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The Final Fantasy Legend – Game Boy

The Final Fantasy Legend – Game Boy

Ffl_boxfrontPlatform: Nintendo Game Boy

Developer: Square

Publishers: Square, SunSoft Inc.

Release Date: December 15, 1989

Genre: RPG

Nerd Rating: 7.5/10

Reviewed by Paladin

America has a serious naming problem: Japan says Eggman, we say Dr. Robotnik. They say Princess Peach, we say Princess Toadstool. Perhaps less common nowadays, but in the 90s, American gaming companies had no issues in changing names to sound cooler or better fit their agenda. This process, unofficially called “Americanizing”, plagued no series worse than Final Fantasy. For one reason or another, the States failed to bring all of the games in this franchise over upon their initial releases, and so Final Fantasy IV became Final Fantasy II and Final Fantasy VI became Final Fantasy IIIAnnoying enough, but the chaos began to spread!images (4)

Final Fantasy was enjoying success in the USA, and Square wanted to capitalize. It so happens that in 1989, another RPG series, the SaGa series to be exact, was about to make it big in Japan. Rather than just bring this franchise over to this country and let it ride its own upward momentum, we “Americanized” it to make it part of an already successful label. Thus, the very first RPG for the Game Boy and the first game in the SaGa series, Makai Toushi Sa-Ga (Warrior in the Tower of the Spirit World-Sa Ga), became The Final Fantasy Legend. 

The degree to which this confused us over here is almost laughable when thinking back. This game literally had nothing in common with the incredible NES title that we had all come to know and love, and even less so with “Final Fantasy II” for the SNES, which is the one most of us beat first. Back then, there was no Internet to see what was up and so we all just accepted it for what it was, a fun RPG with “Final Fantasy” written on it. These handful of SaGa/Final Fantasy games for the Game Boy may not be stellar, but they were simple enough for kids to grasp and enjoyable enough for adults to play, resulting in a decent following that, depending on where you look, officially considers these games to be a part of both series’.

download (1)It should be noted that even though they’re all part of the same series, the playthrough experience is different from game to game. Much like the first Final FantasyFinal Fantasy Legend opens with the player choosing the race and class for each of the four main characters; male Human, female Human, male Mutant, female Mutant, and Monster, each with their own advantages and disadvantages, but that’s about where the similarity to FF ends. Humans excel at using weapons and get stronger by equipping them with the right items and the purchase of special add-ons that raise their stats. Mutants have special abilities that change randomly after certain battles. Monsters can either be the most fun or the most frustrating, depending on how well you know what you’re doing. This class is made up of actual monsters that you battle in the game and get stronger by, I’m not kidding, eating the meat from a tougher monster and consequently transforming into it.

The biggest problem is self-evident; experience points only play part of the role in the heroes’ growth, with the other parts depending on chance and actions you take in battle. With no Internet or guides for help, it was difficult to figure out what was going on at first. As a kid, this put me off, but playing it later, it made for a wholly unique RPG experience that, while still disconcerting at times, remains unlike any other game out there. The story is about as erratic to describe as the game play. You start on the world map with a massive tower in the middle, which is apparently the link to other worlds and houses the main villain, The Creator, in its topmost floor. What exactly he wants to accomplish I can never remember, but it has to do with destroying the world, and therefore must be stopped. downloadIn the first part of the game, you walk around and collect special items from kings in order to open the first level of the tower and begin your ascent. Here’s where things get interesting as each level of the tower is home to a completely different world, each in need of saving. One is a futuristic city turned into a wasteland by the bird god, Su-Zaku, whom you can’t harm until you get a certain weapon. Consequently, you must travel through underground tunnels via speeder bike until you have the right item. Another world contains no monsters whatsoever, but is instead just a small tropical island in the middle of the ocean with nothing on it. To this day, I can’t figure out what this place is for as you can just move on to the next level whenever you feel like. This process continues until you confront The Creator, defeat him, and a door opens up to an unknown location, possibly Heaven. However, the main characters opt to return to their own world and live out their lives.

On the one hand, its exciting to see what kind of environment you’ll happen upon next. There is no way to see what’s coming and the differences in each new world keep things fresh and exciting. On the other, it can be hard to figure out what’s going on or what to do next. There’s not always a boss to defeat in each world and so there were times when the only reason I moved on was because I just figured I was done, so why not try opening the next door? The typical issues you’d expect from a 1989 RPG are all here; large spikes in difficulty, no personality or identity for the main characters, basic but charming graphics, and a sense that, while on the right track, there just has to be more to it.images (3)

There’s not. What you see is what you get in Final Fantasy Legend and for as much as I enjoy the first Final Fantasy, Legend is definitely the more innovative, especially for the time. Certain aspects are frustrating, but only because of the limitations in ’89. There wasn’t, and still isn’t, another game like it, including its own sequels, which are still fun, but different. There’s no wonder why this is considered one of the greatest games for the Game Boy and has even been cited as an influence for the Pokemon series. Will this game put off some newer gamers? Possibly. But it’s an iconic piece of gaming history that I feel everyone needs to experience. From an objective point of view, I gave this one a 7.5/10, but on my own personal scale of games I just downright like to play, it gets an 8.5 for sure. There’s a reason that The Final Fantasy Legend was the first of Square’s games to sell over a million copies. If you can get your hands on it, do so. You’ll be happy you did.

Written by Paladin


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  1. Spent many of nights playing this game in bed!

  2. I had no idea! I always thought this was part of the FF series!


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