Title: US- Final Fantasy Adventure / Japan- Seiken Densetsu
Developer: Square
Publisher: Square
Date Published: June 1991
Platforms: Game Boy

Tree of Mana grows
with the energy of
will from each and
every thing of
this world.
It grows high above the clouds in the air on top of Mount Illusia. Legend tells that it gives eternal power to the one who touched it. Dark Lord was trying to find the way to the Tree of Mana to get the mighty power to conquer the world...

The story : Compared to other games for its time, the story for this game is very dark and bittersweet. Even the introduction is filled with death and loss. The hero's best friend, Willy, dies in the very first scene, telling him to seek out the Gemma Knight (the predecessors to Mana Knights) Bogard. Disillusioned with his captivity as a gladiator fighting solely for the entertainment of Dark Lord, the hero escapes. Unfortunately, he meets up with Dark Lord and his main lackey, Julius. He is promptly pushed down a waterfall, where he awakens and meets his obvious love interest, the heroine. As most beautiful young girls do, she carries a magical pendant that ultimately decides the fate of humanity. The two set off to meet their ill fated destiny.

Throughout the story, the hero is constantly being set back. A quixotic tale at heart, it seems as though the hero makes little progress most of the time in his one man crusade to save the world. In addition to his friend Willy, many of his other friends and allies end up dead or mortally wounded. Hasim is killed trying to protect the heroine; Borgand falls off an airship and remains bed ridden most of the game; Amanda gets bitten by Medusa, begins to turn into a monster, then begs the hero to slay her before she loses her humanity; and the loyal robot Marcie, unable to save itself, throws the hero over chasm to safe ground from the roof of a sinking tower. Not very uplifting, huh?

Although the hero achieves victory at the end, a bit of a melancholy twist makes it is about as emotional as an 8-bit Game Boy game with a sub par translation can be. When the heroine made her decision to live her life as the next Mana Tree, abandoning the chance to live happily ever after with the hero but keeping the world's nature in balance, I was simultaneously horrified, saddened and relieved: Horrified and sadden because the hero and his friends sacrificed so much to rescue and protect her, but relieved the story didn't taper off into a banal ending.

The game play : The game play for Final Fantasy Adventure is almost textbook action RPG. With an overhead view, a tiny heroic sprite, an overworld with dungeons, a legendary sword, and breakable walls, this game borrows many game play concepts from The Legend of Zelda. With a versatile arsenal, statistics like HP or strength, and a selection of spells, it borrows game play concepts from traditional console RPGs.

Traditional elements from Final Fantasy and the later Seiken Densetsu can be found. On the Final Fantasy side, a chocobo is the hero's ally for a portion of the game. Later, the chocobo's legs are hurt by an explosion, but a benevolent scientist gives him new mechanical legs and dubs him "Chocobot." On the Seiken Densetsu side, the various weapons the hero uses can be charged up to do special attacks. The animation for these attacks was spruced up and recycled for the later Seiken Densetsus.

The biggest balance problem with the game play is the "Cure" spell. For the tiny cost of 2 magic points, the hero can cure himself for a good amount. There is no limit on the frequency either; you can mash Cure button rapidly thus effectively making it hard to die. Logically enough, the other seven available spells aren't worth using as one would have to unequip Cure. Besides this simple flaw in the spell system, most of the action and RPG elements combine nicely.

Strong and weak points: Looking back, Final Fantasy Adventure was ahead of it time, especially for being on a portable system. The strangely absent traditional and disproportional map screen as well as the real time fighting elements were two departures that caught on big with its epic offspring, Secret of Mana. Just the fact that it spawned the rest of the Seiken Densetsu series is an accomplishment in itself.

On the flip side, the translation was behind its time. As the focus of the game is the game play, perhaps the translators slacked a bit. Anyway, the story was simple enough, so there wasn't much to ruin. For an example of how bad some parts of the translation are, take the introductory text I quoted at the top.

This game shouldn't be hard to find as Sunsoft, who bought the rights to the Game Boy Final Fantasies, recently re-released them.

Update: On August 29, 2003, Square-Enix released an updated version of this game called Sword of Mana for Game Boy Advance in Japan. It was released in North America December 1, 2003. This is not just a port. The game play, dialogue, graphics, story have been overhauled (in addition to adding the trademark swirling Seiken Densetsu menu rings) to meet the rising standard of video games.

This write-up complies with the E2 FAQ: Video Games standards. Sources: Playing the game www.gamefaqs.com

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