heroincityFinal Fantasy Legend was one of the first, if not the first really in depth handheld RPGs. For an early Game Boy game that shared shelf space with early, very simplistic first party Nintendo titles like Super Mario Land, Golf, and Balloon Kid, the scope of Final Fantasy Legend is pretty impressive.

On the primitive Game Boy, Square managed to squeeze all the conventions of a typical 1989 NES RPG onto the saltine cracker sized cartridge. The game starts you out with a main character of your choice and leaves you to pick up three more party members from guilds found in towns.

One thing that makes this game unique is the fact that unlike many RPGs in which characters spend Magic Points to cast spells, in Final Fantasy Legend, there is no MP, and instead most weapons and abilities have a finite number of uses.

status screenFor example, an Ice spell may only have 10 uses when learned naturally, but may start out with 20 uses when purchased. Long Swords, Whips, and Bows may have between 20 and 50 uses. When you run out of uses, the ability or weapon simply vanishes from the characters battle inventory.

Healing items like Potions are also handled this way, and to be used in battle, they must be equipped to characters just like weapons and spells. This means that a lot of strategy lies in choosing how many restoring items, weapons, and spells to equip each character with. This is complicated by the fact that different character classes have varying maximum inventories, and having a full inventory will prevent Mutants and Monsters from learning new abilities on their own.

Humans are strong, but have absolutely no capacity for magic and are completely dependent on the weapons and skills you must buy for them, because they learn nothing on their own. To offset this, Humans have the largest inventories of any class in the game, making them very useful.

Additionally, not only do Humans learn nothing on their own, but to level up their attributes, you have to buy fairly expensive stat enhancing potions. For Humans, the money you earn from battle is almost like having experience points which you must allot by deciding which potions to buy for them from whatever is available in the nearby

in town
The only other character class I use in Final Fantasy Legend are Mutants, which like Humans, come in both Male and Female versions. Mutants are weaker than Humans, but actually learn and use magic abilities, and earn stat increases simply by winning battles. You can also buy spells for Mutants from shops, which typically have more Uses than the abilities they learn alone. Since mutants level up just by battling, in the midst of level grinding (or Gold earning) sessions mutants in your party often end up with way higher stats than your Humans if you haven’t upgraded them recently.

a greedy kingThe other class of character are Monsters. I never really cared much for Monsters, but they are many different types of them with I guess vary in different ways. I’m pretty sure they can use magic and weapons pretty well depending on which type of monsters you have in your party. Occasionally enemies will leave behind meat after you defeat them, which you can feed to your monsters to cause them to transform into other monsters. Oddly, even specteral enemies like ghosts and phantoms are liable to leave behind "meat".

Despite the lack of pre-determined characters, you feel like the characters you create are actively participating in the story as it develops, and even with the often uninspired NPC dialogue, the game’s story entertains better than some other console RPGs of the period.

he, dont
One thing this game does perfectly is the save function, it literally takes less than two seconds to save your game from any point in the game, and as this is a handheld game, that feature alone really improves this games portability, since you won’t have to worry about needing to turn off the Game Boy at a moment's notice and losing 15 or more minutes worth of progress.

As good a game this is, Final Fantasy Legend is still an 1989 Game Boy RPG and it shows. The writing, dialogue, and story quality is weak in comparison to later cant us the itemRPGs, being outdone even by the original Pokemon. There are also a number a few cases of Engrish phrases such as “YOU CAN’T US THE ITEM” and “HE, DONT”, but these only serve to give the game more character.

Players should be aware that there is a particular moment about three fourths of the way through the game where you are trapped in a room containing a boss battle that you can’t escape unless you win. This boss shouldn't have been much of a problem if I was properly leveled, but during my first playthrough I was seriously underpowered due to my ignorance of how FFL’s leveling system worked and I was basically screwed and had to start the whole game over from scratch since I saved after entering this room.

Also worthy of mention is that Final Fantasy Legend is actually part of the Sa Ga series, which was pretty unknown outside of Japan in 1989, so they changed the name for the North American release, which was a good choice, because admittedly, I only got this game because it said Final Fantasy on the cartridge.

I consider Final Fantasy Legend a classic of RPGs and handheld gaming, but don’t expect too much from it if you aren’t used to old games.

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