The Final Fantasy Legend, originally released as (魔界塔士 サ・ガ, Makai Toushi Sa·Ga?, lit. Hell Tower Warrior Sa·Ga) in Japan, was actually the first game in the SaGa series and had no connection to the Final Fantasy series. This and the other two SaGa games released on the Game Boy system were rebranded as the Final Fantasy Legend series when released in the United States, undoubtedly to bolster sales, as it was only the second RPG Square had ever released in North America.
Just as Final Fantasy was originally inspired by the tabletop RPG Dungeons & Dragons; SaGa was inspired by Gamma World. Its blend of sci-fi and fantasy, absence of experience, race based characters, and collection of various shared skills via mutation or transformations are staples of the series.
The Final Fantasy Legend was released to Japanese audiences on December 15, 1989. International release followed in September of 1990. Eight years later, Squaresoft contracted developer Sunsoft to reprint the game in North America. It would later be upgraded for the WonderSwan Color in the early 2000s, also ported to mobile phones of the era. On August 26, 2020, Square Enix and Nintendo announced that the title would be repackaged alongside its two successors in anthology form as the Collection of SaGa Final Fantasy Legend. The compilation was released December 15, 2020.
At the beginning of the game, players create their initial character to lead the party. This character will be the strongest statistically and will begin with a strong weapon, but once chosen, the selection cannot be undone. They are given a choice of three races:
- Humans - Humans cannot learn any abilities or use magic books. Instead, they have the most equipment slots allowing them to equip a wide variety of weapons and armor. Humans only grow stronger by using stat upgrading items sold in shops to increase their stats. As they have no natural defense and must rely on their armor as well, Humans are the most expensive units to recruit.
- Mutants (called Espers in the Japanese version) - Mutants grow stronger with each battle, obtaining random stat boosts at the end of the battle. They also may learn or forget abilities, up to a total of four abilities being available to learn. Magic potency is determined by a character's Mana stat; since this can develop in a Mutant more readily than a Human, Mutants can use the various magic books found throughout the game. Mutants are limited to four equipment slots, but can still use the full range of items. They can be cheaper to recruit than Humans, though much will depend on how they develop. As they evolve, their Def may also increase; thus they may be able to survive with only one or two pieces of armor.
- Monsters - Monsters get stronger as the party defeats other monsters. At the end of each battle, one monster may drop its meat, which any of the party's monsters can eat. The meat may transform the monster from one genus to another; and depending on the source of the meat, it may make the monster stronger or weaker while granting abilities present to that genus (e.g. a Werebeast-type eats a Ghoul-type and becomes a Ghost-type). They cannot equip items at all, but their abilities will recover upon resting at an inn.
The player can also choose a gender for the Human or Mutant character, which will affect his/her starting stats; males start with higher Str values, while females begin with higher Agl values. After the initial character has been chosen, three more can be recruited at Base Town, created just like the initial character, to make a party of four members. However, units recruited from the Base Town Guild will be much weaker than the initial character.
Battle is a standard turn-based system. Players must first choose to fight an enemy horde, or run from it. When the Fight command is chosen, the player must decide which weapon, spell, or ability they want to attack with, or whether to defend with an equipped shield. However, equipment has durability. Using a weapon, a shield or a magic book will decrease its durability by one use. When it reaches zero, it breaks and must be replaced. Humans and Mutants can equip multiple weapons so they will not be totally useless should one of their weapons break.
Monsters have the potential to inflict status effects on the party when they attack:
- Pois: If a unit becomes poisoned, they will lose HP with each round of battle. Sometimes wears off. Does not persist after battle. Cured with an Antidote.
- Conf: The unit cannot distinguish between friend and foe, and will not accept commands. Reversed if unit is struck with a physical blow, or recovers randomly. Can be instantly removed with a Pan.
- Slep: The unit falls asleep and cannot act. Has a chance of awakening. If the unit awakens during the current turn, action can resume on the following turn.
- Blin: The unit cannot see. Physical attacks miss more frequently. Removed with an Eyedrop.
- Para: The unit cannot act. Has a chance of recovery. Cured with Shocker.
- Curs: The unit is weakened. Removed with a Symbol.
- Ston: The unit has turned to stone and cannot act. Removed only with a Needle.
- Dead: The unit is dead.
The player will receive a Game Over if all units are in Ston or Dead status.
Unique to the SaGa series is the method in which players must manage units' deaths and subsequent revivals. As each unit is recruited, they are given three lives (represented as hearts). Should the unit fall to 0 HP, the unit may be revived at a House of Life at the cost of a heart and a nominal fee. The unit may carry up to five hearts, but a dead unit with no hearts is considered permanently dead and cannot be revived, at which point the unit can be exchanged at a guild.
It has been said that the tower in the center of the World is connected to Paradise. Dreaming of a life in Paradise, many have challenged the secret of the tower, but no one knows what became of them. Now, there is another who will brave the adventure.Intro
In the center of the world is a great tower. This tower connects to many worlds and at the top the entrance to Paradise. A group of adventurers from the world at the base of the tower decide to climb it to explore the various worlds. Along the way they encounter many strange creatures and among them strong monsters based on the Four Symbols who guard the key to the next floor.
In the World of Continent, Gen-Bu, the Black Turtle, has hidden the Black Sphere in the Statue of Hero, southwest of the Tower.
Two dragons guard the divided Blue Sphere in the World of Ocean. Sei-Ryu, the Azure Dragon, holds dominion over the realm from a palace below.
A resistance force builds in the World of Sky as Byak-Ko, the White Tiger, rules the realm with an iron fist in search of the White Sphere.
Su-Zaku, the Vermilion Bird, lays waste to the World of Ruins as he guards the Red Sphere.
Connections to other titles
As often happens in unrelated games or series from the same publisher, Final Fantasy Legend makes references to and from other products by Squaresoft (later Square Enix).
References by/in The Final Fantasy Legend
- Spell and weapon names in the original Japanese version share their names with ones from the Final Fantasy series.
- Death Machine from the original Final Fantasy makes an appearance as a boss, though its name was shortened to Machine in the English version.
- The Four Fiends from the first Final Fantasy (Lich, Kraken, Tiamat, Marilith) appear as the top-tier skeleton, octopus, dragon, and gorgon monsters obtainable, though Marilith's name was changed to Lilith in the English version.
Allusions to The Final Fantasy Legend
- Orphan's weakness to Death in Final Fantasy XIII is an homage to the famous bug involving the final boss of The Final Fantasy Legend.
- The game was covered in Final Fantasy Ryūkishi Dan - Knights, an official guidebook that includes artwork and fan reactions.
- Staff (August 1992). ファイナルファンタジー竜騎士団 [Final Fantasy Ryūkishi Dan - Knights]. JICC出版局. pp. 76–79, 120. ISBN 4-7966-0435-9.