The Final Fantasy Legend
  • Genre:
    • RPG
  • Platform:
    • Game Boy
  • Developer:
    • Square
  • Publisher:
    • Square
  • Released:
    • JP 12/15/1989
    • US 09/30/1990
Score: 70%

This review was published on 07/21/2014.

The Final Fantasy Legend is a role-playing game developed and published by Square for the original Game Boy. It was released in Japan on December 15, 1989, and North America on September 30, 1990. North America also got a rerelease of the game in July of 1998. This was the first RPG released for the Game Boy and Square's second game released in North America. Despite having the Final Fantasy name attached to it in North America, the game had no relation to Final Fantasy whatsoever and was the start of the SaGa series. Final Fantasy was a much more recognizable name in the West, so Square decided to call it that to improve marketing in North America. That plan apparently worked, because this was Square's first game to sell over a million copies. The game even influenced the creation of the Pokemon franchise, according to its creator. However, critical reception of the game at the time was mixed, with many criticizing the game's outdated feel. If the game felt outdated in 1990, then you can imagine how it feels now. Final Fantasy Legend's old fashioned feel makes it difficult to get into, but it's not an entirely bad game.

Image

In the universe of Final Fantasy Legend, there is a tower that has existed since ancient times. This tower connects different worlds together, acting as a means of travel between them. High atop the tower is said to be a place known as paradise. Many adventurers have tried to reach the top of the tower, only to have their journeys end in failure. A new challenger wishes to climb the tower, his or her name and race is entirely up to you. Joined by a few others, this adventurer will face many hardships on the way to the top of the tower. The upper floors of the tower have been sealed by mysterious means, so the group of adventurers must journey across the different worlds to break the seals. On their quest to conquer the tower, the nameless adventurers will explore exotic lands, sail uncharted waters, and even walk above the skies. Is paradise truly atop the tower? There is only one way to find out. The plot to Final Fantasy Legend takes a hand off approach reminiscent of 8-bit RPGs like the early Dragon Warrior games. Players are left to fend for themselves with only minor hints as to where to go, with little to no cutscenes to help them along the way. This will rub a lot of people the wrong way, but it may also rub some people the right way.

Image

You have complete freedom to create your own characters in this game. The protagonist is created at the start of the game and additional characters can be recruited from the town guild soon after that, similar to Dragon Warrior III. There are three races to choose from; humans, mutants, and monsters. Each race is like a class, in that they have their own stats, abilities, and growth methods. Humans excel in the use of weapons and they grow stronger by drinking potions bought at shops, but due to that, they are costly. Mutants are gifted magic users that become more powerful by fighting lots of battles, but are physically weak and can't carry too much stuff. Lastly, monsters can't use equipment, but they can change forms by consuming meat left behind by the enemy. All races have their own advantages and disadvantages, making the setup of your team pretty important. This harkens back to the original Final Fantasy on the NES, except there are far less options. Even though there are fewer options, the differences between options are far more significant. These wild differences can be lots of fun to play around with. Monsters are particularly fun, because while not always useful, they basically change into different characters all throughout the journey. Final Fantasy Legend's character creation sets it apart from conventional Japanese RPGs and is its greatest strength.

Image

Battles are done in the traditional turn-based style expected of a game like this. Other than a few crude animations and plain sprites, the battles are sparse when it comes to graphics. There are never any backgrounds and most actions are conveyed via text. Groups of the same type of enemies are usually represented by the same sprite in battle, whereas multiple groups of enemies are shown by multiple sprites. This probably had something to do with the limitations of the Game Boy. The annoying thing about this is that you have no control over which enemy within the group you target. There are, however, attacks that can target all enemies within a single group, in addition to attacks that target absolutely all foes on the battlefield. One thing that's convenient about the battles is that you can hold down the button to skip through them quickly. The game also remembers your last command inputs in battle, which helps in speeding things along at a brisk pace. Sadly, even with all that, battles are still quite slow and dreary.

Image

Progression in Final Fantasy Legend is based on the different worlds you can explore. Each world has its own theme and objectives, giving the game's progression a Super Mario feel to it. Themed worlds are platform game territory, after all. There are the obligatory water and sky worlds, but also some interesting ones, like a post apocalyptic sci-fi world. No matter what anyone says, the concept of medieval warriors exploring a futuristic land of robots is awesome. It's like Fallout meets Final Fantasy. Another fun thing about the different worlds is that many of them have a unique vehicle. The water world has a moving island that acts as a ship, the sky world has a hang glider that fulfills the role of airship, and the sci-fi world has a wicked futuristic motorbike. The worlds are pretty short and linear, though, so the fun is short lived. In order to actually progress between worlds, different colored orbs must be collected. Orbs act like goal points, because collecting an orb means there's nothing left to do in the current world. The part that sucks is the transition between worlds. Since the worlds are connected via tower, you must repeatedly revisit the tower to reach different worlds, climbing higher for each world. The tower itself is monotonous, as it's just a giant dungeon filled with random encounters. Reoccurring dungeons are rarely a good thing in RPGs, and they're certainly not good here.

Image

Equipment works very differently from the way it does in a typical Final Fantasy game. All weapons, items, spell books, and abilities have durability ratings, thus making them expendable. Once durability of equipment hits zero, it breaks and is forever lost. The only thing exempt from this is any armor that isn't a shield. There are also some weapons with infinite uses, but these are few and far between. Innate abilities, like the ones mutants and monsters use, can be restored by sleeping at inns. Everything else can't be restored until much later in the game, when an expensive repair item becomes available. What this means is that weapons must be rationed very carefully, especially at the beginning of the game. Stockpiling on many weapons becomes an integral strategy for when you'll be spending a lot of time away from towns, as unarmed fighters can't fight. Powerful weapons should also be saved for tough enemies like bosses, especially if it's a unique weapon that can't be bought anywhere. Buying stronger weapons isn't worth it most of the time, because they're rarely cost effective. As a result of that, cheap weapons will never become entirely obsolete. On the surface, this will all seem really annoying. However, the durability mechanic adds a lot of strategy to the game, and it becomes a signature feature of the series. Plus, being able to cast spells without worrying about MP costs is pretty cool.

Image

Life does not last forever in the harsh world of Final Fantasy Legend. When a character dies in battle, he or she can be brought back to life for a fee at the House of Life. There is, however, a limitation on how many times a character can be revived. Every time a dead character revives at the House of Life, they lose a heart. Once all hearts are gone, the character is permanently lost and a new one must be created. As grim as that sounds, there is a way to avoid this sordid fate, provided you have deep pockets. New hearts can be bought at certain stores, but the catch is that they are extremely expensive. The result of all this is that death comes at a high price. Death is typically of small consequence in most RPGs, but not in Final Fantasy Legend. Early on in the game, the consequences of death are so dire that it can be crippling. This coupled with breakable equipment makes Final Fantasy Legend a very hardcore experience. For some, this game can be a little too hardcore.

Image

If the above paragraphs didn't already tip you off, money is extremely important in Final Fantasy Legend. That means lots of grinding. The beginning of the game is very difficult, no matter what party you choose. Mutants start off pathetically weak and take countless battles to strengthen, monsters are useless until better meat is found later in the game, and the potions necessary to improve humans are tough to afford early on. Most players will likely give up at the beginning, as there aren't many reliable ways to improve the party at that point. This results in a tug of war between allocating funds to stat potions, equipment, and sleeping at the inn. Sleeping at the inn and replacing broken weapons is essential to continuing the game, but the costs of these activities can prevent you from purchasing potions and equipment. A common mistake players will make at this point is getting stuck in an infinite loop of fighting battles and spending money without actually getting any stronger. The game actually gets a bit easier later on, but most people won't be able to get past this initial hurdle.

Image

One colossal annoyance with this game is the way in which a mutant's growth is treated. As mentioned before, mutants become stronger by participating in battles, but they don't level up in the traditional sense. Instead, they improve stats based on what actions they take in battle, kind of like Final Fantasy II for the NES. There's nothing particularly wrong with that, but the annoying thing is that the game never tells you when a mutant gains stats in battle. The only way to know is to manually check the mutant's stats outside of battle by going into the menu. To make matters worse, mutants will randomly learn abilities after a fight, occasionally overwriting previously learned abilities. Again, there's no indication of this happening within battles, and many times a mutant will swap useful abilities for useless ones. Accidentally saving after losing a useful ability is infuriating. You can completely circumvent these issues by not using any mutants, but where's the fun in that? Mutants are useful, so it's unfortunate that they're plagued with such problems.

Image

Final Fantasy Legend is a game with many interesting mechanics, but also many flaws. The different races, equipment system, and growth mechanics give the game a level of complexity not seen in the typical Final Fantasy. However, the game is slow paced, repetitive, grind heavy, aimless, and kind of ugly. It's also very unforgiving, especially to newcomers. If you're new to the series and want to play one of the Final Fantasy Legend games, you're better off trying one of the sequels.

Word Count: 1,963