Final Fantasy

Game Boy Turns 25 Today | The History of Square Enix GB Games

Nintendo Game Boy, Game Boy Pocket, Game Boy Light and Game Boy Color handheld game consoles in Helsinki Computer and game console museum.

Nintendo Game Boy, Game Boy Pocket, Game Boy Light and Game Boy Color handheld game consoles in Helsinki Computer and game console museum.

April 21, 2014, we are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Game Boy! That’s why we have decided to travel back in time and talk about the history of all Square Enix developed and published Game Boy games. In this retrospective article, we tell interesting facts about the stories, gameplay and music of the games. “Did you know?” facts will be revealing cool information through the article such as: Which was the first Final Fantasy game released in Europe? Or was it even a Final Fantasy game at the first place? Why are we celebrating the 25th anniversary of SaGa series as well?


What the Kweh is Game Boy?

The Game Boy is an 8-bit handheld console by Nintendo, which was released in Japan on April 21, 1989, in North America on July 31, 1989, and in Europe on September 28, 1990. Following the Game & Watch series introduced in 1980, the Game Boy became Nintendo’s second handheld system. The console was redesigned as Game Boy Pocket and Game Boy Light, which were release in 1996 and 1998. Over 700 games was published for the console and the Game Boy and its successor, the Game Boy Color, have both combined sold 118.69 million units worldwide.


Before merging with Enix, Square released four Final Fantasy titles for the original Game Boy. The Final Fantasy Legend SaGa which had three parts Final Fantasy Legend I, II and III weren’t originally even a Final Fantasy titles. The first installment of the sage  was originally known as “Makai Toushi SaGa” which is actually makes it the first release of the SaGa series. This means the second and third Final Fantasy Legend titles were actually SaGa games but renamed for the Western market. The fourth Final Fantasy title was known as Final Fantasy Adventure in North America and in Europe as Mystic Quest. But it truly was a Final Fantasy spinoff and the first game in the Mana series. That’s quite a twist. (Quick recap: FFL = SaGa and FFA/Mystic Quest = Mana series)

The soundtracks of the Final Fantasy Legend saga were composed by Kenji Ito and Nobuo Uematsu.

The Final Fantasy Legend [Warrior in the Tower of the Spirit World ~ SaGa]

Ffl_boxfront The Final Fantasy Legend takes place on several worlds centered around a large tower, built by the Creator/God. The tower works as link between different worlds: the World of Continent, the World of Ocean, the World of Sky, and the World of Ruins. The time doesn’t flow normally in these worlds, creating differences between people’s technology and the way of life. Each continent is being ruled by different groups and leaders which may lead to drama or co-operation. Most of the monsters want you pretty much dead but some of them might be willing to coexist with you, and join your journey to find the center of the world, which supposedly is a paradise.

Original Makai Toushi SaGa artwork - "The Final Fantasy Legend"

Original Makai Toushi SaGa artwork – “The Final Fantasy Legend”

The gameplay in The Final Fantasy Legend is pretty similar to other Final Fantasy games. The player explores the world with a party of up to four characters, and interacts with non-player characters. The story events take place in towns, castles, caves and different kinds of fields where the heroes find hints about new entrance to another world. Unlike in the earlier Final Fantasy games, it’s possible to save the game anytime and anywhere you want.

The Final Fantasy Legend uses a turn-based system. Characters battle against monsters and fiends using a variety of weapons, armor, and skills.  The game also uses a class system and each hero can belong to one of three classes. For example, warrior and mage classes have different and unique customization paths. When traveling around the world map and enemy zones, random enemy encounters occasionally interrupt your journey.

Final Fantasy Legend II [SaGa2 ~ The Treasure Legend]

Final_Fantasy_Legend_II_CoverartFinal Fantasy Legend II a.k.a SaGa 2 ~The Treasure Legend was quite well-received in Japan. In 2006, the readers of Famitsu voted it as the 94th greatest game of all time. The game is set in a fantasy world where the player, along with three friends, leaves on a journey to find his long lost father. As the journey continues, more they discover more about the mysterious MAGI, a substance created by the gods that hold powerful magical powers. Their power are tied to the shards shattered from the  statue of Goddess Isis.

As the player obtains enough MAGI, he is able to reach new worlds. Yes, that’s right. Also the world of Final Fantasy Legend II is shared between multiple areas. But not only our heroes are looking for the MAGI: The gods are desperately looking for a way to become more powerful and they have decided to take part in shard hunting. Sometimes their ways cross and this means battle between our heroes and the gods. But the heroes learn the terrible truth, once all of the MAGI are brought together and the statue of Isis is reassembled and a terrible calamity will destroy the world. The heroes start another journey to save the world.

Artwork from SaGa 2 Hihō Densetsu: Goddess of Destiny - "Final Fantasy Legend 2 Remake" (only released in Japan)

Artwork from SaGa 2 Hihō Densetsu: Goddess of Destiny – “Final Fantasy Legend 2 Remake” (only released in Japan)

The SaGa series has been quite a revolutionary game series when it comes to player friendly features we see in the modern games nowadays. In the Final Fantasy titles, the defeat in battle often means game over, but in the Legends series the heroes are brought before the god Odin. The almighty god makes an offer to revive the heroes if they show off their valiance, and in return the player gets another chance to try the battle similar to Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2 games. They may retry a battle as many times as they wish, but if the heroes refuse, then the game is over and goes back to the last save. Otherwise the gameplay works pretty much the same as explained for the first installment of the saga.

In 2009, Final Fantasy Legends II / SaGa 2 was remade and announced for the Nintendo DS titled SaGa 2 Hihō Densetsu: Goddess of Destiny. It featured 3D graphics, new story elements, and a newly arranged soundtrack. Below you can listen to “Lethal Strike~Struggle to the Death-Medley from SaGa 2” from Re:Birth II -Sen- / SaGa Battle Arrange album which was released this year in Japan.

Final Fantasy Legend III [The Ruler of Time and Space ~ SaGa3 [Final Chapter]

TFinal_Fantasy_Legend_III_Coverarthe story of Final Fantasy Legend III combines fantasy and sci-fi elements. Similar story elements were later used in games such as Chrono Trigger  and Final Fantasy XIII-2. The heroes of the story are sent back in time to prevent a massive global flood caused by a divine being known as the Pureland Water Entity. To accomplish their mission, the three heroes and their companions must travel through time by augmenting their flying time machine with upgrade units found in the past, present and future. Once the group has collected enough upgrades, they are able to try beat the Entity.


The original Japanese cover art of Final Fantasy Legend III

The gameplay and battle system are once again pretty similar to the first installment with graphical upgrades. According to the developers, they wanted to push the Game Boy hardware to the max with this title and used a shade techniques to help players imagine the colors of characters and environments. Final Fantasy Legend III had a new class system as well. By eating meat of the enemies such as monsters, or installing cyborg parts found from robots defeated in battles, the character could change his class and gain upgrades such as new skills.

Below you can see in-game screenshots from SaGa a.k.a Final Fantasy Legend games.

Each character starts with their default class: human or mutant depending on the character.  If the characters eats beast’s meat she/he will tranform into a beast and the same thing with monster beast. When parts are installed into a character he/she will become a cyborg or a robot. Each class also has its own special powers and weaknesses. If the player wants to change character’s classes: meat and parts counter each other: if a Beast has parts installed, he will revert to the default class.

Final Fantasy Adventure / Mystic Quest [Seiken Densetsu: Final Fantasy Gaiden]

Final_Fantasy_Adventure_Front_CoverDid you know that Final Fantasy Adventure was the first Final Fantasy game to be released in Europe? 

The story follows the hero and the young heroine as they attempt to thwart the Dark Lord of Glaive and his sorcerer assistant, Julius, from destroying the Tree of Mana and, thus, destroying the world. (Why do bad people always want to destroy the world!? C’moon think about the poor puppies and kittens.) The game featured many familiar elements of the Final Fantasy series, such as Chocobos, but these similarities were later changed to fit more in the style of the Mana series.

The story starts at a bad situation where the hero is a prisoner of the Dark Lord. One day,  his friend comes to inform him about the Dark Lord’s plans and advises him to seek Bogard the Knight. As the hero escapes from the prison he find out that the Dark Lord is seeking a way to control the Mana Tree, which is the source of the energy that sustains life in the world. The hero accompanies with new friends during his journey to gain enough power to stop the Dark Lord before it’s too late.

If you’re a Zelda fan or familiar with the original Legend of Zelda gameplay, you might be interested in hearing that the Final Fantasy Adventure gameplay is very similar to it. The world is viewed from a top-down camera angle, and the area is shared in squares where the main characters can move up down, left and right. During the journey, player will collide with a variety of enemies and by beating them he will gain experience points, GP and items. After tiring battles, player can rest in the towns where he can also interact with local people and gather new information that way. It’s perhaps a good idea to visit shops to buy useful items and equipments, but also to get rid of those nuggets you stole from that mushroom man you killed while ago. Poor bastard. But now you can afford those hi-potions. May his soul rest in the heaven high.

Time for treasure hunting and killing dangerous gigantic enemies who killed all those poor people from the village nearby… AND THE KITTENS. Within dungeon areas, a number of puzzles may be present and required to be solved in order to continue with the adventure. If puzzle solving is taking a long time and you’re in need of a pause, don’t ya worry – you can also save the game at any point! Remember to cut all the trees and thorns while looking for a way to stop the Dark Lord, because a number of weapons are hidden in them.


The cover art of Final Fantasy Gaiden: Seiken Densetsu Omoi wa Shirabe ni Nosete a.k.a Mystic Quest / Final Fantasy Adventure

All the main characters possess several statistics, including hit points, power, and stamina. By leveling up, the character grows stronger and his stats are upgraded. Magic spells consume the characters magic points, but with them you can deal lots of damage or heal yourself. In Final Fantasy Adventure, spells can be found only from specific locations or obtained from story events. The protagonist also has a power gauge which boosts his attack strength as it fills up. Once the gauge is full, the character will perform a special super hyper uber attack similar to limit breaks in the Final Fantasy games.

Here is a sample song from the soundtrack of Final Fantasy Adventure.

One of my personal favorite addition to Final Fantasy Adventure was quite similar to some Final Fantasy XIII-2 and Lightning Returns battles. One additional, non-controllable character may join the main character in the story and can provide him aid during his quests. Oh!!! Do you hate those annoying non-playable character who always say the same all over again and again and again!? Well, in this game you have an ability to kill normal town people!




While Square focused on pushing their SaGa/Final Fantasy games on Game Boy, Enix published two games, Dungeonland and Nangoku Shōnen Papuwa-kun. Both games were only released for the Japanese market and thus didn’t gain much attention here in the West.

Nangoku Shōnen Papuwa-kun is based on a manga and anime series which is published by Square Enix nowadays. It’s a puzzle game where the player needed to explode all boxes with one power smash attack. In order to change the direction of the power wave, the player needed to move blocks to the right positions. There are multiple enemy types wandering around the stage creating more difficulty to the puzzles. Some stages even featured boss battles. View the gifs below to get an impression.

As an ending extra, please enjoy this insane Papuwa-kun trailer:

What are your Game Boy memories? Did you pick up any of these games? What was your favorite game on Game Boy?

5 replies »

  1. I remember my bother getting the whitish grayish one. He bought donkey kong and Zelda. I was probably 6 when he let me play Zelda (I was always falling in random holes in that game XD). I always thought the game boy came out when I was 6 but I guess it came out a few years before I was born XD.

    • Hahah, guess we all have been confused by Game Boy Color! Those SaGa/FFL games sounded pretty cool when thinking they are “only” Game Boy games. Settings are rather interesting and gameplay mechanics sound pretty modern – ahead their time.

  2. Cant believe its been 25yrs – its 2-3yrs older than me :p – i have 2 older brothers so we each had a Gameboy – they both had a Grey one – i had a Yellow :)
    Still have them, in working order, last i played it was a few years ago – dont have that many games on it – i mainly played Pokemon Blue though – countless numbers of times lol :p
    Unfortunately i dont have any of the FF games or any SE games released for the GB – but one day perhaps – i may browse Ebay and buy some of them – for Memorabilia sake :)

    • I found it super fascinating that these Final Fantasy titles weren’t Final Fantasies at all. Amazing thing I didn’t even know about. I always wondered why the soundtrack is so different in them. I wonder if they released those FFs as SaGa games and they had success here in the West, would it be another big series in here alongside Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy. At least to me gameplay and story elements sound epic enough that they would have attracted us western gamers.

      • Yeah i was pretty surprised too when i saw footage/images of them – of how different they were – but they seemed interesting though

        Maybe if they brought them back into the limelight by remaking them for the 3DS or something – more people would know about it and have a chance to play the games – may get more popular then :)

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