This is, perhaps, the dumbest idea for a compare and contrast I've ever thought up. Dumber even than Vinny's "Bufu vs. A Spell The Boss Isn't Immune To." I guess I should explain why I'm comparing these two games in particular: Simply put, it's the "easiest" JRPG ever created vs. the "hardest" (based on popular opinion. Of course, you might have your own ideas which are the easiest and hardest JRPGs - feel free to correct away in the comments.) Blame this on me playing nothing else but Demon's Souls this week and being creatively bankrupt. This might still be fun though, so let's jump in why not.
Basic PremiseIn both cases, you play a random dude with no backstory who has trotted his way into a near-apocalyptic land of bad shit going down, with only the hints of an enigmatic weirdo telling you where to go. In a true "baptism of fire" or "why? why are you doing this?" moment, you're thrown into a battle with a gigantic monster to prove your worth. Where Demon's Souls diverges is that this monster will almost certainly kill you - this is where the story really begins. In Mystic Quest you trounce it in an extended tutorial, setting the tone for the rest of the game. When you meet it again as a regular monster, it's like level 30. Maybe the first one was just sick?
CharactersWell, first and foremost is your "Chosen One" protagonist, apparently plucked out of the narrative ether to take out the big bad and restore the land's former glory. Based on entirely no credentials or special abilities whatsoever. [Pointless Side-Note: My theory is that the "chosen ones" in these games are the only ones that save points react to, because that has to be a considerable advantage for any hero to have. To everyone else, those things are just giant floating glowy balls that do absolutely nothing but sit there and look nice.]
In Demon's Souls, this character is depicted as a wanderer who ventured into the land of Boletaria (more like Balls-up-etaria, am I right? No? Okay, fine) for gold and glory. After being killed by a giant whatsit with a stick, he (or her; the Vanguard is an equal opportunity murderer) is thrown into the Nexus - a hub world full of dead and not-so-dead refugees who are hiding out from the monsters in the world above. It's never clear if the Nexus is an actual place or just some pan-dimensional purgatory for wizards to sit around in and talk about how badly everything's fucked up in the realm above.
Mystic Quest's main character, similarly, is some chump called Benjamin who got stranded when the mountain he was living on fell over. Shit happens I guess. Likewise, he is duped into restoring the world's balance by defeating four elemental bosses and then some asswad with a crown. This game actually goes out of its way at the end of the story to say that you weren't so much chosen by fate to save the world as chosen by pure luck because you happened to be passing by. If only more games with the nebulous "chosen one" cliché were this honest.
As far as the enigmatic weirdos in Demon's Souls goes, you have several to choose from: A blind chick with a candlestick who allows you to draw power to level-up by touching her innate demon (which is kind of kinky if you think about it); a near-mummified magical Shaolin monk babby thing called the Monumental (a monumental what, though); a bunch of clowns you rescue from the world above who give you new spells and abilities; a blacksmith who is a complete asshole and the single sane dude who usefully stores your stuff for you. You can also rescue a dude with neat-looking armor from a cage who goes back to your home base and kills every useful NPC for you. I'm sure glad I saved him.
Realms of Wonders (Wonders, Lisa? Or BLUNDERS?)Oddly enough, there's a lot of similarities to make here. Weird, huh? Let's go through some of them:
- Earth Realm (no, not that one) - Demon's Souls' first realm is a quaint castle full of solid brick floors and walls that has been overrun by dragons, possessed soldiers and these annoying fat guys wearing pimp hats. It's where you're dumped unceremoniously by the game after dying the first time, and is not-so-coincidentally where most people give up. Picturesque though, I'll give it that. Mystic Quest's first world isn't quite so picturesque, having a giant dungeon full of bones and forests full of zombie minotaurs (whuh?), but it's certainly in the same spirit of "hey, this world's kind of messed up if you hadn't noticed."
- Wind Realm - Demon's Souls has an actually quite beautiful set of ruins on a cliffside which is full of these tumbling skeletons and giant manta rays that try to impale you like you were the Crocodile Hunter (too soon?). You know, in case you thought your scenic view needed more somersaulting skeletons with katanas and manta spears in the periphery. Mystic Quest's Windaria is similar, with a nice little settlement overlooking a cliff that leads to a giant tower with Pazuzu inside. If you were wondering what Pazuzu looked like when he wasn't possessing Regan, he looks like a giant bird wearing jewels and a crown. Yeah, that movie sure got a lot less scary now, didn't it?
- Water Realm - Oddly enough for the "hardest game ever", Demon's Souls doesn't even have a water dungeon. You'd think that was a given. What it does have, though, is the despised (by me) Swamp of Defilement: a venomous cesspool full of Skeksis-looking monsters and aborted babies reanimated as sludge monsters that pull you underneath the murky waters. Yeah, delightful place. Mystic Quest's water realm is iced over, because ice is scary. You eventually have to defeat the boss in his mystical ice pyramid full of mirrors. That's some full on Conan the Destroyer shit right there.
- Fire Realm - Demon's Souls has a raging inferno of a volcano which is undergoing extensive mining work. It's a neat stage because the only way to go is straight down: Which means there's shortcuts aplenty for people who don't mind gravity so much. Mystic Quest's Fire Realm is a place of volcanoes and dragons too, because apparently that wasn't too obvious.
- Tower Realm - Okay, so "Tower" isn't an element, but both the central area of Mystic Quest's world and the third realm of Demon's Souls has an eerie tower that stretches up into the sky. At the top of both is a demonic character with a big hat. Best thing about towers is that you can easily fall off them. Wait, did I say "best"? Because I meant "fucking annoying." My bad.
BossesThe Bosses are by far the best part of Demon's Souls: As well as the colossal beasties you have to defeat with speed and use of cover, you also have the speedy beasties you have to defeat with skill and smarts. There's also a few puzzle bosses in the form of: the saintly Maiden Astraea, an almost pacifistic opponent that's still torture to get close enough to; The Fool's Idol, a four-armed woman that teleports around the room and creates clones of herself (you know, like every other trickster boss); a dragon god that has to be brought down with ballistae, requiring you to take constant cover from its fire as you activate them and a giant manta ray king that only shows up if you shoot down enough of its subordinates with an awesome wave-shooting sword. There's even a boss that will summon another player in to grief you, which I'd totally be amazed by if something hadn't hampered my PS3's ability to go online. Gee, I wonder what that's about.
If Mystic Quest has any singular "best part" to speak of, it's certainly not the bosses. Instead of the constantly inventive and terrifying (both in concept and in battle) bosses of Demon's Souls, you have instead:
- A skeletal T-Rex, which would be scary if it wasn't called "Flamerus Rex". Jeeeez, are you serious Mystic Quest? You must be flamering us.
- An Ice Golem, who actually melts while you're fighting it. There's nothing quite like hammering a giant popsicle with fire spells for a tense boss battle.
- Dualhead Hydra, who has two heads. Most hydras have like eight though. This one just has a dual head. Oh wait, now I finally understand the name! Doy!
- Pazuzu, the aforementioned magical jewelry bird wearing a crown. He actually evades you by being that kid in the elevator that presses all the buttons so it won't stop on floors. So that's intimidating.
- The Dark King, a dark king who does the usual Final Fantasy trick of having four forms, each progressively more dangerous. In my experience, it's best to save all your strongest abilities and forms until last, when you have barely any health left. First he has six arms, then he's a spider, then he's.. a spider but with tentacles instead. And then he dies after hitting him with cure spells. Final bosses are difficult for designers to come up with, you know.
Besides covering something helpful like how the games play, which I won't be doing because I wouldn't want people accusing this blog post as insightful or practical, I'm done comparing these games. They've both got their weird charms and I love both of them dearly despite their faults, though I'm hesitant to recommend either: Mystic Quest because you'd think I was a dimwit and Demon's Souls because you'd think I was trying to give you a heart attack from all the stressful insanity. But go ahead and try them out anyway; maybe you'll enjoy them as much as I did. Big maybe.