When I play older games, I usually prefer to do so with the original cartridge and on original hardware. (I still have all of my 8- and 16-bit consoles, the Japanese equivalents of each, as well as a few CRTs to play them on.) There are a few situations, though, when playing on a more modern system is warranted. For example, I’d rather play an RPG on a console I know is going to keep my progress safe, since cartridge batteries can be iffy. Or, if Japanese company M2 -- which handled the Sega Ages series and the games on the Sega Genesis Mini -- is involved in a port, I can be reasonably sure that a title has been lovingly and thoroughly recreated.
Collection of Mana ticks both of those boxes, so I picked up the compilation -- which includes Final Fantasy Adventure (the first game in the Mana series), Secret of Mana and Trials of Mana -- on the Nintendo Switch. I’ve played Secret of Mana before, so I was particularly interested in seeing how the first game in the Seiken Densetsu series informed the second one.
As a young and foolish boy in the mid ‘90s, I ventured to what was then the only Best Buy in the Boston area. I held Final Fantasy Adventure in one hand and Final Fantasy Legend in the other. I made the wrong choice and bought the latter. 25 years later and I still hadn’t gotten around to playing Adventure, despite my love for Secret of Mana. But once Collection of Mana came out, I knew it was time. I’ve spent the last month putting about 15 hours into Final Fantasy Adventure, and I’m kicking myself for waiting so long.
Final Fantasy Adventure was originally released in Japan as Seiken Densetsu: Final Fantasy Gaiden on the Game Boy. The 1991 title didn’t take the typical turn-based RPG approach like the games in the main Final Fantasy series. Rather, it had more of an action / adventure feel -- somewhat similar to The Legend of Zelda -- while leaving in some vestigial RPG elements. Though combat takes place in real time, stats like your character’s experience level, HP and MP play important roles, and magic spells can be powerful alternatives to melee attacks or curative items.
One facet of gameplay that sets the Seiken Densetsu series apart is its use of a stamina bar. The gauge fills slowly, and its level is directly proportional to your attack power. As soon as you hit the attack button, the gauge resets to zero, so it’s not wise to spam sword swings -- you’ll end up giving your enemy several papercuts rather than a broken bone. If you have enough patience to let the stamina bar fill completely, you’ll be rewarded with a special move for your next attack. These are more powerful and have a longer range, so if your whip doesn’t reach across the river to a pole, for example, you can use a special move to extend the whip, hit the pole, and pull yourself across the river to explore a new area.