How Final Fantasy Mystic Quest Predicted the Future

For those who are unable to hit Play, the script is included below.

TL;DR: JRPGs were still a new genre for North American gamers during the early to mid 90’s. Square realized this and made a simplistic yet beautiful RPG that throws out random encounters and lets you save anywhere.

Hey hey folks! Lumpz the Clown here, and today, I’ll be discussing what is one of the most grossly underrated RPGs out there today: Final Fantasy Mystic Quest. Released by Square in 1992 for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Mystic Quest is a spinoff of the main Final Fantasy series.

What makes it unique amongst its more “grown up” bretheren is that it’s targeted towards “entry-level players”, or rather, players with little to no experience with RPGs.

Despite the two big ass disclaimers located on the box that allude to this, salty reviewers blasted Mystic Quest for being “too simple” and “lacking depth”. Instead of ripping these people to shreds, let’s reference those aforementioned disclaimers verbatim shall we:

“Entry-Level Role Playing Adventure”

“Here’s your chance to play the world’s first role-playing game for the entry-level player”

Even better, Square ran a limited-time offer that could net interested players a free strategy guide! Who the fuck does that?! Oh yeah, Square does!

Upon release, Mystic Quest had an average retail price of $39.99, while its big brother Final Fantasy IV was going for $59.99.

Earthbound ran a similar promotion that provided the strategy guide with purchase, but gamers had to pay a premium in order to get it, roughly $69.95 MSRP. Square was being insanely generous with their offer, and even ran full-page ads that not only touted their free strategy guide offer, but the fact that Mystic Quest was…wait for it…A FUCKING ENTRY LEVEL RPG.

ICYMI

Square was pulling out all the stops to help get the word out on RPGs to North American gamers in 1992, and never aimed to misinform prospective buyers. Back then, RPGs in North America were still kind of a new thing, and Final Fantasy‘s main entries were getting more complex with each new title.

Instead of inundating new entrants with perceived aggressive features such as Active Time Battles, random enemy encounters, huge parties with varying classes, and not to mention hours upon hours of grinding for EXP and gold, Mystic Quest provided a plethora of its own features to help introduce players to common elements found in RPGs, such as:

  • Removal of random encounters in favor of onscreen enemies that never move within dungeons, and no random encounters whatsoever in the overworld map.
  • Controlled battlefields where “cleaning out enemies” nets the player either experience or items.
  • Only one other party member can accompany the main character at any time.
  • The other party member can be set to automatic, or AI, mode or manually controlled by the player.
  • Automatic armor/weapon upgrades eliminate the need for time-consuming stat comparisons between items.

And perhaps the most charming feature of Mystic Quest: the ability to save absolutely anywhere!

Oh, and did I mention that the game comes with three different save slots? Bring your friends!

So instead of focusing on the numerical and textual minutia that seems to dominate bigger RPGs, Mystic Quest simply offered a game where you could jump right into the action, and save absolutely anywhere!

Got a big boss fight coming up? Save that shit!

About to enter a new dungeon? Save that shit!

Did you just shit your pants hearing about this awesome feature and are now in desperate need of an emergency wipe? Save that shit!

Whenever I hear the maladies of my fellow, (now) adult gamers, they lament on their lack of free time to truly get immersed in the world of a traditional, albeit time-consuming RPG. With jobs, children and significant others hogging up what little free time they have, adult gamers are finding it harder and harder to justify grinding through multiple battles to get that lazy old man to cough up the damn Mythril in Final Fantasy VII. Ain’t nobody got time for that shit!

Seriously, dude. You suck…

So how does Mystic Quest fit into all of this? Simple. it’s an RPG that both children and adults can sink their teeth into, although for different reasons. When it was released in 1992, the majority of us were not only children, but also fledgling gamers who knew little about RPGs. Luckily for us, Mystic Quest was there to set the tone.

Had we not been able to see our enemies on the field, jump right back into a difficult battle, or save when we needed to, I believe that more than a few of us would’ve been turned off by the concept of RPGs during a time when the game industry wanted us to pay attention. Final Fantasy II and III were tearing it up in Japan, but not enough to convince their then-young target audience that complex RPGs were a good idea.

And if you think I’m playing, try talking to an average 10-year old and see if they understand the concept of experience-based progression or the pros and cons of back row versus front row combat positions. See how long they listen to you before they toddle off to pick their nose, fart into their friend’s juice box, or build an atomic bomb using only a potato and some pipe cleaners.

So what happened after 1992?

Fast forward about 5 years later: not only were our hormones racing, but so were the hearts and minds of old Japanese businessmen everywhere. Oh wait! That came out wrong.

Anyway…Square decided that it was finally time to slap North American gamers across the face with some polygonal goodness, and delivered Final Fantasy VII to our front door, uncut and ready to mingle! With a deep and complex storyline, multitude of side quests and countless Materia combinations, Final Fantasy VII took no shorts and opened up Western gamers to the complex allure of JRPGs, leaving a spent trail of Lifestream in its wake.

However, as many of us began getting jobs at McDonald’s to pay for our gas and relentless BMG subscriptions, it became harder and harder for us to find the time to make it through Mt. Nibel or avert our eyes from the sexy shenanigans happening at the Honey Bee Inn long enough to get to a damn save point.

Not wanting to lose the last hour or so of progress, we either left it on or angrily snapped it off and went about our business, vowing to complete it later if ever.

Someday, dammit, someday, I’m gonna beat it! Once I get to college, life will be so much simpler and I can game whenever the hell I want without Mom or Dad getting in the way, and….

Life happened.

Many of us are now in our late 20’s to mid 30’s, have a gang of kids, and locked down in our deadend jobs for a crippling 40 or more hours a week. Any chance we could’ve had at toppling both the Emerald and Ruby Weapon were shamelessly robbed away from us by our endless obligations to appease others. After finally tucking the little hellions into bed and jilling off the old ball and chain (maybe rubbing one out yourself if you have the energy), you plop your broken ass down in front of the PC for a soothing, therapeutic session of Dark Souls…and quickly pass out in your chair.

Who has the time to worry about tactical combos, random arrows to the face, and punishing bosses so large that only their monstrous monster crotch fills up the screen, while you feverishly peck off their seemingly endless life bar, node by node?

Dammit, I died again?! All I need to do is get to that fucking save point and I may be able to get three hours of sleep! Die motherfucker, die! Shit! Ah fuck it!

Sadly, this is one of the many problems that millenial gamers have with conventional RPGs. For many of them, the amount of text or cutscenes is ungodly, grinding for EXP or items is not cool anymore, and there’s simply too much space in between save points. Some newer titles have tried to alleviate this problem by integrating autosaves, but even that requires making your way to a certain part of the game in order to activate it, barring an in-menu save function.

And guess what was collecting dust in your closet all this time? The best answer to all of your current RPG maladies: Final Fantasy Mystic Quest.

Clear, easy to follow storyline? Check.

A fair amount of puzzle solving and exploration when the mood hits? Check.

An auto-upgrading weapon and armor system that eliminates the need for time-consuming stat combing and number crunching? Check.

The ability to save whenever and wherever you want? Check.

Vibrant colors and sprites to brighten your darkened soul? Check.

Sure, you can hammer on all day about how simplistic Mystic Quest is, or question why Square feels the need to coddle you when you’re a big, grown gamer now. You’re missing the point. Square knew that you’d need a little encouragement to check out their award-winning series, and that hitting you out of nowhere with nonsensical numbers, varying classes, and a giant wall of text wouldn’t sell you on it right then and there.

It’s almost as if Square aimed to deliver an RPG that provided a fulfilling experience on minimal mind power, much like the overworked adult desperately trying to recapture their youth.

Instead of jumping in looking for the next Skyrim or Diablo, try playing Mystic Quest as if you’re playing Solitaire on your PC: half-lidded and barely there. I guarantee that you’ll have a much more fulfilling experience than watching all those cards shatter against the window.

Being an adult sucks sometimes, huh? We tend to overthink EVERYTHING when we really should just be enjoying the game!

I’d like to personally thank Square for thinking about us RPG fanatics, both when we were learning and after we got spoiled and bogged down by life. This is Lumpz the Clown, and I wanna thank you for tuning in for the biggest damn clowny salute to one of the biggest unsung heroes in RPG history. Lumpz the Clown OUT!