In the Game Boy iteration, you’ll do similar things to the NES version such as visit towns, castles, cross overworlds and trudge through dungeons. This time you’re in a giant tower that threads through four worlds.
Final Fantasy has always been about choice, and now there’s more choice than ever with 8 selectable classes for your party of four characters. I say classes, but its a selection of four monsters, male and female humans and male and female mutants. Your first character will always start out your strongest. The humans, mutants and monsters each play different.
The humans have stats that will only grow when you visit a shop to purchase things like strong for strength, agility, hp 200, hp 400 and so on. HP 200 costs 100 gold and will only take you to 200 HP, before it gets ineffective. Then you need to shell out 1,000 gold for HP 400 to take you to the next level and so on. Having to purchase your upgrades for strength and agility can make you overpowered about halfway through the game. You no longer need to purchase the best weapons, because you do triple the damage with the worst weapons in the area.
Mutants will constantly increase stats based on how you play. If you use agility based weapons, their agility will increase. If you use skills, their mana will increase. They will also gain and lose skills at random. The game never informs you when you’ve gained or lost a skill, its just there. Another thing to take note is humans and mutants can both use store bought spells, but only mutants have the mana to make them effective.
Monster classes are stuck with the same skills and stats until you transform them into other creatures by eating the meat of dead foes. In one way, monsters are a good, living bestiary where you can learn more about the skills and weaknesses of each… then again killing them over-and-over lets me figure it out just fine. Plus, eating the meat from a crab doesn’t mean that monster will turn into a crab. Take note that mutants and monsters can even have passive skills, such as weaknesses to specific elements.
A new twist to the game is the fact every skill, weapon, spell and potion has a set number of uses. Mutant and monster skills get replenished when you sleep at an inn. You need to manage your weapons and each character can carry as many weapons as you want. Having to buy new equipment to replace what gets expended balances the fact that humans need to purchase upgrade potions.
In terms of combat, there is room for three types of enemies and then those enemies are stacked, so you can fight four crabs, but you only see one. This introduces a new facet of skills and equipment. Skills work on all the enemies of that type, so using flame will scorch all four crabs. Most weapons will attack one crab at a time, but there are a few like the SMG and grenade which damage the group of crabs.
An interesting, yet cryptic twist to weaponry is the fact their damage is based on different factors. Hammers are based on the user’s strength while bows use agility. Gun weaponry is based on both strength and agility. Sword damage is based on strength or agility, depending on the sword. Martial arts do more damage the more you have remaining, so when you have less punches or kicks left, its best to abandon that attack. I suppose the logic there would be the amount of punches left is considered stamina. The reason I bring it up is that it can be disappointing to have a character with 99 strength and 10 agility purchase an expensive bow just to have it be useless compared to a hammer.
With limited use of weapons, each character now has eight free slots to equip things. Unlike other RPGs, there are no dedicated armor, weapon, gauntlet and helmet slots, so if you want to have your character full of eight weapons and no armor, you’re free to do so. This makes a good balance for the mutants, because they have skills that will always take up four slots. The balance for monsters, or dare I say weakness, is the fact they are unable to equip anything at all.
Since your party of four is a walking backpack, the overflow inventory found in every RPG is quite limited to eight slots. These slots can get used by items, extra equipment and even keys. There are several times you can find yourself burdened by keys, but you can discard them or sell them for zero gold. The game knows you can do this, so treasure chests with keys in them will respawn when you exit a room and return.
So what’s the plot? Do you play an early Final Fantasy for the plot? Well its about people climbing a tower to paradise or something like that. The tower is like a giant dungeon, but the bulk of the game takes place on four small worlds. Each world is bite-sized and will only last an hour or two. They are all have their gimmicks like generic, aqua, aero and post apocalyptic wasteland.
In each of these major worlds is a colored sphere and a fiend. Yes a colored sphere, imagine that on a Game Boy. The fiend happens toward the end of the world, but its sometimes more complex than defeat the boss to get the sphere. Sometimes you need to find two orbs to combine into a sphere. That’s right, orbs make spheres. Even more incredible is a red orb and a blue orb can make a blue sphere all in monochromatic color.
The characters are unmemorable, generic placeholders and so are the stories. I mean this both for your own party and those you encounter. Kill a bandit to spare a girl from getting harassed so a king can be in love with her. Get three pieces of the king’s equipment from three warring kings to adorn them on a statue. By warring, you never see any sort of war or even feud, its more three kings alone in their castle. Amazing one world can have three kingdoms and a mere 2 towns between them. Those are the Game Boy limitations for you.
The first world is easy enough to get into with areas sectioned off by water and mountains. Its the second world that becomes a cryptic struggle. Find a floating island to use for a ship, answer an old man’s riddle, discover an air seed that will let you breathe underwater. Well you can only use the air seed in a whirlpool you’ll need to find in the middle of a big, open sea. There is an easy way to find it, but you’ll get there with enough meandering. I should mention, there is no map since the worlds are so small.
Speaking of small worlds, you’ll also encounter micro worlds on your trudge up the tower. These worlds are more like big rooms depicting agony and pleasure. Its fun places like this that break up the monotony of how brutal the trek up the tower can be. There are no towns in this tower, but there are pools to restore health. The exception to the rule is near the third world, there’s an inn.
Since there is health, there’s always death. If someone in your party is slain, you can revive them at one of the houses of life. Its easy enough to do for enough gold, but where the game puts an extra wrinkle in there is you’re only allowed three revives per character. To get more revives, you need to purchase a heart from an item shop for 10,000 gold, making it laughably expensive for the first half of the game. If this is a problem, you can always visit the nearest guild to get someone new in your party.
Final Fantasy Legend is interesting in terms of progression. Let me equip my theory cap, because with the first world, you have swords, hammers, bows and spells, but then in the water world, you have colts, muskets, grenades. Later on in the sky world you have L-sabre, which could mean light sabre or laser sabre. Its as if you’re going through time eras rather than worlds and this tower is a timeline. A generic era full of kingdoms, a water world after it has flooded, a sky world full of airships and a mechanical castle and to end it all, a post apocalyptic nation that could have been underneath the water. Its just easier to take this all at face value and skip the theories and head back to the review.
The game is full of quirks. Things like an entire town or castle full of NPCs saying the same thing, but that’s understandable for a limited Game Boy game. Mutants can recover health from the cure spell, while humans need to drink potions. If you have the item to solve the riddle given by the shack man in the water world will force you to hear the riddle, then exit the area, return and then speak to him again. If only your character could just say right then and there, “oh you mean this?”
To keep the quirks coming, the sky world has you rescue twins. The first is found in a shack, while the second has been kidnapped. So you rush to the top of the sky castle to find… nothing. Then rush back down and out to find the floating fortress has moved and upon reentry, there’s the boss with the kidnapped twin. Perhaps this was done as a way to let the player visit a town for health? You can see and avoid the only enemies in the castle.
As fun as the game is, toward the end of the game it gets brutal. It becomes a challenge to balance money and weapon usage as your crew of maxed out characters make their way to the top of the tower. The good weapons become too expensive, while the cheaper weapons become a waste of money as they’re just inferior compared to the enemies you’ll face. The strategy then turns into purchasing a door item that lets you warp to specific floors, so you can buy better weapons for cheaper prices. Then grind your way up for hours.
With everything said, Final Fantasy Legend is an enjoyable game on the small screen with enough new elements to make people go out of their way to play it. Another great aspect of it is the fact its so small compared to other RPGs out there.