You never forget your first time…
The first time you rode a bike. The first girlfriend you had. Hell, even your first time…getting a parking ticket.
The same is true for video games, such as the first RPG you’ve ever played. For me, it was Final Fantasy Adventure for the original Game Boy (okay, technically it’s an Action RPG, but it’s still an RPG, dammit).
Final Fantasy Adventure was released in North America in November 1991 by Squaresoft (now Square Enix). It is actually a Final Fantasy spinoff, and the first in the Mana series of games. It is also one of the first Final Fantasy games which allowed you to save anywhere. Literally, anywhere! Even during a freaking boss fight!
The story is pretty formulaic: You play as a young boy who is a slave to the Glaive Empire, and has to fight monsters daily for Dark Lord’s entertainment. The boy escapes, overhears a plot to kidnap an important young girl, gets pushed off a cliff, survives, and his adventure begins. Dark Lord, although being introduced in the beginning as a villain, is not the main villain. This will come as a shock to no one who has played a Final Fantasy game before this one, but it was a shocker to me, because this was my first one.
You get to choose the names of your male and female protagonists, much like other Final Fantasy games. However, you are limited to four characters. If you’re like some people, and you prefer to give your characters dirty names, your options are sorely limited. Even if you use regular names, your options are still sorely limited.
The gameplay is more akin to the first Zelda title than a traditional Final Fantasy. The world is viewed from a top down camera angle, you move one screen at a time, and the enemies are moving sprites that you attack directly. You do earn experience for defeating enemies (like most RPGs), and when you gain levels, you can choose which stats you want to increase, be it Power, Stamina, Wisdom, or Will.
It’s not the most difficult game in terms of a Final Fantasy title. The bosses always move in predictable patterns, you don’t really need to grind for experience points, and most of the puzzles are straightforward. It will get tedious when you realize you have to look for false walls, although some are placed in obvious locations. It’s also one of the shortest Final Fantasy games – on my latest playthrough, I beat the game in six hours. It’s also worth mentioning that, when you defeat a boss, the explosions from the boss can actually damage you. I don’t know why that is, and it’s the only game I can recall where that happens to you.
Even though you start with a basic sword, you can get better weapons in the game, which have other uses besides combat: axes can chop down trees, whips can help you cross wide gaps, sickles can help you cut shrubbery, and the Morning Star can help you break false walls. You can also execute special attacks when your willpower builds up, and some attacks are unique to the weapon you’re currently using. For example, when you have a sword equipped, your special attack either has you doing a spin attack (if you’re stationary), or sends you flying across the screen. With other weapons, you either throw your weapon as a projectile, or increase its attack range.
You can also learn eight different spells in the game, and they’re pretty standard – Cure to restore HP, Heal to cure status ailments, Sleep puts your enemies to sleep, and Nuke shoots a massive fireball at enemies (just to name a few). Unlike traditional RPGs, you get these spells at certain plot points in the game, and some of them are necessary to move the plot forward – such as using Nuke to destroy a crystal that blocks access to a hidden tunnel.
Throughout the game, you will collaborate with certain NPCs who will travel with you. Each one of them can help you in a certain way. By utilizing the “Ask” command on the pause screen, and depending on which character you have, you may slowly regenerate your HP, completely regain your MP, buy items and weapons, or change the music (because reasons). One character who you frequently collaborate with happens to be a chocobo, who thinks your his mother. When you ride him, you won’t be attacked by enemies, and you can move a lot faster . Later in the game, he will get cybernetic upgrades, which allow him to walk on water, thus gaining you access to otherwise inaccessible areas on the map.
The only downside to using the chocobo is that you will constantly have to “Ask” it to follow you, especially when you exit a dungeon. Once, I had to backtrack all the way across an island to get him, because I forgot he doesn’t automatically follow me. It was a minor pain in my ass, but I never forgot after that moment.
I love the music in this game. If you were to ask me about what the Game Boy can do audibly, I would direct you to this game. Every track is capable of conveying an emotion, such as anxiety, sorrow or enjoyment. Kenji Ito has done a phenomenal job on the tracks, and Nobuo Uematsu’s “Chocobo’s Birth,” despite being the weakest track, is still awesome. That’s right, even the weakest track in this game can curb stomp most of the other tracks in the Game Boy’s library.
Now, I’m gonna tell you something I’ve never told anyone before…
This was the first game to affect me emotionally. Not just because of the music, but because you will have to make a hard choice near the middle of the game. For the sake of spoilers, let’s just say that one NPC you collaborate with gets injured, and you have to do something…merciful. The first time I realized what I had to do, it shook me to my core. Never before had a game I played asked me to do anything like that. The aftermath left me in tears (I was ten, at the time BTW).
Even though I typically play this game once every few years, I enjoy it every time I play it. It’s emotional, yet mentally soothing at the same time. It brings me back to a youth I wish to experience again, and makes me look forward to a future I’ve yet to experience. True, there are better RPGs out there, but this one will always have a place in my heart, and I know most of you have an RPG that you feel the same way about, too.