Originally branded under the Final Fantasy license, this is actually one of the Of Mana games. That license didn’t exist at the time of its localisation, and while later games dropped the Final Fantasy moniker, this one has held onto its mixed lineage through rereleases. This odd assortment of circumstances made the Collection Of Mana seem quite bizarre to those unfamiliar with the history, but I suppose Squeenix were mostly targeting nostalgia-cash with that release.
Despite being a separate beast, FFA wears its lineage with pride; a great many of the graphics are lifted wholesale from Final Fantasy 3 (another game with a complicated history); the aptly-named Dark Lord, our antagonist, uses the dark knight sprite, ‘Man’ is a repurposed red mage, and even deuteragonist Girl is FF3’s Elia in greyscale.
The similarities end with the graphics however, as the gameplay is more akin to a prototypical Link’s Awakening; protagonist Boy swings his bladed weapon of choice in a 90-degree arc roughly corresponding to the direction he is facing to beat monsters and gain experience points. I say ‘roughly’ as there is no way to target the lower right quadrant on his range, a fact which repeatedly screwed me over. This, along with many other odd annoyances and retroactively-bizarre design choices give the game a distinct “first steps we don’t really know what we’re doing” feeling; niggles that would be ironed out in generations hence are here in their roughest form, forgivable in a time when no one knew better but very chafing to go back to.
Fin or Bin:
Ultimately I found the experience more frustrating than fun, a theme which seems to run through the whole series. Seems like the Of Mana series just isn’t for me. Still, the OST is splendid as ever, even rendered through the Gameboy’s dinky little speaker. I’ll hold onto that while I place the rest in the Bin.