Platform: Game Boy
It’s hard to say a game with a Final Fantasy name is unheralded, but in 1991, there had only been two games released in North America with the name. Those two were the original game for the NES, and the dreadfully dull, long, and difficult first game in the Legend series. Square had yet to release Final Fantasy II in America (also, not much of a loss). So the name in 1991 wasn’t an automatic gold mine. It wasn’t until IV and VI came out that RPGs became a huge thing in America, and then of course with VII things really exploded.
Despite hating the first game in the series, I loved RPGs and asked for this game anyway. And I’m very glad I did.
The thing is, I really can’t recommend this RPG from a battle perspective. Just like in FFL1, you can only use your weapons a limited number of times before you have to go back to the store to buy it again (or upgrade). While this is realistic for some weapons (a club, say), I shouldn’t need to have my DIAMOND sword replaced after fifty battles (not that a diamond sword is realistic). Also, abilities are improved based on what you do inside a battle (just like Final Fantasty II). Win by casting magic? Your magic power will improve. Win by fighting? Your strength will improve. While in some respects this may seem realistic, it winds up feeling like busy work and one’s characters lose variety unless you work at it. Finally, you’ll spend a bit of time leveling up.
Now for the good parts. Like in nearly all old-school RPGs, you choose what types of characters you bring along (and their names). While it doesn’t allow for any story development outside the main character, it can make the battles more fun. You choose between humans, mutants, robots, and monsters. Robots can win upgraded parts in battles, while monsters naturally improve by eating the meats of other monsters. The variety isn’t perhaps quite as good as in the original Final Fantasy, but it’s solid.
But the reason why you should play this game if you love RPGs is the story. It was the best story any RPG had until Final Fantasy IV, and it still holds up well today. Not only are the locations a blast (you actually go inside someone’s body and explore their intestines at one point), but the story develops well throughout the game and it’s a tearjerker unless you kill kittens for a living. On top of all this, the soundtrack is insanely good, even for the old Gameboy.
The game was upgraded and released for the DS in 2009, but so far it hasn’t been ported to America yet, which is likely due to the underwhelming sales it had in the 90’s. But I will get it pronto if it does sail the Pacific.