Home » OPINIONS » Final Fantasy Adventure Review – A Look at the Classic Title From The Mana Collection
Final Fantasy Adventure Game Boy

Welcome to our Final Fantasy Adventure review. In our retro review, we discuss the game remade in the recently released Nintendo Switch title, The Mana Collection. A Game Boy Classic, the title originally debuted in Japan as “Seiken Densetsu,” or “Legend of the Sacred Sword.” This title would set the groundwork for Action/RPGs and eventually come out with a sequel on SNES – Secret of Mana.



In 28 years, Final Fantasy Adventure received two remakes. One, Sword of Mana, came out for the Game Boy Advance in 2003. This 16-bit remake completely changed the original character designs, but also used an art style similar to that of the PlayStation title “Legend of Mana.” The second remake, “Adventure of Mana,” featured 2.5D animation. 3D graphics, but overhead 2D gameplay. New artwork based the character designs on the official art of the original and the music was fully orchestrated. However, the title was only available on Vita and later smartphones.

Square-Enix opted to use the original title for The Mana Collection. With that said, we delve into how well Final Fantasy Adventure has aged in nearly three decades.

Premise

Sumo Final Fantasy Adventure

In Final Fantasy Adventure, you control a young warrior named Sumo. Fighting in gladiatorial battles in a castle, he fights every day at the behest of the Dark Lord. When his friend dies in combat, Sumo flees, only to be attacked by the Dark Lord. Left for dead at the bottom of a waterfall, he’s rescued and taken into a nearby village. His quest takes him to meet a legendary knight named Bogard. In the process, he meets a young girl named Fuji who also seeks him. As the two learn about the Mana Tree’s necessity in the world and the Dark Lord’s designs, Sumo and Fuji seek to stop his vile plans to rule the world.

For a 1991 JPRG, Final Fantasy Adventure’s storyline is surprisingly extensive. Taking cues from Final Fantasy II, it’s one of the first JRPGs to feature a fully-fledged story, complete with dialogue. Contemporary adventures in America included the original Final Fantasy, which had a base story with very little dialogue progressing the plot. Final Fantasy Adventure touches on themes of doubt, mourning death, and even sacrifice. It leaves the impression of a game ahead of its time.

Audiovisual

As a 1991 Game Boy title, Final Fantasy Adventure features monochromatic visuals with chiptune music. You’ll find some surprisingly impressive boss sprites as well as several different types of overworld areas, including a desert and a snowfield. Animations predate the likes of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, a top-down action/adventure title that would come out on Game Boy two years later. Fans of Link’s Awakening will feel right at home.

The music in this game features some catchy tunes. Among them – “Endless Battlefield,” “In Search of the Sacred Sword,” and the title theme. These classic tunes are quite catchy. However, some of the dungeon music becomes quite repetitive after a while.  Hearing a level-up jingle always gives a rewarding change of pace, though.

Gameplay

Final Fantasy Adventure is a top-down Action/RPG. Combining the real-time combat of The Legend of Zelda and the stat-boosting of a JRPG, such as Final Fantasy, you’ll fight foes using a Sword and a myriad of other weapons. Some, such as the Chain and Axe, help you clear obstacles, enabling further exploration. You’ll gain experience points and level up your stats.

When you enter dungeons, you’ll solve simple puzzles, such as breaking a wall or freezing an enemy onto a tile. You can buy new gear from shops or find it in dungeons. Equipping new armor and weapons will increase your stats. Likewise, you’ll learn magic spells that will both aid you in combat and help you solve puzzles.

SPOILER AHEAD!

Your item space is limited and you’ll find yourself throwing away items a number of times. Jewelry, like Ruby and Gold, is meant to be sold. You can keep Cures, Ethers, Elixirs, Mattocks, Keys, and you’ll be fine. Enemies drop healing items, so you’ll almost never find yourself short of them either.

To be quite honest, you will become overpowered early in the game. You will gain EXP at a fairly fast rate and can choose to level up Power repeatedly. This will allow you to end enemies quickly with melee attacks, simply mashing buttons to secure a kill. With the right armor and enough magic, you can keep yourself healed with Cure and healing items as well. Plus, your Stamina levels up every level even if you don’t choose to level it, allowing you to be impervious as you fight. Save for the boss Lich, most enemies fall to simple button mashing and healing.

Flaws

Final Fantasy Adventure

For all of its good intentions, Final Fantasy Adventure isn’t perfect. Firstly, as mentioned earlier, sometimes the music can be a bit repetitive after a while. This goes hand-in-hand with the second point: some dungeons are a bit cumbersome. Compared to a Legend of Zelda title, where all rooms in a dungeon are relevant in helping you reach the end, Final Fantasy Adventure has a number of dungeon dead-ends. That is to say, paths that lead nowhere, except maybe to a usable item or sometimes nothing at all. These lengthy labyrinths can take up to 20-30 minutes to solve. While the puzzles themselves aren’t challenging, the dungeons themselves can take a while.

Mattock FFA

To add to this, you will need two usable items at all times: Key and Mattock. You will require both to progress in dungeons, so make sure you buy them. Not having enough of either may warrant you to return to the nearest town just to purchase the items. In addition, there is no Zoom spell, akin to Dragon Quest, where you can teleport back to a town you’ve visited. While the square-by-square areas aren’t huge, this still becomes a mild inconvenience.  However, even one dungeon late in the game could take you back a far distance if you come ill-prepared. Luckily, later in the game, you’ll encounter the Morning Star, which will save you from the need of Mattocks.

Progression is paced fairly well. You’ll almost never be forced to backtrack in the game as it’s constant progression until late-game, when you return to the town of Wendel. However, you may get lost without proper direction. NPCs will give you a general direction of where to head next. However, some instructions, like “Eight and Palm Trees” or “crystal will make the tower appear,” are quite vague. Without a guide, this will lead to serious trial-and-error. Likewise, without a guide, you may end up using more keys than needed to clear a dungeon.

System limitations means you can only map one weapon and one item at a time. You’ll enter the menu many times to unequip and re-equip weapons and magic when needed. It pays to play patiently while exploring through the game.

Final Fantasy Adventure Fight Animation

Finally, enemy animation is quite limited and doesn’t go well with the game’s limited hit-detection, either. Enemies have a slow, stuttering animation when approaching or attacking. This perhaps contributes to them being easy to defeat. Also, some of them may attack from farther away than their animation hitboxes indicate. That is to say, keep your distance and whack away to play it safe. Link’s Awakening proves to be an example of hit detection and enemy animations functioning well.

Conclusion

Final Fantasy Adventure proves to be an ambitious first outing for the Mana series. Besides Ys, it was the Japanese Action/RPG series that set the groundwork for Zelda-like gameplay with JRPG mechanics. Featuring dungeons, towns, weapons, magic, and a story that revolves around the Tree of Mana, it set the foundation for the SNES titles, Secret of Mana and Trials of Mana, known in Japan as Seiken Densetsu 3.

Despite the named flaws in Final Fantasy Adventure, they are easily manageable with a guide. The lack of padding alone showcases the amount of polish the title received. In addition, even without the Quick Save option added in the Switch title, you can save anywhere, anytime.

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This game features plot twists and turns ahead of its time. Having released it in the same year as the hit JRPG, Final Fantasy IV, 1991 was the year Square showed its muscle in JRPG storytelling. If you’re a fan of Zelda titles and want to play something akin to Link’s Awakening, Final Fantasy Adventure is a very good title. It belies its age as it shows that Square-Enix chose to release this game over its two remakes in The Mana Collection.

The Mana Collection

With three games, I find The Mana Collection for Switch to be worth it. But if you acquire Final Fantasy Adventure on its own, do enjoy the game. It takes roughly 20 hours to complete but you may certainly enjoy the game!

The Good:

  • Combat and magic give plenty of options to the player
  • Nice soundtrack
  • Storytelling ahead of its time

The Bad:

  • Required use of Keys and Mattocks
  • Labyrinths are needlessly long
  • Hit detection could be better

Score: 7.5



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