Final Fantasy Adventure
Based on: Getting one-up on that lousy rat Link, in fine Final Fantasy style.
By David Goldberg | June 22, 2009
The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening is rightly lauded for bringing the full Zelda experience to the Game Boy. But it's a mistake to treat it as the first game to achieve this milestone, as Final Fantasy Adventure preceded it by a good two years. In fact, considering that FF Adventure was released a few months before A Link to the Past?, it is amazing how much it presaged for the future of the Zelda series.
Like A Link to the Past and all future 2D Zeldas, FF Adventure is viewed from an overhead perspective. While you begin the game with a sword, throughout the game you acquire new weapons and spells to equip. FF Adventure also features many of the environmental puzzles Zelda would become known for beginning with A Link to the Past. Different weapons could destroy different terrain features, and thus certain portions of the world were blocked off until you acquired the right weapon. The game's nameless hero attacked with actual swings of the sword, just like Link would adopt begining with his Super NES outing. Even the ability to charge your sword, seen here in a slightly awkward form, would appear in the Zelda series. Of course, being a Square game, FF Adventure had a few more RPG elements than the typical Zelda: your statistics increased when you defeated enough enemies to gain a level, and you could then choose certain attributes to increase.
FF Adventure is also notable for having an incredibly dark story for the time, strongly defying the typical "plucky hero saves the world" trope. Many of the companions you meet end up dead or with their lives ruined. Every time you think you've made some progress, you suffer a horrible setback. And when you finally achieve victory at the end, the girl you have worked so hard (and sacrificed so much) to save becomes the Mana Tree, so you don't even get to live happily ever after with her. Of course, the story would have been more interesting if Square had managed to give it a decent localization. It's difficult to take the villain seriously when his name is translated "Dark Lord."
In the Game Boy's early life, there were plenty of good games, but few that stood out as equal to or better than their console counterparts. Final Fantasy Adventure, though overlooked, was a great game that went on to launch a popular series: though initially launched as a Final Fantasy side story, the subsequent Mana series soon took on a life of its own. Sure, recent Mana titles have been sub-par (including Sword of Mana, a remake of FF Adventure), but the game that kicked it off was one of the early titles that helped bolster the system's library and remains a Game Boy highlight to this day.