Friday, August 23, 2013

Game 18: The Final Fantasy Legend (GB) - So a Human, a Mutant, and a Lizard Walk Into a Bar

Game 18

Title: The Final Fantasy Legend
Released: September 30, 1990 (Dec. 15, 1989 JP)
Platform: Game Boy
Developer: Square Soft
Publisher: Square Soft
Genre: RPG
Exploration - Top-down
Combat - Turn-based
Series - SaGa

In case you haven't heard, this isn't really a Final Fantasy game. It was a cruel joke played on the unsuspecting citizens of America in order to capitalize on the success of Final Fantasy. The game actually does borrow a little from Final Fantasy II's leveling system where stat increases came from use rather than straight experience points, but we wouldn't know anything about that just yet. This, however, is the first in the SaGa series; the most famous entry was probably SaGa Frontier on the PS1 (and the most infamous is Unlimited SaGa on PS2).
Random tower where people are never seen again, must be paradise
This was the one and only Game Boy game I owned (shared with siblings) as a kid. The cart lived inside the classic gray rectangle. I remember playing through at least twice. I never had the instruction booklet, and found my way through despite not following the story very well. With the booklet in hand (figuratively), I hope to make more sense of what's going on.
What's a Clipper?
The game begins by describing a tower where paradise is rumored to reside on the other side. The manual on the other hand describes the same tower that suddenly appeared, followed by an outpouring of monsters. How does a rumor start of paradise on top of a tower that exudes monsters? After the story, the game presents a list of characters. One is selected, named, and dropped in the starting town.
There are three types of characters: humans, mutants, and monsters. Humans are well rounded to begin with, and build up slowly through the purchase of potions that raise HP, strength, or agility. Mutants gain those stats automatically through repeated combats, but there's no actual experience, just hidden values that might as likely be random. They also randomly learn abilities (i.e. spells), and lose them just as quickly. Monsters only change when consuming the meat of other monsters, and are otherwise static entities. Only humans and mutants can hold items (8 for humans and 4 for mutants). The game allows four party members; the last three have to be recruited from the guild house.
A character dies if all HP is lost, but can be revived for the cost of a heart; the character is permanently lost if it has no hearts left, and you start with three
After assembling the party, I learned of a town nearby and heard a rumor that someone named Gen-Bu hid the key to the tower door in a statue there. I chose one human, two mutants (a male and a female), and a monster. I've actually gone through about five monsters. They're just so weak, and I didn't see the point in reviving one when I can replace them with little difference. I started using joke names for them, and my current monster is Help.
I also replaced my first female mutant; RIP Sara
The next town provided much needed background for the world. Apparently there are three castles (Sword, Shield, Armor) with three kings vying for control. Each has a special piece of equipment that matches equipment missing from the Statue of Hero. Shield castle was very dismissing, but Armor was welcoming. The king there had his eye set on a girl to the south, but she wouldn't accept his proposals. Turns out Bandit, a local bandit, had threatened her village if she didn't marry him instead. It's clear what the king must do... sit around all day until someone wanders up to assist him.
That's a girl?
One of the most annoying mechanics in the game is definitely the random mutant abilities gained and lost without warning between combat. In one instance I was prepared to face off with Bandit with an ice spell. I had it in the fight right before Bandit.
I'll take Bandit out with this new Ice spell!
The next minute it's gone. It didn't help that I also forgot to equip the new longsword on Jare, my human. Tara had a rapier, which I learned later couldn't properly take advantage of her Power spell.
Where's my super suit?
I decided not to rely too heavily on abilities after that setback. So, I built up some gold reserves and saved up for some good weapons. Without thinking too much about it, I equipped Tara with a long sword, and happened to use Power right before. The result was surprising to say the least. I haven't lost the ability yet, and it's made quick work of all the bosses I've faced off so far. In fact, while I haven't exactly depended on the abilities, they've been the most useful.
Jare does 6, Jaso does 4, Tara does... how much!
So yeah, I've gotten lucky and Tara is my powerhouse. With only three uses of the ability before it needs to be recharged at an inn though I can't use it all the time. Abilities, as well as weapons and shields, have a set number of uses. Weapons and shields are destroyed after their last use with no way to repair them (other than buying new ones). I'm not sure if abilities disappear or only sit at 0 since they've always been replaced before I've exhausted them. With three types of armor, mutants fully equipped can only have one weapon.
The closest battle so far against 4 Karateka; this is why my mutants are at two hearts
With Bandit destroyed and the girl free to go to the king, I was rewarded with the King Armor. It's the only reason Jare survived the battle above. I visited the next King, Sword (Sword King?), and immediately initiated battle. I barely made it out of his castle alive, although the king himself wasn't too difficult. I then continued to lose monsters left and right until I found some meat in the tower.
I only lost one team member to him
With the sword and armor, I visited Shield and hoped he was in a better mood. Well he wasn't in any sort of mood as I arrived just as his steward assassinated him. I chased after the murderer and easily dispatched him. He clutched the shield which I sought. Taking all three items to the hero statue, and placing them on it by using them from the item menu, I gained a sphere. This must be the key.
And that must be Gen-Bu
Gen-Bu easily fell to Tara's powerful hit. I hope I get to keep this ability for a long time. The sphere used on the door unlocks it, allowing me access to the tower. Onward to paradise!
Flashback time! I remember being stuck for a long time because I couldn't find the Sphere in my inventory... good times
Inside the tower the monster level jumped considerably. Especially difficult were the slimes that melt off 30 - 40 HP per hit. The only way I managed to get past them was the Burning ability Jaso gained. It acts as a counterattack if he's damaged (for those D&D players, think Fire Shield). He also gained the Heal ability. I think he's jealous of how useful Tara has been. On the third floor of the tower I found paradise.
Sounds good to me!
For whatever reason though, the game didn't end there. I mean, I'd searched for paradise and found it, right? Well, there was still more to the tower to see. On the next floor up I found a different sort of room. Purgatory if you will.
Actually, it's out the door, downstairs, take a right, and the door's on your right... can't miss it
There was more to this tower, and I was determined to find out what! Well, the game was determined since it didn't end, and I lukewarmly followed the path. One more floor up I found a door locked with a different kind of magic than the first. Outside this floor was a world filled with water and islands.
I tried to replace my still living monster and got this funny message
Here I was warned about pirates, learned of brothers living in a nearby town (not sure what their purpose is yet), and discovered caves connect the islands. This seemed like a good place to stop, though I'm eager to get back to it. The game appears rather easy, even with my rocky start. I can see myself getting through it pretty easily before the end of the month.
Oh, you... so random with your names of things I've never heard of
I've been able to purchase enough HP and strength for Jare to keep up with the ever progressing mutants. The monster on the other hand really needs to step up. I don't think I've lucked upon a good build for him. Maybe I should stop feeding him every single piece of meat I run across.

Session Time: 2h02m (Total Time: 2h02m)


  1. I have a real soft spot for this game, probably because I played it when I was a kid.

    Never managed to complete it though (I think I got to the final boss, but not sure), so might play along and see if I can do better this time.

    From what I recall, I would generally only have my monster eat meat from boss characters or other higher than normal characters that you fight (like the Bandit P-Frog). But I think they're less useful on higher levels.

    I never really liked Mutants because of that random levelling. Sometimes they would be overpowered, and sometimes they'd be really vulnerable.

    I still don't know what the best party would be, but I might give a half mutant half human party a chance.

    1. Another note... it really requires a lot of grinding. Getting HP isn't too bad (although the price goes up significantly for higher HP!), but it's the Strength/Agility/etc. power ups which can set you back quite a lot to try and get them raised.

      That said, having really high strength and the appropriate weapons makes things so much easier.

    2. Half human half mutant is probably the easiest party taking into account consistency and power while remaining efficient. Humans are expensive. So far, monsters have been a drag.

      Stat increases for the humans and constant need to spend money on weapons are the number one reason to watch money. Four mutants (or 3 plus a human) would make an interesting fresh experience as their abilities constantly change, so you'd have to modify strategies for nearly every battle.

  2. I've always been interested in this. I remember as a kid seeing it in the store and wanting it, as I loved FF for the NES. I didn't realize, obviously, that the series' connections with FF were actually somewhat tenuous.

    (Arguably though, as you noted, it's almost like a branch of FF following FF2 instead of 1 and 3. The director was a lead designer on FF2, Uematsu wrote the music, and the art was done by Takashi Tokita, director of FF4.)

    1. Well, if you never get around to playing through it, then you're not missing much. The game is rather basic, which I'm attributing to the limitations of a Game Boy game. The story still has some feel of Final Fantasy, but the combat, classes (races), and inventory are something completely different.

    2. Yeah, I seem to remember hearing it was pretty ho hum. I think one of the latter FFL/GB SaGa games is supposed to be good. Maybe 3?

    3. I'll let you know once I get there. ;)

  3. What means are you using to play this?

    1. Using the Game Boy Player on a Nintendo Game Cube. I'll probably use it for all Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance.

  4. Legends III is good. At least I like it! Just recently repurchased it for the Retron5

    1. Still a while before I get to that one, but I've heard this series improves quite well. Monsters still aren't worth it from my understanding.

      As for repro consoles, I've never heard a good word about them.