Saturday, December 24, 2022

Final Fantasy Legend (Game Boy, 1989)

 

For the Fourth Day of Christmas, it's SaGa 1! One of my favorite Game Boy games. Top ten for sure. It'd almost be my favorite RPG on the system, except that the second one improves on it quite a bit.


This is another game from the Game Boy Player's Guide. At some point I'll have covered everything from this guide, at this point. I might even make a project out of it and have a few posts devoted to what's left since I'm like halfway through it already. Always kinda wanted to check out everything from this guide, because as a kid, the guide very successfully made me want to play everything in it.

The maps are particularly useful in this one, since some of the worlds are a bit obscure in where you're supposed to go. I remember liking the screenshots of the bosses, which all have great designs.

There's a page devoted to Monsters and their transformations. As a kid, I just liked the list of monsters. The table of transformations was a bit much for me and it still is. I generally avoid monsters in SaGa games.

Funny how the Dragons are just "Dragon 1" etc. I'd have gone with colors, like B, R, Y, G. This list also doubles as a list of the enemies that you fight in the game, with the higher-tier ones only appearing later.

I love this part too. So many weapons, armors, powerups, and spells. This might have made me want to play an RPG more than anything else I read in 1993. Course, it wasn't until Chrono Trigger in 1995 when I really took the plunge. I did try a few in the interim, like Secret of Mana and "Final Fantasy III" but couldn't get into them, they didn't make a lot of sense yet.

A closer look at the weapons. You can see how the sword list very much emulates the first FF game on the NES. Masamune and Excalibur are the pinnacle, with various others below that. Katana took a bit of a downgrade, going from the third-best weapon in Final Fantasy on the NES to being a lower-tier weapon here.

The Glass Sword is a new one for this game. The most powerful weapon in the game, but it breaks after one use. Basically you nuke the final boss with it to knock off a large portion of his HP. The final boss is by far the strongest foe in this game, and the major challenge of an otherwise fairly easy romp.

You can also see all of the weird modern weapons that made it into this game. Lasers? Muskets? That's how you know we've entered the realm of SaGa.

Playing this on the Switch compilation that came out not too long ago. It has one major feature that I like: You can double the game speed without it affecting the music. This is a huge improvement and something an emulator can't do. However, offsetting that a bit is the screen. I'm not sure if I like this Game Boy color palette. Emulator would make the screen much brighter/whiter, which is more how I'm used to playing Game Boy in the modern era. This is, at the very least, closer to how it would have looked in 1989 (except backlit).

Teh Story. This is basically it. Form a party, challenge the tower to Paradise. Either fall along the way or find out what lies beyond. It's a simple premise but a good one.

Choosing main character. Bunch of choices here. It's a little weird that there are four monster options, considering monsters end up transforming within a couple battles anyway. I never had much luck with monsters in the SaGa series due to their random nature, but I've read that Redhorn has some advantages in speedruns of this game.

Regardless...

HUMAN - Gains power from consumable items. You can power them up as much as you can afford consumable items to keep powering them up. This means they draw from the money pool to level up. Four Humans would probably be a terrible team since you'd have to divide the money in four directions. At least it'd be very customizable. One Human, on the other hand, can get really powerful.

MUTANT - Gains power from fights, like a normal SaGa game. Since this doesn't have traditional levels, they gain stats/HP sort of randomly after fights. Not sure if this is based on what you do during the fight like it is in the more advanced SaGa games, or if it really is wholly random. Grinding a lot of battles is all you need to do to power these guys up. In the past I found them to be the best by far. Hoping this time around a Human can keep pace if I don't have money being divided up so much.

MONSTERS - Transforms by eating the meat of other monsters after fights. These things are all over the place. The four you can choose from at the start just have different starting stats/abilities, but all of them end up in the same boat before long. These are very hit-or-miss and I've never been able to get much use out of them. If you have some sort of chart that tells you an optimal path, they might be awesome. I don't know.

I go with a female Human as the main, and have to go recruit a party. I played this one time in the past (circa 2000 or so) and IIRC my party was two Humans, a Mutant, and a Monster. It didn't go well at all. The money was divided between the two Humans so they lagged a bit behind the Mutant, who became wildly overpowered after a while. And the Monster just sorta...never got beyond a certain point. In the endgame the Humans had like 650 HP while the Mutant had 999 HP and the Monster had......350 HP or something.

So for this one, I'm going with...

...one Human and THREE MUTANTS.

All women, 'cause my main character needed a Lesbian Harem.

They frame Mutants as being the "caster class" of this game, with their low HP and attack power. Only thing is, they gain stats so fast that they surpass Humans quickly even in the areas where Humans normally excel. I'm hoping to stave that off in this run by pooling stat items to the MC. TBH though, Mutants are OP and off-balance in this game.

The 3 hearts above their HP are essentially the LP from later SaGa games. They poof as characters die, and if they die a few times they're gone forever. You can buy more hearts in stores for an astronomical 10,000 G each. Once all the hearts of a character are gone, you have to recruit someone new.

This might seem really punishing, but it's so easy to level and become overpowered in this game since all enemies give the same "EXP" more or less. The only thing higher-level enemies give more of is gold.

At the center of the world is this tower that leads to Paradise, which is the goal of the game. Unlock this tower and climb it to meet The Creator. I hope he looks like the Architect from The Matrix and shows us all the multitude of potential outcomes we could be destined for.

Unfortunately, it is locked by magic of black. Is this like the House of Black?

Is Juliataker involved?

Weapons have limited uses in this game, and once they run out, they poof. Selling them back at low-usage doesn't do much, either, since their value diminishes with every use. This is actually pretty realistic, but I'm glad this didn't catch on in Squaresoft games. It's a little annoying to run out of weapon uses at bad times, or "use up" a really good weapon that you'd like to keep.

Really powerful weapons are usually balanced out by having fewer uses. It's common to have weak weapons with 50 uses and strong weapons with 10, and everything in-between. Sometimes you'll find a strong weapon with a lot of uses, and those are usually the "named" swords that can't be bought.

The item shop is where it's at. This is where you power up Human characters. Muscle increases their Str (attack power) by a few points, Agility increases their speed (turn order) and damage with lighter weapons, and HP200 gives them a bunch of HP (up to 200, after which it'll only give 1 HP per use).

Later in the game you can get HP600 and stuff with higher soft-caps. If someone really wanted to, they could keep grinding HP200's indefinitely right here and gain 1 HP per use.

Something noteworthy about Str and Agi: While the game only shows you up to 99 for those stats, they can actually be increased to 255 behind the scenes. In other words, even when the stats are sitting at 99, you'll still gain points for using these items. At least for a while. There's no mention of this in the guide, and I'm guessing a lot of players had no idea and went through the game at 99 Str when they could have been significantly higher by the end with more item usage. Essentially gimping their Humans further.

Here we are, the overworld. There's the tower. Right off the bat, I start grinding. It isn't that necessary in this game compared to other RPGs of the era, but here I am doing it regardless.

Goblins are unusually beef in this game. They're still the weakest enemies though, despite their 'roid appearance. Also, it seems like enemies only attack one at a time in this game, but you notice they have a number after their name. Before long you start getting attacked by several of a particular enemy, while only seeing one onscreen, which is weird. Eventually multiple enemies start appearing in the same battle, and they can also have multiple of themselves via a number. ...I mean they did what they could for 1989.

Inns can get very expensive very fast if your characters are in weakened states, since the price depends on how much HP you've lost. This is a holdover from Final Fantasy 2.

Character growth after a bunch of battles. The Human is doing really well on item-stats. The variability of the Mutants is on display here, showing one with no HP growth and one with a lot. Humans being really consistent might be their biggest advantage.

Something weird about Mutants is that they seem to randomly learn new abilities (with a few charges on them) that can be used. This means weapon-buying isn't as much of a requirement for them as it is with Humans, because they usually have some special attack they can dole out. Here, Sandy unleashes the power of...Stench. I think it lowers enemy stats. Not exactly something I need in the noob zone here. It's what the game keeps giving her though. Sometimes Mutants will randomly acquire powerful attack spells too.

The main character hits the HP200 wall and can't really power up any more at this point, need to progress the game. It's worth noting that 2 out of 3 Mutants outpaced her on HP, even with all my gold going to that one character. Further proving that Mutants are way unbalanced compared to the others.

I farm up some more money and get Gold armor for everybody, which is a massive defense increase (Like 3 DEF to 11 DEF in most cases) before I leave the first town. Sera needs more Muscles whenever I can afford 'em.

Not sure why I named her Sera. The other 3 I understand. Maybe because some variation of "Sara" was the only thing that'd fit in four letters, and "Sara" itself is pretty overused in these old RPGs?

A little more grinding and the Mutants absolutely blow past Sera. Well, so far I've mainly just been grinding and comparing stats. Time to actually move the game forward. Also I'm waaaay overleveled for the first world. I don't think I've ever actually played this game "normally" since it's so easy to powerlevel. I just grinded for a little while mindlessly while watching an AVGN video or two and now I can crush World 1.

Okay hold on a second here. I'm talking to an octopus.

This game sure is weird. It's the beginning of SaGa, and it shows.

The octopus then raises his glass and toasts our heroes, like Leo DiCaprio.

The first real objective is to find a shield, armor, and sword that belong on a statue of The Creator. They're all held by kings. King Shield looks...not very healthy.

The castles in this game have a certain old-school visual charm to them. I remember when finding a castle on an overworld in a game gave a magical feeling of discovery. Like what'll be in this place? Only time I've gotten that feeling since the 90's was probably in Elden Ring when I'd find some giant castle hidden in a valley somewhere after I thought I'd covered the entire overworld, then it'd turn out that the castle was a massive location in itself.

The Sword King looks less dead, and challenges the party. He's the first boss fight, but really he's more of a miniboss. Winning gets you the Sword.

Nice graphics for 1989. Come to think of it, he resembles the pirates from Final Fantasy quite a bit:

Yep, same sexy? knee-high boots and everything.

Speaking of sexy, this town is full of creepy one-eyed alien creatures. Turns out the Armor King is in love with a woman from this town, but he can't marry her until a bandit cave is cleared out. So of course I clear that out (takes like two minutes) and...

...the "beautiful woman" the King spoke of is now free to marry him. And she's...another of these cyclops-alien things?

Well, in any case, that gets me the Armor. One to go.

Returning to the Shield King after getting the other two items has our heroes walking in on his assassination.

After this I wasn't sure what to do and thought the game had glitched or something, because nothing happened. Turns out you can walk through the wall to the right of the throne.

This gets you to a secret passage where the King's advisor fled with the Shield.

Another "miniboss" follows, but it's basically just a regular enemy. The guy begs for mercy, and...

...our heroes just straight-up kill him! Damn! They did the same thing with the bandits in the cave.

Putting the Sword, Armor, and Shield on the statue results in the Sphere, the first of four orbs needed to reach Paradise.

This also brings on the first major boss of the game, and one of the four big Fiends: Gen-Bu, the Earth Turtle. The four Fiends in this game loosely follow elements, though it isn't as emphasized as it is in FF1. They go in the order of Earth, Water, Wind, Fire.

Gen-Bu is the first real challenge of the game...if you haven't level-grinded at all. And I mean at all.

In my case I don't even get to see any of his attacks because one of the Mutants one-shots him.

Well, I'm speechless. I didn't even really grind that much, the thing is that Mutants level so fast.

With the Sphere in-hand and Gen-Bu defeated, our heroes finally get access to The Tower. This thing is 21 floors and goes all the way to Paradise. On the way are several worlds you can step out onto. Basically different planes of existence, with this tower cutting up through all of them like the Tower of Babel.

Some new enemies in the tower, like this incredibly creepy version of a Slime. Was this a shot at Dragon Quest? It kinda looks like one of their iconic Slimes got run over by a Buick.

After climbing a few generic dungeon floors, I arrive at floor 5 and the Water World.

This random NPC kind of looks like Rose the Hat from Doctor Sleep.

The single most desirable woman I've ever seen in a movie and I'm not kidding. Even though she's an evil sociopathic immortal.

Pirates? Well, this is the last we hear of them. Maybe a Pravoka-type thread that got abandoned.

Look at that random cat-man looking on creepily. Man, SaGa is weird.

There are a bunch of these stone platforms in the Water World and none of them move...except one random stone that DOES move. I can see players getting stuck here when they try a few platforms, none move, and they expect all of them to be like that.

Here's Big Eye. Always liked this particular enemy in this game. I don't know why. What's it doing here? How does it attack? Whose eye is it?

Talking to a palm tree gets you this item that lets you travel underwater via whirlpools. It's all a bit obscure without the Game Boy Player's Guide.

The Water World shops have some new stuff, like HP400s that bump Human HP up to 400. Usually get about 13-15 HP out of one of these which makes them a much better deal (and less tedious) than using HP200s to get 1 HP a shot.

Later there are HP600s that cost 5000 G for, again, 13-15 HP. Those...are not worth it at all when spamming HP200s will give you 13-15 HP for 1300-1500 G.

Once you reach 400 HP using HP400s, you might as well just grind out HP200s for the remaining 600 HP. Is this tedious? Yes.

Some new weapons, like the devastating Katana. Between this and some more Muscle uses, the Human is now my hardest-hitting fighter.

You can buy some barehanded attacks here and equip/use those too. Like the aptly-named "Butt"

Notice how Karate is more expensive/powerful than Judo. I can say that Judo practitioners wouldn't appreciate this very much. In my experience, if Martial Arts are like rock/paper/scissors, Judo is this fourth thing that beats all of them.

Silver equipment is for sale here too, and this is the weird thing: It's actually better than Gold equipment. So the game goes from Bronze to Gold to Silver. Wat?



On the undersea layer of the Water World is the palace of Sei-Ryu, the next Fiend.

A room full of Orbs! Which one is real?

...this one is. However, this is only half of this world's Sphere. Getting it summons the world boss...

...Sei-Ryu, fiend of water. While I one-shotted Gen-Bu, this fight took an entire one round. Looking forward to a boss fight that gets out of the first round soon. Did I completely break SaGa 1?

The other Orb is from doing this annoying puzzle. He gives you this whole big math equation where you add up the prices of a few items and then bring him an item that costs that amount. Basically, you bring him a Battle Sword. This was covered in a Counselor's Corner in Nintendo Power:

Not sure if this game got full coverage in Nintendo Power at any point. I don't think it did. The second one certainly did, but I feel like this one was so early in the magazine's lifespan that they threw it onto the Game Boy Player's Guide instead.

Regardless, combine the Blue and Red Orbs and they become the second Sphere, unlocking the next five floors of the Tower (and the next world up).

99 Str should crush a lot of foes, and it can still go up from hereOnce money starts rolling in, it's amazing how fast Humans gain DPS output. Between that and the increasingly-annoying randomized nature of Mutant attack skill lineups, I'm starting to think maybe Humans are where it's at. Mutants sure gain HP faster though.

No way!

Two of them are down. This game isn't too long and it's a bit of a breeze, so I'm sure I'll have even more substantial progress in the next post whenever I get back to it. This post was basically just Stats: The Post.


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