Let’s take a trip to an age long, long ago. Back to the dark ages of no smartphones, to a time where your handheld gaming device required AA batteries. An age called the 90’s. Wait, I’m being told that the 90’s weren’t that long ago. Well whatever, let’s talk about Final Fantasy Adventure!
Final Fantasy Adventure made its debut in North America on the original Gameboy back in 1991. Despite the Final Fantasy name, this game was actually the first game in what would become the Mana series. Flashforward to 2019 and this version of the game has made its way to the surface once again in the Collection of Mana on the Switch. Despite having a Gameboy as a kid, this is one game I never actually played back then. I mean, it probably didn’t help that it released when I was two and that I didn’t really get into gaming until I was around five, but that’s details. As such, the Collection of Mana is my first time playing this original version of the game.
Final Fantasy Adventure starts you off locked up in a coliseum where you’re forced to fight monsters daily for the entertainment of others. One day, though, your good friend Willy dies and tells you to “get out of here”, that the exit is behind where the monsters come in. Well gee, why didn’t we go there before!? We finally escape, find the sinister Dark Lord and a man named Julius plotting evil deeds. Julius spots us, we try and run, fall down a waterfall, and thus our adventure is truly underway.
One of the best things about the game is the fact you can save anywhere. The bad part is it took me about half of the game to realize what it meant by “Menu A” in the manual, the menu that had the save command. After dying early on and having the redo the start, I quickly decided to instead just make use of the Collection’s save state feature. I actually ended up finding the game fairly difficult overall, so this feature was nice to just have in general. Also, you can leave boss rooms, so if you accidentally wander into one all you need to do is back out. Convenient if you forgot to save, heal, or need to finish exploring the dungeon!
The convenient “Menu A” also contains a Map feature, a map that you will likely throw into the trash any time you’re on the world map. Trying to traverse that map after I got my handy Chocobo pal just ended up in me getting horrendously lost. Hey, it meant I beat a boss before I was supposed to, not that it did much good at the time but… oh well! In dungeons, however, the map did prove quite useful for getting my bearings and figuring out where I was, where I’d been, and what rooms had a path I should go down.
Map exploration reminded me a lot of old-school Zelda games. Small screens that you scroll between with some amount of enemies that sometimes couldn’t actually handle all the effects going on because it was a Gameboy game. Dungeon room exits were always in a format of in the middle of whatever side of the screen they exited to.
The game featured a few different types of puzzles you had to complete to advance. Some involved using the appropriate weapon type, some involved magic, some just required thinking. The worst ones, I felt, were the puzzles that involved Snowmen, closely followed by “don’t destroy the chests but there’s enemies in the room”. The problem with the Snowmen puzzles was that if you messed up (super easy to do), you’d have to reset the room… and then try and reset the enemies. The chest puzzles were just aggravating, because it was super easy for you to accidentally destroy a chest.
Like the puzzles, combat involved making sure you used the right weapon at the right time. This was made more difficult by what seems to be an issue with the Switch port. In menus, there was often some extra inputs sent, or some lag spike or something of the sort. Press down on a menu and it often goes down two options instead of one. The thing is, if you go into a submenu in Final Fantasy Adventure, backing out of it takes you ALL the way out, so you have to go back in and hope you don’t get that little bit of lag again. The number of times I accidentally selected Equip instead of Magic… I don’t want to think about it.
Throughout the game you’ll gain a variety of companions. Sometimes they’ll just give you advice if you select the Ask command in the menu, others will do something for you. Probably the best companion was the one who would recover your MP completely, because who doesn’t love infinite MP!? Unfortunately, this does mean more dealing with the menu nonsense… and the fact you had to hear their speal as to what they did every single time with not super fast scrolling text.
Then there’s the fact you need items to get through some parts. The key ones are Mattoks and Keys, although the former becomes a non-issue once you get the spike ball weapon. Unfortunately because of Gameboy limits you had a very limited inventory, and every item you received was a full “stack” of it. I also didn’t find the trash can at the very bottom until the final dungeon. Oh that would have been useful earlier on…
Shopping can also be a pain, again due in part to the menu lag. Every single item you buy or sell will take you back to the Buy/Sell menu. At least for selling it remembers where you were, but for buying it sends you back to the top again. Pretty much the worst when you think about the fact that one of the biggest items you needed to buy – Keys – were at the bottom.
I won’t rag on the translation of the game too much, but it was definitely… interesting. The thing is, there was definitely text box limitations back then, and you can really tell.
Final Fantasy Adventure is a nice look back at a time long, long ago (again, being reminded that the 90’s weren’t that long ago), but the game struggled to age well. The puzzles feel rough as it’s super easy to screw yourself over because a snowman landed between walkable tiles so you can’t get by it. The dialogue is a remnant of that age, and the speed of it leaves something to be desired. Luckily, if you’d like to play a more updated version of this game, Adventures of Mana is on Vita, Android, and iOS.
Overall, it was a nice little experience, but I often found myself just getting frustrated. Just all the random damage I could take, the NPCs that would block my way, and the menu lag. And sadly, the last thing I listed there is an issue with the Switch version, as I’ve heard it reported it’s present in Trials of Mana as well.
Would I recommend it?
It’s a nice look back but it shows its age.
And let’s be honest, most of you got Collection of Mana for the first official English release of Trials of Mana anyways. I’m just the odd one who played Final Fantasy Adventure first.
This copy was purchased for me by a family member. All thoughts are my own.