Monday, July 8, 2019

Final Fantasy Adventure (Game Boy, 1991)

One of my favorite Game Boy games. It's probably in the top five. It isn't really a Final Fantasy game; everyone knows by now, but it's actually the original Seiken Densetsu. The predecessor to Secret of Mana. Whoa.


Here's a shot of the Switch version, which lets you play the various international versions of the game, in various visual filters no less. Right here we've got the British version, which was called Mystic Quest just to be confusing.

Here's the entire intro crawl. Who is Dark Lord? And how drunk were his parents when they named him that?

Dark Lord's Mom: ::hiccup:: "Sho honey, what should we name him?"

Dark Lord's Dad: ::hic:: "Dark Lord?"

Baby Dark Lord: ::gurgle:: "hee hee! death!"

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the world, a Boy is born. A Boy of destiny. I name him after the famed dragoon.

Also: Girl. No Sprite, unfortunately. The problem is, the names are limited to a measily four characters, and there just isn't much you can do with that kind of limitation. How many girl-names can you think of that are only four letters? As the most common name in the English language, Sara doesn't count. There's a reason that when you play the early FF games, the one female character in each one is called Sara.

The adventure begins with a bang, as our hero battles the Spiky Tiger in an arena. The gameplay is as close as you'll get to Secret of Mana in a Game Boy game, but it's even closer to Zelda. Instead of charging up or waiting for a percent to reach 100 like in Mana, you can just swing whenever. It's pretty much optional that there's a giant meter at the bottom that lets you launch super charged strikes when it fills up...and it takes ages to fill up. An odd choice. Luckily your attacks aren't gimped in the meantime, which means the best strategy is likely to just swing away Zelda-style.

I barely win that fight, though it's a pretty barebones fight. Not sure if it's possible to lose. You couldn't lose to the Mantis Ant.

Also worth noting: The Spiky Tiger is probably the most difficult boss in all of Secret of Mana, as you fight him before you get magic. At least it's sorta an optional fight there, or at least can be avoided.

Here he is in the Game Boy Advance remake, Sword of Mana. I might do a few comparison shots like this as I go through FFA. Sword of Mana is a bit of a top-to-bottom remake of the game, with sweeping changes and new characters and a ton more dialogue.

Here he is in the current-gen remake, Adventures of Mana, available on PS Vita and phones. This remake is MUCH closer to the original FFA than the previous remake. Matter of fact, it's practically the same game except with 3D-ish HD visuals. Finished FFA already and want a new version of it? You've got two good choices.

Probably the most iconic theme from this game? The title screen track. Gonna link that before we continue. It's sad, as is Mana tradition.

Kain battles in the arena for the amusement of the vile Empire of Glaive, which he'll soon rise up against. It's the plot of Conan the Barbarian.

Their leader? Dark Lord! He really grew into his name. Imagine if he'd grown up to be a nurse or something.

Unfortunately, Kain's best friend Willy was mortally wounded in the arena.


Gemma? Like...Jema in Secret of Mana? This is getting interesting. gone. The Sword of Mana remake puts right this wrong, and in that game he not only lives, he's a major character. More on that later.

Kain escapes from his indentured servitude and ends up out in the wilderness. I was hoping for some amazing Mana music here, but it is the Game Boy after all.

That said, the overworld / main field music isn't bad at all, and is probably the second-most well-known track from the game. If playing Final Fantasy Adventure, get ready to hear this...a LOT. Like on loop for the majority of the 9-10 hours it takes to finish the game.

Straying further from the city, Kain runs right into Dark Lord and his goon/henchman Julius. Don't be fooled though, Julius is way more powerful than Dark Lord and more evil to boot. He's the real threat. Hey, I'm just giving up the ghost early here, like a Highlander episode.

The evil overlord having a minion who is more powerful/dastardly than he seems to be a bit of a trope of the era, seen in everything from Secret of Mana to Final Fantasy VI to Breath of Fire.

The bad guys don't notice Kain at first. Dark Lord wants to get to the Mana Tree, which is located nearby.

Julius says "sir" a lot.


It seems this time around the Mana Tree is located inside of a temple, and the only way to get to it is with a key, one held by some random girl. I wonder if it's the aptly-named Girl that I named at the beginning.

Julius is sent to work hard at finding Girl. For the record, Julius is the badass dude with spiky hair, while Dark Lord is the heavily-armored Darth Vader-like guy.

After Julius speeds off, Dark Lord finally spots our hero and chases after him. For the leader of an evil empire, it's surprising that Dark Lord doesn't have an entourage or something. I can't wait to defeat this guy with a spinning DDT.


Kain runs away, and the only real means of escape is to jump off of a nearby waterfall. He hits his head after the jump and wakes up a few minutes later. very, very Secret of Mana. Playing this many years after that game is a bit of a revelation. So many little nuances that started here.

For example: Moblins and Mushroom Men. Since this is Game Boy, the overworld consists of rooms that tend to be blocky and grid-like as opposed to the open areas of Secret of Mana.

Another thing that started here: Enemies leaving behind treasure chests that contain Candy for healing. It's a lot less effective of a healing item than it is in SoM, for whatever reason.

Really, the best way to heal up in this game early on is to just gain levels. It's a full HP/MP restore, and at this early point you gain levels frequently.

You get to choose a stat to give a bonus to when you level up (at the cost of slower growth on the opposing stats). I love when games do things like this, like Super Mario RPG. The options are:

Power - How much you hit for
Wisdom - How strong your spells are / MP
Stamina - Defense / HP
Will - The speed that the Giant Charge Bar fills

I focused on adding points to Power for a while, at the cost of Wisdom. Power seems to be the way to go early on, since all you have is your sword and you want to be able to hit for as much as possible. Wisdom is the second-most important as you need MP. Stamina is good and all but it levels up naturally at half-speed if you don't put points into it, and those points are better spent elsewhere. Finally, Will is pretty Eh. That charge bar doesn't get full very often. Eventually when Will is high you can unleash a lot more charged attacks, but again, it happens on its own eventually.

The first thing to do in this game: Track down The Girl. She's near the starting point, being accosted by...

...Mushroom Men, of Secret of Mana fame. These vile bastards have already defeated her guardian...


This game is making a habit of killing off characters before we even see them do anything. It's like every extraneous character is Terry Crews from Terminator Salvation.

She then joins our hero. "Welp, I can't mourn forever!" she says. DID THEY EVEN BURY KASIM?

Next stop: A cabin in the woods. This is home to Bogard the Gemma Knight, currently in disguise as a simple woodcutter.

From there, the quest is to get to the Marsh Cave. Before that you can get the first of many weapons. Possibly the strongest point of this game is the repertoire of weapons you can acquire, which completely dwarfs something like Link's Awakening. However, there aren't really many tools to acquire. Just lots of weapons. This game is more about fighting than puzzle-solving, for better or worse.

Here's the axe in action. It's slower than the sword and has a sweeping arc. The other weapons that we'll be getting are, for the most part, similar to the weapon set of Secret of Mana.

Speaking of that game, BEHOLD. The first appearance of the dastardly Rabites began here.

Also, talking to Girl causes her to heal the player, making you effectively unstoppable while she's with you. Unfortunately, it isn't for long.

I stumble into a nearby building and TAKE THE AXE to this guy out of force of habit.

...oh, my bad. It's an actual person. So used to beating up everything in my path. In any case, this is the domicile of the mysterious Mr Lee. Here's his butler. He lets us sleep here, which means Girl can take a luxurious bath while Kain sweats and trembles in the other room.

Wait, what were you doing in front of that door? WAS HE SPYING ON PEOPLE?

I take a moment to look through the keyholes myself and see all kinds of weird stuff, like this white mage chasing some guy around the room.

Is that the Group Room or the *@$% Room?

"Don't even try to get past me," he says. "I'm quick. Quick like the wind."

Oops, wrong room, sorry.

Guy: "Call...the poleeeeeece"

Our heroes sleep in separate beds...

...facing DIFFERENT DIRECTIONS. There will be NOTHING SEXY in the land of FFA.

In the middle of the night, she wakes him up to read books so he can learn Cure.


After all that hot readin', Kain wakes up in the morning to find.... Oh My God!

With Girl missing, Kain sets out to find her. First stop is this nearby swamp, where you battle lizardmen to get the key to the Marsh Cave.

Note: This room is an ideal place to build levels, since the lizardmen give a LOT of exp compared to other enemies at this point. It's better to overlevel a bit here than run into a brick wall with the vampire boss.

The Marsh Cave is the first real dungeon of the game, and in it you get your next ally: This Red Mage. It may be Seiken Densetsu, but you can see how much Final Fantasy DNA this game has.

After joining the team, the Red Mage explains that a lot of women are disappearing around the shady house of the mysterious and weird-ass Mr. Lee.

Our heroes traverse the cave. It looks pretty interesting compared to a lot of the bland overworld.

The boss here is a two-headed dragon straight out of Zelda. The call goes out: IT IS TIME TO SLAY THE DRAGON.

Kain unleashes his new Chain Sickle (weapon #3 get!) and the first major boss fight is over fairly quickly. It helps that ally characters are invincible in this game so you don't have to worry about them.

Note: The Chain Sickle doesn't have an equivalent in Secret of Mana, unlike most of the other weapons.

The lootz for slaying the dragon include: Fire magic. Now I have an alternative to just slashing away at foes. However, in general it's a much better plan to save MP for Cure.

The other loot is a mirror that shows the true form of people, like the one in the Dragon Quest series. With this, we can reveal the true form of...

...oh what the hell, man.

"tee hee" he says.

"For example, there's an orgy taking place in this room. Right now they're all tickling each other with feathers."

Exposing him to the mirror reveals his true form of a random monster, and I quickly beat him up. Well, that was long-overdue.

From there, the House of Lee is a bit of a dungeon in and of itself, with hopping pumpkin-head enemies ala SoM's more "haunted" areas.

Here's an odd item. I thought it would be a permanent boost to the Wisdom stat, maybe 1 point or something. It's actually a mammoth FIFTEEN POINTS...but only lasts for a couple of minutes. Which makes it a fairly useless item overall. Reminds me of those temporary powerups in Links Awakening that dropped when you defeated X amount of enemies.

Fourth weapon acquired, the Whip (pronounced in a Stewie accent). This was my favorite weapon in Secret of Mana the last few times I played it. It's just satisfying to crack off. Here it's more of a chain whip, and it strikes less-quickly.

This allows you to pull yourself across chasms, as is tradition. This never stops being fun.

Oh yeah, remember Girl? Yeah, that's who we're trying to rescue during all of this. Well, here she a coffin.

Mr. Lee is NONE TOO PLEASED about this.

Turns out he's actually a vampire. Considering this is only the second real boss, it's a difficulty spike from everything before it... unless you leveled up a good bit on the way.

This guy looks just like the vampire bosses from Secret of Mana. He also attacks with groups of bat adds.

I eke out a win thanks to the chain whip. ...wait a minute, you get the chain whip in the dungeon where you fight the vampire? If that isn't a reference I don't know what is.

The reward for that fight? Another spell...and our freedom. By God.

Sleep targets multiple enemies, which is nice...if it works.

In other news, here's the fight on the Nintendo Switch version, with the Game Boy filter turned on. I can't get enough of that filter.

More on FFA soon.


  1. Interestingly the "attack to fill super attack meter" would return in Trials of Mana after skipping Secret, and it would be a lot better there as you'd work up to a super attack in a few as four hits.

    I don't think I've ever managed to avoid Spiky Tiger in SoM.

    Those damn mushbooms!

    You learned... slep.

    1. This meter doesn't fill with attacks, it empties with attacks. I probably didn't illustrate that well enough. It's like if the SoM meter did a super-attack at 100% and a normal attack any time before that (as opposed to normal and weak respectively). It takes a while to get to 100% here so most of your attacks are normal. However the opening attack of fights is often a super-attack since the meter filled between fights, at least.

      If you avoid Spiky Tiger, you have to fight Fire Gigas at about that point instead. Not sure if you have to do both anyway if you go the Tiger route. I didn't fight the Tiger until my third or fourth time through, only fought Fire Gigas the other times. I'm not sure what criteria goes into it, but if you get The Girl at a certain point you seem to completely skip the Witch's Forest, Witch's Castle, and the Tiger. Which helps because that's like the hardest part of the whole game, aside from something like going to Pure Land with outdated gear.

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